Because wearing glasses can make kids feel like they stand out in their day-to-day life, the three moms who founded Great Glasses Play Day (GGPD) designed their event to provide a place where kids with corrective eyewear feel confident and proud in their frames.
Now in its 4th year, the event—held on the first weekend in May— began after creators Ann Zawistoski and Kristin Ellsworth met through Zawistoski’s online support group, Little Four Eyes, and bonded over their desire to hold an event celebrating glasses and the adorable kids who wear them.
After their first event, the duo connected with Jessica Butler, a mom who’s child also wears corrective lenses, and asked for her help in promoting and organizing the event the following year. Since then, the three moms have grown GGPD into a thriving non-profit organization that partners with volunteers, businesses and sponsors to create a worldwide event that offers families crafts, games and a time for their children to play with other kids who wear glasses just like them.
“So much of the support for families in glasses is online, and it’s a great way to connect, but there’s something fundamentally wonderful about getting together and meeting in person,” said Zawistoski.
With more than 30 GGPD events planned for the coming weekend, Ellsworth says another goal of the organization is to increase awareness about early eye exams, adding that while 1 in 20 preschool-aged children in the U.S. need glasses, only 1 in 100 actually wear them.
Kristen Hebberth, a mom from Waterloo, Wisconsin, says this will be her second year participating in a GGPD event with son, Jayden, 3. Hebberth says Jayden was diagnosed with retinoblastoma (cancer of the eye) when he was just 15 months old, and had his right eye removed after 6 rounds of chemotherapy. Jayden has since been fitted with a prosthetic eye, and wears glasses to help protect the vision in his healthy eye. Hebberth says last year’s GGPD was an instrumental part of showing her young son that wearing glasses is something to be celebrated.
“It was good for him to see other kids in glasses and to celebrate wearing them by doing fun activities around glasses. For a parent, it was nice to chat with other parents about the vision world, toddlers in glasses, and the funny stories that arise,” said Hebberth.
Mea Soto has hosted Philadelphia’s GGPD event every year since 2012, and although she won’t be hosting the event this year, she says her daughter, Alana, 7, still insists on attending. Alana is blind in her left eye due to a condition known as unilateral optic nerve hypoplasia, and has worn glasses since she was 5 months old.
“In this day and age, it is more common for kids to wear glasses. There are so many different reasons as to why they wear them, but that doesn’t matter to them – all that matters is, ‘I have a new friend that looks like me.’ I do this for her, I do it to spread early vision care awareness for all children, and I do it for fun,” said Soto.