Extraordinary Profiles 58
Cover Story— Judy Hoberman–Sales Genie Out of the Bottle
Jacqueline Downey—An Advocate for Childhood Obesity
Cover photo by Creative Photography by Cindi
The Words You Speak Are Like a Miraculous Wand
Do You Avoid Failure Like the Plague?
Diana Epstein—Giving the Gift of Sight to Thousands
Tim Halperin—Sings in the Key of Life
The Lighter Side 84
Sometimes Fall Leaves Much to Be Desired
Writers and Contributors
Just as there are thousands of dew drops on a flower, so are the opportunities that are presented to you in your lifetime.
Diana Epstein Giving the Gift of Sight to Thousands
Diana Epstein is a young woman who is passionate about helping the less fortunate. She involved her community in a project that she developed called See for Change to make a difference in the lives of the visually impaired. Through her efforts and with the help of her community, See for Change raised over $6,000 and collected 5,000 pairs of glasses last year for New Eyes for the Needy, a non-profit organization
Change has personal meaning for Epstein. She was born with double cataracts, and had them removed at the age of four. “My life would have been very different had I not had a family that was able to afford surgery. Here was an opportunity to take something on to help a community I have always wanted to help but didn’t know how. I want to help those that cannot afford the luxury of glasses, to allow them to live active and productive lives,” Epstein states. This is just the beginning for Epstein. Her goal is to raise more money and collect thousands more pairs of eye glasses, so that those who are visually impaired can receive the gift of clear vision. Exceptional People Magazine was thrilled to speak with Epstein about her new-found endeavor and how she is using it to change lives. Monica: Would you mind discussing your childhood experience and the fact that you were born with double cataracts?
that was founded in 1932, by Julia Lawrence Terry. New Eyes for the Needy is committed to providing eyeglasses to needy children and adults across the United States, as well as developing countries around the world. While working as a volunteer at the Red Cross food depot during the Depression, Terry was inspired to start the program. She realized that many of the applicants had impaired vision, and she began collecting used eyeglasses. Many of them had gold rims, and she quickly realized that the metal could be a source of revenue to help pay for new glasses. Thus, New Eyes for the Needy was born. As the brainchild behind See for Change, Epstein is proud to support New Eyes for the Needy. See for 74 | Exceptional People Magazine | September-October 2011
Diana: Sure. I was born with double cataracts, and I had them removed when I was four years old. They waited until then so that my eyes could develop. One of the things I remember while coming back from the hospital with my mom is looking across the street and telling her, “Mommy there’s a house across the street.” I literally had no idea what my neighborhood looked like and what things looked like from a distance. I wore glasses for most of my young life up until I was about twelve years old. I was nervous about contact lenses. I always sat in the front of the class. It definitely didn’t do much for my social life, wearing glasses as thick as they were. People took a lot of jabs at me and it was really tough to fit in. I attended an all girls' school. The girls were very catty, and I obviously stood out. When I was about thirteen, I made the decision that I would start wearing contact lenses. From then until now I wear
contact lenses. I have struggled with vision my entire life, and I had to take the visual portion of the driver’s exam three times. Since I didn’t like my job, I decided to make a change. I attended the Landmark Seminars Program and in the final class you take on a community project focused on providing services to the community. I always felt connected to those who were visually impaired, and I wanted to make a difference but wasn’t sure how. I decided to take on a party, a charity event or fundraiser to raise awareness for the organization that I found through doing research. New Eyes for the Needy has existed since 1932. The organization has been around much longer than most other organizations, and they were local to the area in New York where I was living at the time.
efforts because of potential time constraints in working with large numbers of individuals. As it got closer to the time of my fundraising event, I created and printed flyers, which I updated with emails. I invited people to a party and they were floored. I had obtained 5,000 pairs of glasses through corporate donations and individual contributions. There were a number of young people, family members, and young professionals at the event, and they were really surprised by my passion.
In my opinion, it's great to have a local organization where people can give back. I took on a fundraiser, which I had never done before. If I only raised two hundred dollars, it would be two hundred dollars more than the organization had. Monica: What is the mission or purpose of New Eyes for the Needy? Diana: The purpose is to have people purchase glasses for those who can’t afford to purchase them on their own, so $60 will go to help someone purchase eyeglasses. Typically eyeglasses cost about $250 per pair, so for people who are at the poverty level, having to purchase a new pair of glasses can be a burden. So the organization provides regular glasses and sunglasses to people in this country and people in third world countries who don't have access to appropriate eye care. Monica: How receptive were people to your idea of doing the fundraiser for See for Change? Diana: There seem to be a lot of people who want to make a difference but they aren’t sure where to put their
This year there was a 180 degree difference. New Eyes for the Needy was active in the planning process. They had the board members help raise money and items for the auction. An advisory board was created and I'm a member along with young professionals who want to become a part of the organization and make an impact. The advisory board discusses issues that pertain to New Eyes for the Needy, including how to get new members. All of that came from See for Change. Monica: Based on that, what type of feedback are you getting from the younger generation? Diana: People are surprised that someone my age has been able to do what I did. People in their twenties are doing this. They never knew that an organization like this existed, and they didn’t realize how fun charity events can be September-October 2011 | Exceptional People Magazine | 75
and how easy it is. Tickets were $25 dollars because I wanted to make it accessible for young people and let them know that it doesn’t take a $100 dinner to give back. It doesn’t take a lot of energy and time to make a difference. It can be easy and fun. It’s a great feeling to know that people are excited about it and willing to help. Monica: To date how much money have you raised for New Eyes for the Needy? Diana: To date it’s probably around $21,000 in the last year. The final numbers are not in yet. We’ve acquired 8,400 pairs of glasses. By the time I am 30, I will have done six of these events and that makes me feel proud. The goal is to expand to large cities and create more outreach to young people so we can connect with that generation. Monica: What would your advice be for other young people about becoming involved in their communities? Diana: It would be to build a plan and share with people, so that they can participate. Don’t limit yourself, set high goals and take on something you’ve never done before. Even if you think that you’ve failed, you would have done something that you’ve never done. That changes you as a person, and it changes you in the eyes of everyone else in the community. Monica: What are your future plans for See for Change? Diana: I would love to have See for Change continue to grow. We raised twice the amount of money this year than we did last year. If that exponential growth continues, that would be wonderful. I’d like to increase the amount of awareness about See for Change, to bring more people to the events, tap into new networks and educate people about the organization. 76 | Exceptional People Magazine | September-October 2011
Monica: Besides donating glasses, how can others help you further your mission? Diana: If they want to become involved and they are on the East Coast or in other parts of the country, they can email me at email@example.com. We can discuss how they could possibly conduct a drive in their area, or they could participate by researching venues or obtaining items for auction. There are so many aspects to See for Change where we could use help. If people are interested that would be wonderful.
September-October 2011 | Exceptional People Magazine | 77
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