VSP Eyes of Hope and GLAM4GOOD Provide Assistance to Survivors of California’s Camp Fire


(L to R) Paradise schools superintendent Michelle John, VSP's Michael Guyette and Sheila Craft, an administrative assistant and coach in the school district, at last week's event to provide assistance to people affected by the Camp Fire in California.

PARADISE, CALIF.—As schools reopened in Paradise for the first time since the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history, VSP Eyes of Hope and GLAM4GOOD hosted an “unforgettable back-to-school experience for 300 students and teachers, many of whom lost everything in the Camp Fire,” according to a VSP announcement earlier this week. Many residents have been so focused on rebuilding their lives that they have had to deprioritize items like new clothing and eyecare, including relying on out-of-date prescriptions or just doing without glasses at all, the announcement noted. 

So this past Saturday (Aug. 17), VSP Eyes of Hope and GLAM4GOOD, together with local volunteer VSP network doctors and GLAM4GOOD community volunteers who were also affected by the Camp Fire, provided hundreds of Paradise Unified School District students and teachers with free eye exams, glasses, new wardrobes, accessories and personal care essentials. In total, more than $1 million worth of goods and services were gifted by the two organizations, according to the announcement. (GLAM4GOOD is an “organization, community and movement that ignites positive social change through style,” according to the group’s website.)

“The start of a new school year is a hopeful milestone in the recovery process for this community, but it can also be a time filled with long to-do lists and expenses for parents and teachers,” VSP Global president and chief executive officer Michael Guyette said in the announcement. “It’s important to us to bring some relief to these families by providing access to eyecare and eyewear and help ensure these teachers and students are set up with great vision as they head back into the classroom.”

The full-day event began with heartfelt words from Paradise Unified School District superintendent Michelle John, GLAM4GOOD chief executive officer Mary Alice Stephenson and Guyette, who revealed that, in addition to the care offered Saturday, VSP will provide 2,000 VSP Eyes of Hope gift certificates to cover eye exams and glasses at a local VSP doctor’s office for Paradise students and their families who couldn’t attend.

Stephenson then kicked off the recovery initiative by inviting families to take part in a “shopping spree for free” inside the school gymnasium, which was transformed into a boutique filled with new clothing, stylish accessories, beauty products and personal care essentials for the teachers and their entire families. “While the initiative aimed to restore and brighten wardrobes of those affected, the impact goes beyond the apparel,” Stephenson said. “This is a day for kids to not think about their hardships and just have fun being kids and for teachers who have put their students and community first—the opportunity to treat themselves.” 

The city of Paradise lost more than 90 percent of its population and, as a result, the Paradise Unified School District is now half the size it once was. Even so, 600 more students showed up to school this first week than expected, sending a hopeful message to educators.

“I am not even sure everyone realizes how far this gift will go because it will change the lives of kids and their entire schooling,” school superintendent John said. “There are so many parents that are just thinking about putting food on the table and aren’t thinking about eyecare, and yet their kids might be struggling in school and they don’t know why. This is probably one piece of the pie as to why they’re struggling.”

Of those that received an eye exam by local VSP network doctors on Saturday, 94 percent were prescribed glasses, many of which were made onsite.

Following the Camp Fire last year, a VSP Eyes of Hope mobile clinic was stationed in Chico for two weeks to care for those who were affected by the wildfire and support local VSP network doctors whose practices were damaged. In total, last year, nearly 900 people received access to eye exams and replacement glasses.  

To date, VSP Eyes of Hope has provided access to free eyecare and eyewear for more than 2.5 million people in need, including more than 119,000 people affected by disasters in the U.S., according to the announcement.