HANCOCK COUNTY — For Christina and Daniel Knight and their four children, corrective eyewear is a major expense. Everyone in the family wears glasses.
“It usually costs us $800 just for the four of them,” Christina said Tuesday in the waiting room at Bunnell Family Eyecare in Fortville.
On this particular day, the bill for their children’s exams and new glasses: $0.
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The Knights were among 24 people scheduled to receive an eye exam and new glasses courtesy of Kenny Bunnell and his Eagle Scout project, which brought together resources from his father’s optometry practice and donations from his church.
The Fortville Lions Club and local school guidance offices helped make the culmination of Kenny’s Eagle Scout project possible.
Kenny, 17, of Wilkinson, a senior at Eastern Hancock High School, said it’s been his goal for many years to become an Eagle Scout, Boy Scouts of America’s highest rank. His vision project is part of that effort.
But he didn’t decide to pursue free eye-care services and eyewear for those in need as his project until about a year ago, when a friend struggled to buy glasses.
Watching his friend save up money for the purchase — money that her family could have used for food and other necessities — sealed the deal, he said.
He decided he wanted to help people in similar situations.
“That was kind of a defining moment for me,” he said.
So between last fall and this spring, Kenny went to work writing up his Eagle Scout project plan, having it approved and implementing it.
That included sending out letters to area schools to help identify those who need the help, arranging for donated eyeglass frames from manufacturers and discounted lenses from labs, and seeking donations from members of Wilkinson Church of Christ to pay the remaining cost of the lenses.
His project required him to work with a sponsoring nonprofit organization. After finding out the Fortville Lions Club had a longstanding program similar to the project he wanted to do, Kenny decided to seek out the club as his sponsor.
He said the Lions Club helped advise him on aspects of his project.
“To see people that are in need of sight, it just makes me feel good that I’m able to help them,” Kenny said. “It’s just really heartwarming.”
He said his project will assist in future efforts because leftover frames and funds from his project will go to the Lions Club program.
Also, he and some volunteers made several new donation boxes to help with another Lions program that collects old eyeglasses and distributes them worldwide to people who need them.
Fortville Lions Club Secretary Lee Guthrie, who worked with Kenny on the project, said the effort was welcomed by the club.
“We can always use more collection boxes,” Guthrie said.
The same goes for helping people pay for eyewear, he said.
“There’s so much need. The Lions Club sometimes can’t help everybody,” said Guthrie, who is also a trustee for the Indiana Lions Eye and Tissue Transplant Bank.
The 24 clients who had doctor’s appointments Tuesday were from two school districts who replied to his letter — Eastern Hancock and Greenfield-Central — and a few internal referrals.
Kenny’s father, Dr. Travis Bunnell, said he was happy to donate his office resources and space for the day to help his son with the project.
“Kenny did all the legwork,” Travis Bunnell said.
Earning the Eagle Scout Award requires more work than the major project. Hopeful Scouts must complete a long list of other requirements during years of involvement. They must earn merit badges, perform service hours, demonstrate Scouting skills and progress through the ranks.
When he finally earns his Eagle Scout, it will mean “that I made it,” Kenny said.
Along the way, he’s learned life skills and met great people, he said.
For the Knights, whose children attend Greenfield-Central schools, the project means their children won’t have to wait until after the start of another school year to get the right prescription glasses.
Without Kenny’s project, “it’d probably be November before we’d be able to get them,” Christina Knight said.