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Transformative vision care event empowers Toronto youth

Waterloo’s Optometry Clinic partners with YAAACE for a first-hand experience in eye care and the University environment


The Optometry Clinic at the University of Waterloo’s School of Optometry and Vision Science, in collaboration with Essilor and Modern Optical, conducted an outreach event on August 14, 2023, to provide vision screening and eye examinations for more than 45 children and youth. The Clinic worked with the Youth Association for Academics, Athletics and Character Education (YAAACE), which is a Black-led community organization that seeks to engage children and youth from all communities, to organize this summer camp style event on campus.

Recognizing the significance of visual health in children’s lives, the Optometry Clinic offered eye care services to children and youth from the Jane and Finch area of Toronto. This region faces various health and socio-economic challenges, including limited access to eye care services.

The Faculties of Science and Engineering along with the Waterloo Centre for Astrophysics planned enrichment activities for participants while they waited for their checkups.

This initiative, building upon the success of a similar event held in Toronto pre-pandemic, aimed to address the vital importance of clear vision in the social and emotional development of young individuals.

YAAACE summer camp attendees were provided eye exams, participated in learning activities and enjoyed a group lunch

“YAAACE has an annual summer camp, and by collaborating with their executive director, we realized that eye care was an unmet need,” said Andre Stanberry, director of the Optometry Clinic who spearheaded the initiative. “It would not have been possible without support from our industry partners and student, faculty, staff and community volunteers.”

With generous support from Essilor and Modern Optical, Waterloo’s Optometry Clinic orchestrated the event seamlessly.

The event team included 16 Waterloo Optometry students, 12 Optometrists, two opticians and eight staff members. Their combined expertise ensured the streamlined and segmented execution of the vision screenings and eye examinations, improving the health of the children and youth in a significant way.

Essilor and Modern Optical made crucial contributions to the event’s success. Essilor provided lenses as well as funding for hospitality and exam consumables. Modern Optical offered up eyeglasses frames and accessories.

“We are pleased to provide a wide range of frame styles and lens designs to meet the unique needs of every individual. Our goal is to raise awareness of the importance of routine eye exams and to provide functional and stylish eyewear that encourages young people to get the most out of their vision,” remarked Cailin Harrop, optical service manager for the Optometry Clinic.

In addition to providing immediate corrective solutions, the initiative also focused on offering continued optometric care options to the children and youth who received glasses. Local optometrists were identified, and their contact information shared, enabling the patients to seek follow-up eye care within their community.

True to its commitment, eye and vision care for everyone, the Waterloo Optometry Clinic also pledged to offer ongoing care as necessary. The team is considering plans for an event in autumn where they will go to Toronto to follow up with the camp attendees and offer services to those who couldn’t make the trip.

The initiative not only provided eye care services to youth but also offered a valuable learning experience for the Waterloo Optometry students. This event exposed them to the unique eye care needs of a diverse patient population, broadening their perspective and enriching their educational journey.

By addressing the visual care needs of children and youth in underserved communities, these Waterloo students are reframing the societal health and future well-being of these young individuals.

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