Erin LaFleche, Founder of Specs for Little Heros (http://www.specsforlittleheroes.com/index.html) was delighted to catch up with KnowTheGlow Co-Founder Megan Webber last week. It has been 11 years since Erin’s son, Justin, lost his eye to Stage D retinoblastoma but today he is a thriving and typical energetic teenager. Since that diagnosis, Erin and Specs for Little Heros have gifted more than 500 pairs of protective eyewear to children with retinoblastoma, of which 100 pairs have gone to children outside of the United States. The thing Erin is most proud of though is the personal connections she has made mom-to-mom. Building these relationships between RB moms has been incredibly impactful and reminds Erin of the love and support of friends, family, and doctors who helped Justin and Erin’s family get through such a harrowing time. With partnerships with Liberty Sport and Miraflex, Specs for Little Heros has been able to have frames and lenses donated for children all over the world at no cost to the recipient.
Megan shared with Erin how KnowTheGlow was able to connect with Dr. Chau Pham to co-sponsor a webinar for the optometry students at the University of Medicine Pham Ngoc Thach. (https://knowtheglow.org/dr-chau-80-optometry-students/). Erin shared with Megan the first time she connected with Dr. Chau, a selfless and amazing pediatric oplthamologist in Vietnam. Dr. Chau was in desperate need of frames for her Vietnamese patients. Dr. Chau had contacted Erin for help and of course, Erin said yes. At first, she gathered 30 pairs of gently used frames and then paid to have the lenses made. Since then, Erin has provided two more rounds of frames for Dr. Chau who considers all of her patients “her children.”
Erin told Megan that she wished that she could scale up her donation of spectacles, but for now, she is keeping the endeavor small with the help from her family, so that she can focus on her family. That doesn’t mean that down the road Erin doesn’t see herself growing her nonprofit. She really wants the children to feel special and have a say in what spectacles they will be wearing. As Erin explained, you need to protect their unaffected eye so it is imperative to have children actually wear the spectacles (especially important to remember as some of these children have 20/20 vision in their good eye and the lenses are exclusively for protection…not an easy sale for a toddler or sporty child!). In an ideal situation, it is best for the child to go to the optometrist and pick out frames that they love and will be excited to wear. Erin does her best though to select frames and styles that she feels will work well for the children at home and abroad. Thank you, Erin, and thanks to the team that helps support Specs for Little Heros! Your work continues to champion access to spectacles for children recovering from retinoblastoma all around the world and we are grateful to know you are there to assist them.