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Sips for Sight: a nonprofit uses wine tasting to help give free glasses to kids

  • Written by Kirsten Abel, Features Writer

Violet Anderson was born with total bilateral congenital cataracts, a condition that clouds the eye’s lenses and causes partial or complete blindness. If not for an early diagnosis and two sight-saving surgeries, Violet would still be blind today.

“Violet’s vision isn’t perfect, but it is definitely functional,” Jen Anderson, Violet’s mother, said. “For everything that a regular 6-year-old wants and needs to do, she does pretty well.”

Violet AndersonViolet Anderson, now 6 years old, was born blind. She’s the inspiration behind the nonprofit, Violet Sees. (Photos courtesy of Jen and Mike Anderson)Jen and her husband, Mike Anderson, know how lucky they are. They have financial resources, excellent medical doctors and a community of support that allowed Violet to be diagnosed and treated quickly. Others, however, are less fortunate.

The condition that Violet was born with, although technically treatable, is a significant cause of blindness elsewhere in the world. If not identified and treated early in life, many children with the condition become permanently blind.

That’s why the Andersons decided to start their own nonprofit, called Violet Sees, to raise awareness about congenital cataracts and other eye conditions and to raise money to provide glasses to children in need.

Violet Sees will celebrate its two-year anniversary at a fundraising event on May 6, 2017 at Alexandria Nicole Cellars in Woodinville. Each ticket costs $75, a price that includes food and beverages. All proceeds will go straight to Violet Sees, and the winery will also donate a portion of their wine sales back to the nonprofit.

“They have been really amazing and very fun to work with,” Anderson said of the Woodinville winery.

One of the goals of Violet Sees is to give away at least one pair of free glasses to a child every month, a goal that the nonprofit has exceeded so far this year, Anderson said.

Anderson Family Jen and Mike Anderson started a nonprofit to help other children receive the kind of treatment that saved their own daughter’s sight. Referrals for children who need help paying for glasses come either from Children’s Eye Care in Kirkland, Violet’s own eye doctor’s office, or from area public schools.

“We’re small and we’re relatively new so we’re definitely locally focused,” Anderson said. “All of the families that we have helped live in the greater Puget Sound area.” 

According to Anderson, Violet Sees is still a very tiny organization. She coordinates with the families in need, with the doctors’ offices and with the schools all herself.

“It’s still a very human-oriented process,” she said. “It’s me on the phone with different people. It works well that way.”

The organization also started a program called Sips for Sight, through which community members can throw wine- or other beverage-tasting parties to benefit Violet Sees. The nonprofit provides the drinks and tasting information and the party host provides the location and the guest list.

While Violet’s condition started as the nonprofit’s main focus, Anderson said she wants to maintain the organization’s flexibility in order to help kids with a variety of vision problems. Congenital cataracts might be rare, but childhood vision problems are not.

“A lot of the families that we help have unique situations or unique prescriptions. Some of the things that the child needs are beyond what other programs can help with,” she said.

Violet Sees accepts donations on its website, violetsees.org. All donations go straight to the nonprofit.
To purchase tickets for the anniversary fundraiser, visit the organization’s Eventbrite page at www.eventbrite.com/e/violet-sees-annual-birthday-party-tickets-32243915419.

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