Steve Stockton wants to help low-income kids improve their focus.
That's why the Utah native spends at least half his time in a 40-foot specially equipped van, driving into big cities and backwater towns across North America and Canada - at least 45 cities a year.Stockton is an optician. And he's also the man responsible for the LensCrafter Vision Van, which in 1996 started holding clinics to fit children who are low-income or have special needs with glasses.
The children are preselected in each community by their schools and local LensCrafter stores. Stockton and a local volunteer optician conduct the clinics, fitting the kids with glasses and then making them right in the van.
On a typical five-day mission, Stockton and his ever-changing partner will fit about 500 kids with glasses.
He's also responsible for two international missions a year. This year, the Vision Van missions reached out to children in Mexico and Bangladesh, in partnership with Lions Club International. On the international missions, they don't make their own glasses but take used eyewear collected by the Lions Club and LensCrafter stores, check the prescriptions and then set up a clinic and match glasses to the people who need them.
The Mexico mission broke a record. In eight days, more than 19,198 people received eyeglasses.
But the missions that mean the most to Stockton are the ones that take place on American soil.
"I think it's the right thing to do," he said. "We have a lot of children in our own country who can't afford glasses. Our goal is to help 1 million people by the year 2003."
This year, for the first time, Stockton will be able to bring the van home to Utah with him for a clinic. This fall the Vision Van will make its first appearance in Salt Lake City.