Berges Success Story:

Eye Thrive

Eye Thrive Empowers St. Louis’ Children

Imagine being a child who cannot see well trying to read and learn. Without proper eyesight, there are numerous disadvantages to growth and the possibility of being labeled ‘learning disabled’ when the solution could be as simple as corrective eyeglasses.

In fact, 90% of low-income children who need glasses don’t have them, often because parents lack the paid time-off, money and transportation for vision exams. Of these children, 1-in-4 has a vision issue that impairs learning and behavior. When given prescription lenses, 85% improve their academics, class participation and self-esteem. The results of good vision are empowering! That’s why Eye Thrive is invaluable to the St. Louis community.

Eye Thrive removes many barriers and enhances the quality of life by providing free exams and prescription eyewear directly to St. Louis-area kids who need it most.

Who is Eye Thrive?

Eye Thrive, formerly Eye Care Charity of Mid-America, puts our mission in our name and empowers students to pursue their full potential by ensuring no low-income child in the St. Louis region fails to thrive simply because his or her family cannot afford glasses.

Our Mobile Vision Clinic circumvents their obstacles by traveling to schools to provide free eye exams and designer eyeglasses, made on the spot. We also provide routine follow-up care for students throughout the year, furnish free replacement glasses if something should happen to their new glasses, and offer ongoing assistance, year-after-year.

This year, we will see more than 5,000 students at over 160 schools and continue to add locations and services. We know first-hand that a simple pair of eyeglasses can build confidence, enable success, and empower the pursuit of potential. That’s what Eye Thrive is all about!

  • We visit 200 schools and events per year (watch for us at libraries and community centers during the summer months!)
  • Provide 5000+ pair of eyeglasses per year.
  • Our Mobile Vision Clinic is complete with a waiting area, pre-test area, 2 exam lanes, frame dispensary, and on-board finishing lab.
  • As of 2018-2019, we have the capacity to staff 2 optometrists.
  • 30 minutes is all it takes to go from eye exam to designer glasses.

We chose our new brand – Eye Thrive – because it conveys our ultimate goal: to give every child in need to the ability to see clearly and feel the pride and joy of having the basic essentials to thrive in life. It is endearing to witness their excitement when they choose their own brand-new designer frames. One boy exclaimed that his new Nike frames were the nicest thing he’d ever owned and loved wearing them. Another little girl found a pink pair that she was sure would help her become a ballerina someday.

How the Berges Family Foundation Saved Eye Thrive

In November 2016, our first Mobile Vision Clinic was hit by another vehicle, totaling it. At the same time, our collaborative partners decided not to replace our clinic and left us without a home or a way to fulfill our mission. Jim Berges, who was already a donor through the annual gala and golf outing, saw an article about our tragic turn of events and immediately stepped in to help.

The Berges Family Foundation donated a brand new, state-of-the-art, 38’ Winnebago customized with a waiting area, a pre-test area, 2 eye exam lanes, a dispensary, and an on-board finishing lab. It took a year to build, and in November 2017, our highly efficient Mobile Vision Clinic was once again able to get out into St. Louis urban communities.

But the Berges family didn’t stop there – in June 2018, the BFF granted another large donation to expand the Mobile Vision Clinic’s capabilities by employing a second optometrist to double our impact. Thanks to this expansion and another staff member, we go to even more schools and locations and see even more children than ever before.

Watch for Even More Services Coming Up

Eye Thrive continues to grow and add services to lighten the load of the schools, the parents, and the children when it comes to vision tests, costs, and the convenience of routine, follow-up care. Our additional services for the 2019-2020 year include:

Library Visits – This summer, we will be at St. Louis area libraries for 15 separate visits. We are available to see kids in need of replacement lenses, those who have any issues outside of the school year, and to those who may not have had us at their school.

Initial Screenings –
In the coming school year, we are planning to expand our services to include initial eye screenings for children in all grades, rather than just those who are suspected of having vision problems. This will lighten the load of the school nurses and counselors and shorten the time between screenings and glasses.

Track Referrals – We are in the final planning stages of expanding our referral program to allow our optometrist to send a referral directly to an ophthalmologist. This will ensure each child receives the follow-up care needed. This also takes the burden away from the families and schools and may speed up critical care.

How you Can Help

The difference between corrected and uncorrected vision can be the difference between loving school or dreading school, excelling or falling behind, fulfillment or frustration. It’s the difference between merely surviving and truly thriving. If you’d like to help more children thrive, we rely solely on donor support and appreciate any donation you can spare – it all adds up. Please go to our website to learn more or contact us today, 314-736-1400.

“Eye Thrive will continue to reflect our mission and highlight the impact of our services: the happiness, confidence, and potential in the lives of the children we serve.”

Kate McKearnExecutive Director

“We are beyond thankful for the Berges Family Foundation’s support. They have openly shared their time, wealth of knowledge, monetary gifts, and expertise to help us grow. We wouldn’t be where we are today without them and countless children would be suffering the effects of uncorrected vision.”

Kate McKearnExecutive Director

“I am so thankful to all our supporters. With your ongoing support, we will continue to improve the lives of tens of thousands of children who need our services.”

William Jehling Founder