Blindness society auctions celebrity glasses

Seeing stars? The Prevention of Blindness Society hopes so. The society will be presenting an exhibit, “Celebrity Specs” from Oct. 18 to Nov. 19 in The Mall at 2000 Penn. At the close of the exhibit, the celebrity sunglasses will be auctioned off to raise money for the society. Celebrities that have donated sunglasses include actors Sarah Jessica Parker, Robin Williams, Matthew McConaughey and Scott Baio, former presidents Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush and others like race car driver Richard Petty and Queen Noor of Jordan.

The Prevention of Blindness Society got celebrities to donate the glasses through a letter-writing campaign. They began sending out letters asking for sunglasses for this year’s auction after the success of the first one, held in 2002. Because so many people responded to their letters, the society decided to put the sunglasses and spectacles on exhibit to create publicity for the cause.

Michelle Hartlove, executive director of the society, said she views it as a way of introducing her group to more people.

“The first year we held this event, we raised $6,500,” Hartlove said. “But it was a much smaller event. This time we have more time to publicize it.”

GW students will be able to see the exhibit in 2000 Penn starting Monday. Those seriously interested in bidding can either contact the Prevention of Blindness Society offices or the information desk at 2000 Penn. The private auction will take place on Nov. 19. The celebrity glasses up for auction are displayed in a frame that includes an autographed picture of the celebrity. Other autographed photos of celebrities will be auctioned off but will not be on display because they do not include glasses.

The Prevention of Blindness Society was founded in 1936 and has since become the largest local prevention of blindness agency in the U.S. It screens over 10,000 preschool children a year for vision problems. The society also provides nearly 4,200 pairs of glasses to the needy and homeless annually, as well as provides eye exams for the needy at its free clinic. The money raised by the “Celebrity Specs” auction will go to these programs.

Most eye diseases are age related. According to the Foundation Fighting Blindness, over nine million Americans suffer from retinal degenerative diseases. By 2010, over 20 million Americans will report some type of vision impairment, according to statistics from Prevent Blindness America. Hartlove said young people need to protect their vision for the future.

“Wearing sunglasses to protect from sun is something you can do,” Hartlove said. “Eating a lot of greens – not carrots – but spinach and other leafy vegetables. Also, smoking has been shown to accelerate eye disease.”

Hartlove said she did not know how much money the society would raise from the auction this year. In 2002, the most expensive bid was on a pair of Ray Charles’ glasses that were sold for $450. Think Scott Baio can top that?

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