Best Practices 2017 Honoree, Shauna Thornhill, OD, believes wholeheartedly in giving the gift of sight. Practicing in her hometown of East Amarillo, Texas, Shauna is sensitive to the fact that she serves a population in need. In 2015, 23% of Amarillo’s residents lived below the poverty line and 5.5% live at 50% or more below the poverty line.1 Dr. Thornhill knew she wanted to help those in her community who could not afford much-needed eye care – and came up with an ingenious solution that serves the dual purpose of providing local children with toys at Christmastime as well.
According to Dr. Thornhill’s own summary of the program, "Sight Before Christmas is an annual event centered on providing free eye exams in exchange for a toy donation to Toys For Tots. Entering its 6th year, the toy drive has evolved in to a community event including local carolers, high school cheerleader performances, dance routines from a local dance academy and a visit from Santa Claus. Local and national companies have also joined in by providing everything from refreshments to health information to products to fill giveaway bags. The event has expanded each year and in 2015 became the largest toy drive in the area. In 2016, 239 patients received free exams and over $30,000 worth of toys were collected. The continued growth and success of the event can be attributed in large part to the doctors’ and staffs’ connection to the community and desire to give back."
In order to further spread the word and help even more children, promotional videos have been created with the help of volunteers. Those videos have been the center of a push to be part of Cheerios and The Ellen Show’s One Million Acts of Good challenge. Dr. Thornhill is enthusiastic about the potential this exposure has for bringing the gift of sight to even more people in need. “On the surface, it looks like our Sight Before Christmas event provides eye exams and toys to underprivileged people in our community. While that is certainly true,” says Thornhill, “I think we provide something much more important: hope. Knowing that someone out there cares about them can make a huge difference a person’s life. No one does a better job of spreading kindness and hope than Ellen Degeneres. Being a part of Cheerios and The Ellen Show’s Million Acts of Good would help us reach much farther than we could do on our own. If we could inspire people to find their own way to spread hope, that would truly be a blessing.”