San Jose Sharks forwards Joel Ward and Chris Tierney helped deliver glasses to 47 area children Thursday, and it was an eye-opening experience for those involved.
Through a partnership between the Sharks Foundation and the non-profit Vision To Learn free glasses program, Ward, Tierney, Sharks chief operating officer John Tortora and San Jose mascot SJ Sharkie helped the kids from Selma Olinder Elementary try on their new specs.
"Some kids were really excited, some were a little nervous," Ward said, who called the event a unique charitable project. "I had one girl say she was a little embarrassed, but once she put the glasses on, she felt so much better about herself. I think we learned today that confidence is key and for them to put on a new pair of glasses and the ability to learn, it's an unbelievable feeling for them."
In addition to their free glasses, the elementary-school children were given tickets to the Sharks preseason game against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 5 at SAP Center.
"It was a lot of fun," Tierney said. "A lot of kids were happy about the glasses and Sharkie did a great job making the kids smile and laugh. Everybody was really excited about getting glasses and you could see the look on their face when they first put the glasses on they widened their eyes and were looking around, so a lot of people will benefit from this."
The Sharks Foundation committed $20,000 to the free glasses program with Vision To Learn and Kaiser Permanente South Bay, which will help about 1,000 students in Santa Clara County get new glasses. Vision To Learn offers a mobile clinic with optometrists that travel to a different school every day to provide free eye exams and glasses to children in 110 cities in California.
"A lot of kids are Sharks fans, and a few kids even said they got teal frames or teal sides on their glasses to support the Sharks," Tierney said. "It's such a great fan base, such a great community in San Jose. To be able to do something like this with Joel [Ward] here today, it's a lot of fun and something we take a lot of respect and pride in."