LA Clippers, Vision To Learn Provide Free Eye Exams and Glasses To All Inglewood Students

Rowan Kavner

INGLEWOOD, Calif.–From the lounge he helped renovate, attached to the gym he knows well, to his old “No. 34” jersey hanging up on the wall, there’s no mistaking what Paul Pierce means to Inglewood High School or what the school means to Pierce, the most electrifying basketball player to come out of Inglewood.

The city helped mold him into the person and player he’s become, which is why Tuesday’s Vision To Learn announcement at Inglewood High School meant something particularly special to Pierce, who helped give out free glasses to students.

“When it’s your home, I try to fight back tears, because this community raised me,” Pierce said. “These are the kids that grew up in the same place I did. Now that we’re coming back here making a difference and being an inspiration, it’s not always about the game of basketball. It’s about making a difference.”

The LA Clippers Foundation and Vision To Learn, a non-profit provider of free eye exams and glasses to students in low-income communities, were able to do just that.

They hosted their tip-off event and press conference at the high school Pierce attended growing up. Pierce returned alongside teammate Chris Paul for the announcement and to distribute the free glasses.

“I’ve done a ton of these for different causes, but this was maybe one of the coolest ones ever,” Paul said. “Like a lot of these kids, I’ve looked up to (Pierce) for many years. I’ve never been here to Inglewood High School. To be here with Paul made it that much more special.”

Paul said vision is a bigger deal than most realize and something most people take for granted. Paul thinks back to his father, who wore glasses throughout Paul’s childhood, and he said he’ll never forget when his father finally got his vision checked and fixed.

“It was like he was blind and could see again,” Paul said. “To tell you the truth, my parents are still on me about my vision now. During games a lot of times, I don’t pay attention to it, but I’m squinting looking at the scoreboard.

“Being a parent of my own, I know how important it is to check your kid’s vision and make sure it’s not something that lingers and becomes a problem.”

That’s what the LA Clippers Foundation and Vision To Learn were at Inglewood High School to help solve.

Austin Beutner, Vision To Learn’s chair and founder, said the event in the Inglewood Unified School District is the first of its kind in the nation, where every student in need of glasses from preschool through 12th grade would receive a pair.

“In low-income communities, 95 out of 100 of those kids don’t get the glasses they need,” Beutner said.

It’s Vision To Learn’s mission to help move those numbers the right direction, and it’s the Clippers Foundation’s mission to inspire children to make a difference. Together, they helped make Tuesday possible.

“The Clippers, this year, have a slogan that wraps around the team and through business ops, everything we do,” said Clippers President of Business Operations Gillian Zucker. “It’s, ‘Together We Will.’ I’m reminded of it as I stand here, because what we’ve accomplished here in Inglewood in providing children with the ability to see, together we did.”

At the announcement, more than 50 Inglewood students were on hand to receive their glasses. A Clippers-branded Mobile Eye Clinic was created to start conducting student screenings in the Inglewood schools, beginning in December. By the end of the current school year, every child in the Inglewood Unified School District in need of glasses will get a pair free of charge.

“That means the children of Inglewood have the ability to figuratively and literally see their potential,” Zucker said.

The day meant a great deal to everyone involved in the city, which was evident in the variety of speakers at the event, from Real 92.3 radio host Big Boy, to Inglewood Mayor Jim Butts, LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, State Administrator Dr. Vincent Matthews and Inglewood High School Principal Kyle Douglas.

“The beauty of this is this is 50 to 60 students who we now know are not learning impaired,” Douglas said. “It’s such an easy thing to fix.”

Vision To Learn’s mobile clinics are staffed with licensed optometrists. They visit schools and youth service programs and have examined nearly 50,000 kids and provided more than 37,000 pairs of glasses free of charge to children across California, Delaware and Hawaii since 2012.

By teaming with the LA Clippers Foundation, they were able to make a difference in an entire school district in the Los Angeles area, which meant a great deal to Pierce, who said he’s always asking himself how he can make a difference off the basketball court and with kids in the community.

When it’s actually his own community, where it all started for him, it means even more.

“When I was able to look at the statistics and look and see where I can help, it was awesome that I could bring it here to the city of Inglewood,” Pierce said.