The gift of vision

May 17, 2010

Kettering's Pre-med Club worked with a local optometrist to collect donated prescription glasses to help to give low income people in Mexico the gift of better vision.

They were identifiable by their checked luggage – giant blue plastic storage bins. Three members of Kettering university’s Pre-med Club had the unusual luggage as part of their volunteer project to deliver donated gently used prescription, reading and sunglasses
to low-income people in Mexico.

“There were blue bins all over the airport,” said Jessica Strayer, a Mechanical Engineering major  with a Pre-med minor from Prospect, Ohio. “We each took a Rubbermaid container full of glasses as part of our luggage,” she explained.

The three were part of a larger group that included high school students, optometry students, other college students and Rotarians, “and one doctor from Australia,” said David LeCronier, of Pasadena, Md. LeCronier holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and is currently completing a master’s degree in Operations Management. He has been accepted to the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The group was led by Dr. Brad Habermehl, an optometrist and member of the Burton Rotary Club. Habermehl is involved in Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH), a non-profit group dedicated to facilitating the provision and sustainability of vision care worldwide for people who can neither afford nor obtain such care, according to their web site (

They traveled to San Carlos, in the northwestern part of Mexico, for eight days from March 19 to March 28. Using San Carlos as a base, they “travelled out to smaller villages and towns fitting people with prescriptions and trying to get each patient as close to 20/40 vision and meet the needs of the patients,” said Sarah Selby, a Mechanical Engineering major with a Pre-med minor from Flint.

“The glasses we took were pre-tested to determine what the prescription strength was and then labeled for easy matching to patients in the field,” said Selby. More than 1,500 patients were fitted with prescriptions during the trip.

Kettering’s Pre-med Club got involved in the community service project when Habermehl visited campus to talk about VOSH and ask for help collecting donated eyeglasses.

“We put donation boxes around campus,” said Selby. The group also hosted an event to recruit people to help collect donations and worked with Julie Simmons, senior secretary in Chemistry/Biochemistry, on coordinating sites for donation boxes.

Energized by their recent trip, the Pre-med Club is continuing to collect gently used prescription, reading and sunglasses and planning for next year’s trip, which will mark Habermehl’s tenth year delivering glasses to Mexico.

“About 10 Pre-med Club students want to go next year,” said Selby. There are approximately 20 students in the Pre-med Club.

“We want to say thanks to everyone who donated glasses and encourage people to continue to donate,” said Selby, “this is a continuous effort and an annual project for us.” VOSH boxes are still located around campus.

Contact: Dawn Hibbard