Optometric Center of NY's Annual Eyes on New York Award Celebration Raises $125K and Counting for Education and Vision Care

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NEW YORK—The Optometric Center of New York (OCNY), the affiliated foundation of the SUNY College of Optometry, hosted its 17th annual Eyes on New York Award Celebration on Nov. 5. From celebrity sightings and music to paying tribute to industry innovators and those who benefit from donor support, the virtual gathering was an event to remember for the honorees and virtual guests who joined the mission to advance vision and eyecare for all people. This year’s Eyes on New York raised an estimated $125,000 for student scholarships and charitable care. Donations continue to climb post event, the foundation reported.

“The work of OCNY would not exist without you, our supporters, sponsors, and friends,” said OCNY board president, Dr. Richard Soden. “From the patients we help and scholarships for students to clinical facilities like our new pediatric center, your donations are the catalyst that moves us forward and provides the flexibility to adapt in challenging times.”

This year’s virtual celebration opened with an introduction by retired industry leader Danne Ventura, of Essilor of America, who highlighted the “Year of the Woman” and growth of women in optometric education and the profession starting with Gertrude Stanton who was the first licensed female optometrist at the turn of the 20th century. Her talk was followed by an update from SUNY Optometry's Dr. David A. Heath, president, who addressed how the SUNY Optometry campus and clinic has navigated the public health crisis and social challenges this year.

“We are demonstrating our resiliency and adapting our behaviors,” stated Dr. Heath. “From implementing rigorous cleaning and sanitization protocols and finding safe ways for students, staff, and patients to return to campus, to leading conversation on race in optometry and assessing our own internal challenges in this area. I am proud of the entire team at the College as everyone stepped up to the plate.”

Taking center stage at the celebration were the contributions of four women to the advancement of optometric care along with a commemoration of the new Barbara Saltzman Center for Pediatric Eye Care, a 5,000 square foot facility which opened in late March at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state-of-the-art Center for patient care and training was named for the work and dedication of the late Barbara Saltzman, who served as OCNY board president.

“The Pediatric Eye Center is truly remarkable. It was at this event a few years ago that we kicked off the fundraising for this project, raising over $1.5 million,” said Dawn Rigney, vice president for Institutional Advancement at SUNY Optometry. “All the funds raised through this event will be immediately put to use to provide quality, affordable care through our Charitable Care Fund and provide scholarships for our students.”

Recognized for their contributions to the industry, ingenuity, and quality care, 2020 Eyes on New York award honorees featured:

• Eyes on Leadership: Eva Kosanovic, president of Keeler, a medical device and ophthalmic supply company.

• Eyes on Rising Stars: Jessica and Ella-Jane Darcy, founders of Funoogles—a children’s eyewear company that allows kids to change the colors of their frames easily.

• Alumna of the Year: Denise Whittam, OD, class of 1991, optometrist at Cohen’s Fashion Optical and Professional Affairs Consultant at Johnson & Johnson Vision Care.

In addition to inspiring stories from innovators, students and patients, attendees were treated to a talk with New York’s “Queen of Cake,” Sylvia Weinstock, who shared the influence of her signature eyewear on her business success and the importance of vision care, followed by a riveting performance by famed singer/songwriter and electronic violinist Deni Bonet, who kept the online crowd captive with her classical rock-club vibe.

In her closing remarks, Ventura offered a special toast to event organizers and supporters: “May you always lead with compassion, create with abandon, and advocate for your community. Be like Gertrude Stanton, and with your leadership and participation, vision health will serve as a gateway to seeing a better future and reaching new levels of awareness.”

Special thanks to Eyes on New York sponsors including CooperVision, Designs for Vision, Glenmede, Dr. Ronald Millman, Essilor, Dr. Mark Feder, Haag-Streit USA, Jobson, William J. Moran, and VSP.

To view the full 17th annual Eyes on New York event, go to suny.onlinegalas.org. For more information about the Optometric Center of New York and the benefits of giving, visit www.sunyopt.edu/giving.