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Vision Council Raises $150K+ for Open Your Eyes Scholarship Program

The money was raised through virtual auction, optical company pledges and individual contributions.

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(PRESS RELEASE) ALEXANDRIA, VA — The Vision Council announced that, to-date, more than $150,000 has been raised for the Open Your Eyes Scholarship Program through a virtual auction, company pledges and individual donations.

The Open Your Eyes Scholarship Program is a 501(c)(3) charity, created by The Vision Council through the Better Vision Institute, designed to support high school students in marginalized communities throughout the United States who have an interest in pursuing a career in the optical industry. The Open Your Eyes Scholarship will support selected students through monetary scholarships to opticianry school, paid internships and mentorships. The intent of the program is to launch a far-reaching effort that can expand to other segments of the industry.

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The Open Your Eyes Scholarship program is still accepting contributions. To donate to the Open Your Eyes Scholarship Program directly, click here.

To kick off the program launch, The Vision Council hosted a virtual auction from January 20 to January 27. Featuring exceptional items and experiences donated by The Vision Council’s members, including limited edition artwork, celebrity memorabilia, fashion pieces and unique experiences, the auction raised $19,821, all of which will be donated towards the scholarship program.

Organizations that donated items to the virtual auction include: AHLEM Eyewear; Barton Perreira Eyewear; Blake Kuwahara Eyewear; CEV Eyewear; Christian Roth Eyewear; DRAGON; Eyewear Designers of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (edCFDA); Fierce Clarity; l.a.Eyeworks; Marchon; Privé Revaux; Reed Exhibitions; Safilo; Selima Optique; Thélios; Tura; The Vision Council; and Zyloware Eyewear.

The auction concluded on January 27 during a celebratory virtual happy hour hosted by Ashley Mills, The Vision Council’s CEO, at the organization’s 2021 Executive Summit. Hosted under the banner of “A Celebration of OPTImism,” the happy hour included several special guests and announcements, including a surprise appearance from multi-Grammy-award winning artist, Maxwell, who was announced as the newest member of the Open Your Eyes Scholarship board of directors.

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Additionally, Maxwell announced a frame collaboration with STATE. Launching February 1, the limited-edition Maxwell x STATE frame is called “Reunion,” named after a song from Maxwell’s debut album, Urban Hang Suite. STATE will be donating a portion of proceeds from the frame to the scholarship program, with a minimum of $5,000 being donated to the program. The frames will be available for purchase at stateopticalco.com; through Maxwell’s website, musze.com; and through a small number of STATE’s independent eyecare partners.

“I remember getting my first pair of glasses and I remember what that did for me, how it changed by ability to learn and how it changed my life,” said Maxwell. “The little boy in me wants to thank everyone here and I am excited to give this gift to others.”

“This is an amazing program because opticianry is a gateway to the rest of the industry. We can start to include more diverse people in the industry through opticianry,” said Scott Shapiro, Vice President at Europa Eyewear.

Several optical companies also made pledges during the event to contribute to the scholarship program, including:

  • Tim Mayhew, CEO at Luxury Optical Holdings, announced the company would donate $25,000 to the scholarship program.
  • Tracy Scott, Director, Philanthropy/Diversity/Equity/Inclusion at National Vision Inc., announced that National Vision Inc. would sponsor six $15,000 scholarships over two years, for a total pledge of $90,000 over two years.
  • Sue Downes, CEO of MyEyeDr., announced that the company would contribute $5,000 in 2021, with the intent of donating incrementally larger amounts each year.
  • Alessandro Baronti, CEO at DeRigo Rem, pledged to donate $5,000 to the program.

Additionally, during the event, Wendy Salle, founder of Salle Opticians, an independent boutique in Atlanta, made a $1,000 pledge to the program and challenges her fellow independent retailers and designers to match her.

“Two years ago, LOH founded an opticianry school. Last year, LOH hired Dr. Tenny Mickey PHD and embraced a conscious journey to a more inclusive culture,” said Tim Mayhew, CEO at Luxury Optical Holdings. “But neither effort will be successful without the direct community outreach and development that the Open Your Eyes Scholarship is spearheading. We are incredibly grateful to be included.”

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“The ability to see clearly is something needed by people of every background, race, gender, and demographic, and we believe the optical industry should be led by highly educated professionals who reflect the diversity of the people we care for,” said Reade Fahs, CEO at National Vision, Inc. “Our investment in this scholarship improves access to education for talented students and honors our commitment to building a more inclusive future for the next generation of optical professionals.”

“MyEyeDr. is proud to be a part of this important initiative to support high school students in marginalized communities to access the training and education they need to launch careers in opticianry,” said Sue Downes, CEO of MyEyeDr. “We have an exciting and vibrant profession and we have a caring and welcoming community within opticianry. Let’s celebrate that and bring even more people into our field. This program will build a pipeline of diverse and deserving students, and we all benefit when our teams represent the communities that they serve.”

Additionally, during the virtual event, a new collaboration was announced between Tarrence Lackran, The Vision Council’s Director of Partnerships and Programming, known as @theopticalpoet on social media, and UK-based company, Frame Chain. The collaboration, The Optical Poet X Frame Chain, will feature the “Time for Change Chain,” which will be available for pre-order soon. Additionally, until February 28, the optical community is encouraged to shop Frame Chain’s website with the code “OYES” to receive 50 percent off their order, 10 percent of which will be donated to the scholarship program.

For additional information on the scholarship program, contact Tarrence Lackran, Director of Partnerships and Programming at The Vision Council, at [email protected].

The Better Vision Institute is an Educational Foundation connected to The Vision Council. While largely inactive for the last several years, The Vision Council has continued to maintain the Foundation until it was needed. The Foundation will now be activated to make educational grants.

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