Pre­cious gift ‘work­ing won­ders’

The Glengarry News - - Front Page - BY RICHARD MA­HONEY News Staff

Wear­ing shaded wrap-around eye­glasses, Josh MacDonald op­er­ates a hand-held con­trol as he watches TV. A com­put­er­ized voice says, “2.5.” It may ap­pear as if he play­ing a vir­tual video game. But in fact the 39-year-old Alexan­dria man is us­ing a pre­cious de­vice that has made a very real im­prove­ment in his life.

The “2.5” fig­ure refers to the de­gree of mag­ni­fi­ca­tion the pair of eSight elec­tronic glasses is pro­ject­ing on a tiny dis­play screen di­rectly in front of his eyes.

While he jokes about the con­tent of an af­ter- noon soap opera he is view­ing, Mr. MacDonald says he is de­lighted that he can sit on the couch and clearly see the screen. For most of his life, if he wanted to watch a tele­vi­sion pro­gram, he would have to al­most press his face up against the set.

“The e-glasses are work­ing won­ders for me. They are fa­cil­i­tat­ing watch­ing TV, bet­ter than I have ever been able to imag­ine,” says Mr. MacDonald, who has been vis­ually im­paired since birth.

He ex­presses his grat­i­tude to the pub­lic and the Alexan­dria and District Li­ons Club for mak­ing “his quest to see” a re­al­ity.

“Fan­tas­tic”

“The com­mu­nity has been fan­tas­tic,” states Michel Depratto, pres­i­dent of the club whose fund-rais­ing cam­paign net­ted the $12,500 needed for Mr. MacDonald to ac­quire the eglasses.

He be­gan test­ing the equip­ment in June, even though he was not sure whether he would ever be able to af­ford to buy the eglasses.

Be­cause of his vis­ual im­pair­ment, Mr. MacDonald, who also has epilepsy, re­ceives help un­der the On­tario Dis­abil­ity Sup­port Pro­gram.

But no as­sis­tance is avail­able un­der any gov­ern­ment pro­gram to help him pur­chase the elec­tronic spec­ta­cles.

Af­ter read­ing about Josh's need for fund­ing in The Glen­garry News, Mr. Depratto with the help of Lion mem­bers Pierre Burelle, Marc Leblanc, and Gae­tan Ravary, ini­ti­ated the drive.

“We knew we were tak­ing a gam­ble,” re­calls Mr. Depratto. The $12,500 ob­jec­tive was am­bi­tious con­sid­er­ing the club’s most suc­cess­ful fund-rais­ing ef­fort would usu­ally bring in $5,000.

“But we de­cided to give it a try. The com­mu­nity came through,” says Mr. Depratto.

The club ac­knowl­edges the “in­di­vid­u­als and the busi­nesses for their gen­er­ous do­na­tions that have helped us pur­sue this lofty and time sen­si­tive goal. This pro­ject has tremen­dously im­proved Josh's qual­ity of life by pro­vid­ing him with the gift of sight.”

Help­ing the vis­ually im­paired is a key man­date of Li­ons In­ter­na­tional. The big­gest pay­back is that “Josh seems to be happy,” says Mr. Depratto. Mr. MacDonald re­marks he has been faced with the pleas­ant task of adapt­ing to a sharper per­spec­tive on the world. “I’ve been look­ing at things the same way for 39 years, so it may take a few months for me to ad­just to see­ing things more clearly,” he says. Mr. MacDonald’s left eye was re­moved due to an in­fec­tion when he was three months old. He has a nys­tag­mus in his right eye. When he first put on e-glasses ear­lier this year, his vis­ual acu­ity was four times bet­ter.

“Grow­ing up, I have not par­tic­i­pated in sports, been al­lowed to go out on walks by my­self, drive a car, or feel as though I have had much of a “nor­mal” life, as com- pared to sighted kids my age, both in school and in my com­mu­nity,” he told The News.

He had al­ways been told that eye­glasses would not help him. But three years ago, lo­cal op­tometrist, Dr. Joshua Smith, men­tioned that glasses may be ben­e­fi­cial. The elec­tronic glasses con­sist of a cam­era, dis­play tech­nol­ogy and ad­vanced com­put­ing that de­liver real-time video to the user’s eyes. When he put on the de­vice, “Wow! They helped me. I could see a lit­tle more.”

RICHARD MA­HONEY PHOTO

EV­ERY­THING MUST GO: De­mo­li­tion of the for­mer Alexan­dria Home Fur­nish­ings on Alexan­dria’s Main Street was car­ried out last week, about a year af­ter the busi­ness op­er­ated by the Ranger fam­ily since 1965 closed down.

HI-TECH VI­SION: Josh MacDonald’s eye­sight has been sharply im­proved since, with the help of a fund-rais­ing drive, he was able to ob­tain a pair of elec­tronic eye­glasses

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

FAN­TAS­TIC SUP­PORT: Back row, from left: Alexan­dria and District Li­ons Club Pres­i­dent Michel Depratto, Lion Pierre Burelle; front row, Lion Gae­tan Ravary, Josh MacDonald and Lion Marc Leblanc.

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