A five-year-old Halifax boy who had cataract surgery is helping children in developing countries access the same procedure that saved his own vision. Visit his fundraising page here

Zachary and his mother Colleen being interviewed on CTV Atlantic News

Zachary and his mother Colleen appeared on CTV Atlantic News at 5 on July 5, 2017

Zachary Gardiner started losing his vision due to cataracts at the age of four.

“At the optometry clinic they diagnosed it pretty much right away and then two days later we were at the IWK,” says his mother, Colleen Gardiner.

Within three weeks, Zachary had surgery on one eye. He had surgery on his other eye a month later.

Zachary after his cataract operation

Zachary after his cataract operation

“It was a challenging few months for us, but in the grand scheme of things, everything’s going to be completely fine,” says Gardiner. “He just gets to wear glasses and we go for checks every three months, but you know, not everybody gets that opportunity.”

Zachary is lucky, he lives in Canada where his cataracts were caught and treated early so he will have a chance at healthy vision for life. Unfortunately, for the 1.4 million blind children worldwide, most of whom live in remote areas of developing countries with few, if any, trained pediatric ophthalmologists and available eye care resources this is not the case.

Compounding the challenge is that, for no known reason, a child born in a developing country such as Madagascar or Nepal, is significantly more likely than a Canadian child to be born with or to develop cataracts before the age of 16; making cataracts the leading cause of childhood blindness worldwide.

“I am very proud of him and have become very passionate about making a difference by supporting Seva Canada. I also love how he is learning to give back. Living in Canada we feel so fortunate for Zachary’s eyesight but others are not so lucky,” says Colleen.

With this in mind, Gardiner and her husband set aside two jars to help teach their son about the power of giving.

“One for me to buy toys and one for me to give money to the kids that can’t get cataract surgery,” explains Zachary.

Zachary explaining his donation jar for Seva Canada

When Zachary receives change from his grandparents or from doing chores, he puts one coin in the toy jar and the rest in the jar for Seva Canada. In the first year, he raised $150, which is enough to help one child.

“I want to help 100 children get cataract surgery and not get blind,” said five-year-old Zachary Gardiner because it feels “good.”

Zachary and his family are ramping up their fundraising efforts as he sets his sights on an even bigger goal – helping 100 children in developing countries.

They have created a personal fundraising page on Seva Canada’s site, used Facebook Live to promote their goal and have been raising money ever since. Their friends put on a by-donation kids’ yoga class and Colleen, an independent consultant for Arbonne International, a health and wellness company, has donated her commission for the month of June from all Arbonne ABC children’s sunscreen. 

Zachary and his friends doing yoga on the grass in a park

Participants in Zachary's by-donation children's yoga class that raised $120 for Seva Canada

So far, the Gardiners have raised about $1,300, which has helped 10 children.

Zachary says he plans to take on more chores so he can earn more money, and a lemonade stand and cupcake sale are also in the works.

 “Zachary’s drive to help kids in countries he has probably never heard of is a reminder to us all that you are never too young to get involved, give back and change lives for the better. No child should go blind simply because of where they were born which is why we are so grateful to Zachary and his family and want to help him realize his goal of helping 100 kids in need to see. “    

– Penny Lyons

To see Zachary's progress and help him reach his big goal, check out his fundraising page here

Watch Zachary's segment on CTV Atlantic News 


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