SALT LAKE CITY — Joseph Carbone envisions a day when every child who needs eyeglasses will have them.
That's what inspired the Utah optician to start a nonprofit, Eye Care 4 Kids, an organization that has grown within the Beehive State and reached to other four other states in the past 18 years, so far providing 250,000 pairs of glasses to kids in need.
Carbone says he saw in his for-profit practice that "many children went without care."
"Because their parents had to make a decision. Do we pay rent, do we buy food, or do we do something frivolous like buy glasses for our child?" he explained.
He saw a need and he, his wife and a friend "decided to do something about it."
"I believe everyone has a responsibility to take the thing that they've learned in life in their career or school, and take that and bless the lives of others. So I decided to practice what I preach," Carbone said.
He and a volunteer for the program were honored Wednesday by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes for the organization's work helping Utah kids.
"I can think of and I've worked with dozens or scores of some of the most philanthropic leaders here in this great state. And I can say with authority that there are very few who have done as much, and I don't know if there any who have done more, than you have to help lessen suffering for people here in Utah, and to help give people hope," Reyes said in an intimate ceremony at the state Capitol.
"Because when you give a child a gift of sight, you give them confidence, you give them opportunity, and you give them hope."
Longtime volunteer Mark Mattice said he has continued volunteering with the program for 15 years because of the feeling he gets when he helps a child see.
"It helps so many kids. If you get to go ever and see what we do, and see the expression on the kids' faces and stuff like that the first time they can actually see. There have been times where we've gotten a kid a pair of glasses and they couldn't really see before. And then now they can see, and it's kind of amazing," Mattice said.
"There's been a lot of opportunities where you're helping some kids, and tears are coming because it's so amazing," Mattice said.1 comment on this story
The organization has a brick-and-mortar clinic in Midvale, 6911 S. State, and a mobile vision clinic that Carbone and others take to rural areas statewide.
Carbone said it was "heartwarming" to receive the recognition from Reyes and his office
"It takes the entire state to provide these services so it's great to have more people on the team," he said.
He said he hopes to continue expanding the nonprofit and foresees a future in which, through telemedicine, kids worldwide can get on their digital devices and order glasses through Eye Care 4 Kids.