Dubuque nonprofit gives 29 Waterloo kids free glasses

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WATERLOO, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Twenty nine Waterloo students were given the gift of clear vision on Wednesday thanks to a Dubuque nonprofit.

Vision to Learn distributes glasses to 29 kids at Irving Elementary in Waterloo on Wednesday, March 16, 2018. (Allison Wong, KCRG-TV9)

Vision to Learn started in Dubuque in January 2016 and recently expanded to Waterloo, providing more than 350 eye exams to students in the Waterloo Schools.

Irving Elementary students were given two free pairs of glasses on Wednesday.

Fifth grader Patrick Johnson was one of the 29. He says his favorite thing about school is reading. “I like reading about superheroes and mysteries," he said.

However, without glasses he cannot read the pages. His glasses were too small and the prescription was out of date. That's why he loves his new glasses from Vision to Learn.

Johnson said, "they feel good and I got better eyesight in my left eye.”

Before Johnson and his classmates could get their glasses, they received an eye exam in Vision to Learn's mobile clinic and saw optician Pat Wilkinson.

She said she loves helping the kids pick out their frames, but her favorite part is seeing how the glasses change their world.

"They put them on and their eyes just get big and huge and they’re just like in amazement," Wilkinson explained.

She said Vision to Learn hopes to continue to expand its services.

"We’re hoping to get another van and then we’re always looking for doctors to come on board too," she said.

Irving Elementary Principal Amy Schmidt said she's so happy for her students.

"It really is access," she said. "It’s giving our children an opportunity to see in a different lens literally through glasses."

She said better vision is likely to improve their academic performance.

“I had a student, a fifth grader, that got a pair of glasses today that had the opportunity to go back and do some testing after putting the glasses on and literally increased his score just by how he looked at the test and being able to read the words," Schmidt explained.

Johnson can't wait to take on school and more mystery novels with his new glasses.

"Thank them for giving me some glasses," he said.