TROY — Troy resident Christy Hilleary is working to honor her father, Bill Thompson, by carrying on his project to provide veterans with reading glasses.
When Thompson passed away unexpectedly last July, at the age of 58, Hilleary knew she wanted to do something, but she wasn’t sure what. In December 2018, she decided to continue with, and expand, a service project that her dad began a year prior.
“In 2017, my father thought of an idea to start collecting reading glasses of all strengths to distribute to our veterans who have had trouble seeing, or who may not be able to read so well,” Hilleary said. “Between him, word of mouth, and his friends, he collected close to 1,000 pairs.”
In November 2017, Thompson visited the Dayton VA Medical Center to donate a portion of his collection to local veterans.
“I want to take it a step further,” Hilleary said. “I’ve been in contact with people like the Gold Star Moms about sending some overseas, but because there are so many things that have changed, that may not be a possibility, but I want to get as many out there as possible to whoever may need them.”
Hilleary said her father, who was honorably discharged from the Army after four years in the service as a young man, also wore reading glasses and was disheartened by the fact that VA members are not automatically covered for vision. This leaves many veterans without an affordable way to receive the glasses they need.
“My dad was a very humble, funny, all around good person,” Hilleary said. “He’d do anything for anyone; hence the collection of glasses.”
As a way for her to keep his memory alive, Hilleary decided to call the project, “Bill’s Vision for Veterans.”
Since taking over the project, Hilleary has collected just over 100 pairs of reading glasses. Her short-term goal is to collect 500 by the end of August. She then plans to donate the glasses, as her father did, to a local medical facility focused on treating vets.
Hilleary also has long-term goals for the project, which may include morphing it into a non-profit organization, though no plans have been decided or made in that regard as of yet.
“My biggest goal is to be nationwide,” she said. “I’ve had a lady send me a box of close to 30 or 40 pairs of reading glasses — some new, some old — from Virginia, so I thought that was awesome and I’m glad the word is getting around.”
Hilleary has had some assistance with the project from her sisters, Misty Selanders and Janee Thompson, and has also gotten a bit of help from country music star Neal McCoy.
Hilleary said she and her father had a “dad/daughter day” in June 2018, during which they went to a Neal McCoy concert. She said after the show, her father became very interested in meeting McCoy and speaking with him. As a surprise, Hilleary entered Thompson in McCoy’s fan club and bought a ticket to see the star in Celina, along with a meet-and-greet ticket add-on.
Unfortunately, Thompson passed away before the two could attend the concert.
“I contemplated on going myself, but I wasn’t sure if I could handle it emotionally,” Hilleary said. “But I did it, and I met Neil and told him about my dad. I had found a pair of my dad’s reading glasses that he had at his house, and I knew Neil wears reading glasses, so I said, ‘I want you to have these in honor of my dad,’ and they just happened to be the correct strength.”
Hilleary said it was during McCoy’s recent performance at the Miami Valley Centre Mall in Piqua when she was able to speak with him again, this time sharing her father’s project with him.
“He said it was awesome and told me to keep up the good work,” Hilleary said. “He gave me his email address and asked me to email him about it. He said he wants to help in some way.”
Hilleary said that while she hasn’t heard back from McCoy as of yet, she looks forward to any assistance he may provide to support her and the project.
For now, Hilleary is continuing her collection of glasses. She noted that she is accepting reading glasses of any strength, used or new, and that she is open to accepting prescription-strength glasses. She asks that anyone who donates the latter include the specific prescription. Sunglass readers will also be accepted.
Hilleary plans to set up a donation box at the Miami Valley Veterans Museum, and to also set up a table at the Miami County Fair on Aug. 14, which is Armed Forces/Veterans Day.
For more information about where and when to donate glasses, visit Bill’s Vision for Veterans on Facebook.
Reach the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.