She and her husband were the first to arrive. She sat on the second row. She held a notepad in one hand and a pen in the other, balancing a copy of Jillian’s Story on her lap. I had never met her and did not know her name. We had never spoken a word to each other and yet, I knew her. This was a mother looking for answers for her troubled child. I would venture to guess that we had asked the same questions of teachers and doctors and endured a similar number of sleepless nights. She had come to the event in search of hope and I wanted, more than anything, to give it to her.
Thanks to the terrific efforts of marketing students at Utah Valley University and the Optometric Extension Program Foundation (huge thanks to Kelin and Matt Kushin), Jillian and I found ourselves in Utah that night for the first time. These students had selected Jillian’s Story as their entry for Google’s Online Marketing Challenge. They sought the support of the OEPF, allowing them to enter the non-profit category. As part of their campaign and with the support of wonderful sponsors, they were able to organize and promote our speaking engagement well beyond the college campus.
As I shared Jillian’s journey that night, my eyes were repeatedly drawn to the woman on the second row. She cried almost the entire time.
Jillian shared the vision therapy success stories of other children. She told the audience about Mackenzie, Sydney, Ryan, Will and Zach, five kids whose lives have also been changed thanks to optometric vision therapy. I glanced at one point toward the second row and was thrilled to see tears were turning into smiles. Worry was turning into hope.
Jillian and I were fortunate to have the assistance of Drs. Robin Price and Jarrod Davies of the Utah Vision Development Center. Jillian is still talking about the time she spent earlier that day in their center “playing” with all the vision therapy equipment. She was especially drawn to the 3D big screen monitor and its game-like challenges. Drs. Price and Davies were kind enough to bring equipment to the presentation. With Jillian’s help, they demonstrated a few vision therapy exercises, even getting the audience in the act by having them use a Brock String.
At the end of our presentation, I had the opportunity to meet many of those who attended. I made my way over to the lady who sat on the second row. I shook hands with her and her husband and she started to cry once more. She told me about her son, who has been struggling in school. He passed vision screenings and they had discounted vision as a possible culprit in his learning difficulties. He wanted to excel in sports, but no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t make the team. He was unhappy and unmotivated, calling himself “stupid” or “a loser.”
Doesn’t this sound familiar? I have read these same words countless times in emails from parents who have read or heard about our book. I gave her a hug and she whispered in my ear, “I think you are the answer to my prayers.” I found myself choking back tears.
She promised to keep in touch and I hope to report great success for her son. I know vision therapy will change his life and, by way of changing his, it will change hers as well. I just know!