White House honors Berman for Special Olympics program

October 3, 2012

Leading sports vision optometrist Paul Berman, O.D., was honored at the White House Oct. 2 for his work as the founder and global clinical adviser of the Special Olympics Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes program, which provides vision testing and eyewear for intellectually challenged individuals.

Dr. Berman was among 11 Lion Clubs International members recognized during the latest in a series of “Champions of Change” ceremonies, held each week by the White House to spotlight Americans who are leading extraordinary initiatives to strengthen their communities.

Under the Special Olympics Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes program, volunteers provide all Special Olympics participants with a battery of vision tests, as well as protective sports goggles and prescription eyeglasses when needed.

Over the past two decades, the program has served intellectually challenged individuals in 80 countries and more than 45 states, with some 90,000 receiving eyewear provided by Essilor and Safilo.

Dr. Berman originally developed the program as an AOA Sports Vision Section project during his term as president of the section in 1991.

Impressed with initial success of the program, the Lions Clubs International Foundation, through its Healthy Athletes Opening Eyes initiative, assumed sponsorship in 2001. Under a multiyear commitment, the foundation has provided more than $1 million in funding annually.

A widely recognized sports vision practitioner, Dr. Berman has worked with the New Jersey Devils, New Jersey Nets, the New York Giants, U.S. Olympic Hand Ball Team, and U.S. Olympic Fencing Team as well as golfers, high school and collegiate athletes, and recreational athletes. His Hackensack, N.J., practice, Focus Eye Health and Vision Care, has been featured on ESPN.

A graduate of the Pacific University College of Optometry, Dr. Berman is a past New Jersey Optometrist of the Year Award and AOA SVS Optometrist of the Year.  He was named the International Optometrist of the Year in 2005 by the World Council of Optometry.

A 20-year Lions Club member, Dr. Berman is also working with Essilor on the Lions Lens project, through which Lions Clubs International hopes to soon provide a high-quality, low-cost eyeglass lens for use in humanitarian projects worldwide. The lens is already being used in the United States and Africa. Dr. Berman hopes the lens will one day be used to provide vision correction for approximately 50 percent of all people who are blind or visually impaired due to the need for a simple pair of glasses.

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