Caitlyn Michiels, 11, of Mastic, New York, a fifth-grader at Moriches Elementary School, started a nonprofit organization that has collected more than 1,000 pairs of used eyeglasses for children who cannot afford them, and has raised over $50,000 to help people pay for needed eye care, spread awareness of eye disease, and buy fluorescent light covers for her district’s elementary schools. Caitlyn was diagnosed with a rare eye disease in 2018. “I was scared I was going to become blind one day,” she said. Fortunately, her family had insurance to cover her expensive treatments, but when Caitlyn learned that not everyone has insurance, “I knew that was not OK,” she said.
Caitlyn set up a 501(c)3 organization and began seeking donations to pay for glasses or eye medication for children and others who needed them. Then she placed drop-off boxes at local businesses and the offices of elected officials to collect used eyeglasses for Lions Club International. After one of her teachers put covers on her classroom’s fluorescent lights to reduce her eye strain, Caitlyn donated 400 light covers to her school district. In addition, Caitlyn persuaded county officials to enact “Caitlyn’s Law,” which provides for the distribution of eye health information and designates the month of August as Children’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month. “I hope I will be able to keep helping children for a long time, and would love to find new ways of helping kids with visual impairments,” she said.