Sharp-eyed passers-by, or those with a fresh, new pair of specs, may have spotted a sign in the window of CustomEyes (2650 N. Milwaukee Ave.) seeking support for Ukrainian refugees. The Logan Square outpost, along with the optometry and eyewear company’s other branches, is helping collect donations for Ukrainian children relocating to Chicago.
Responses, so far, have been impressive, said Shannon Sculley, who is coordinating CustomEyes’ contribution to the effort. In just a few weeks, the donation drive has secured enough stable goods (things like car seats and blankets) to supply all 50 sponsored children. The effort will still collect disposable items, like diapers and formula, through the end of the month, via this Amazon donation list. Items will ship directly to the school sponsoring the arrivals, Chicago Therapeutic Children’s Academy. Any unneeded donations will go to Chicago homeless shelters.
“The outreach that we’ve had from people has been really moving,” said Shannon, who is married to Mike Sculley, co-owner (with Casey Crumbliss) of CustomEyes. “We received more items than we ever imagined.”
All eight CustomEyes stores, which are all located in the Chicago area, lent their support to the efforts to secure staples for children ages 3 months to 15 years who lost their parents in the war. The CustomEyes sign includes a QR code linking to the Amazon donation list of items for the youngest children, from diapers to formula.
Twins From Ukraine
Shannon used to work for the United Nations, “and I really care about refugees and just people in general,” she said. But Shannon and Mike were especially moved to join the effort after learning of arriving children whose situation hit close to home. The couple has twin girls, one of whom attends Chicago Therapeutic Children’s Academy, which partnered with Old St. Pat’s school in sponsoring the children. The Sculleys learned that the arriving refugees included a set of twins.
“When we heard about twins that were coming, and they were 3-month-old, identical girls, it just kind of made us decide, ‘Hey, we’re going to take this as far as we can,'” Shannon said.
They posted signs at all CustomEyes branches and pushed the donation effort via store social media sites and other means. Donations came pouring in, filling up both the Sculley’s garage and that of their neighbor, who owns the academy. St. Pat’s, in addition, has a big warehouse full of donations. Shannon estimated that CustomEyes’ efforts alone have brought in 25 car seats, 30 strollers, 50 blankets, at least 50 cases of diapers, 30 cases of formula, at least a thousand toys, and more. “I have at least 50 boxes [of clothes] inside my garage right now. Books, tons of books.”
Further bolstering the drive, CustomEyes store manager Sarah Surisook drew on strong community support for Afghan refugees in Park Ridge to secure even more donations. “That whole community came together and donated like 70% of the goods,” Shannon said. “It was really cool.”
CustomEyes will also offer free glasses and eye exams to refugees and family members who come to support them. That means “all refugees in need and requested through the consulate, not just Ukrainian” refugees, Shannon said. “We are so passionate about providing refugees with medical care!”
To Come: School Supplies
After this month’s drive finishes up, CustomEyes will look to help the academy outfit kids for classes. “We plan on hopefully doing another drive to make sure they have the right school supplies,” Shannon said. “We’re really going to take the lead of the school.”
CustomEyes opened its first shop 17 years ago in Southport and has operated at its Logan Square branch for four years (doing business under the previous store’s name, Contacts and Specs, for two of those years). Amid the devastating events overseas, donation support from the neighborhoods surrounding the company’s eight branches has been a bit of bright news recently, Shannon said.
“I didn’t expect community really in a city like this, but I’ve really, really seen it, and it’s been really beautiful,” she said.
Email [email protected] with any questions about the donation drive.
Featured photo: Michael Dhar