By Adam Wolfe
After nine months of fund-raising, legally blind U.S. Navy veteran Jesse Ramirez has reached his goal and will receive a pair of eSight glasses to help restore his vision.
Over the last eight years, Ramirez has been piecing his life back together following a car accident that left him with a broken back, fractured neck and severe head trauma and nearly completely blind. He has had to re-learn nearly all of his basic motor skills without the benefit of being able to see what he was doing. Sometimes, the adjustment is hard for Jesse to handle.
“Since he can’t see what’s going on around him, he often feels paranoid that someone is following him,” said Jesse’s friend and care taker Joe Matrishion.
Last November, Jesse was given the opportunity to try on a pair of eSight glasses. The glasses, which combine a camera and hands-free computing system to deliver real-time video to people with vision loss, gave Jesse the opportunity to see the world around him for the first time in years.
“It was amazing,” he says of his test run with the glasses. “I could see everything. I could see all of the colors. I could read fine print.”
Since that experience, Jesse and Joe have been trying to raise $15,000 for Ramirez to purchase a pair of his own. For the first six months, fund-raising efforts moved relatively slow. The duo was only able to raise about half of the money they needed. Then, they caught a break when a used pair of glasses became available for only $10,000. This put their fund-raising goal within reach.
“We needed to try to get those funds together as soon as possible,” Matrision said. “There were people out there with money who wanted to help; we just needed to find them.”
Little did Jesse and Joe know the people who wanted to help already had a plan.
Jesse had received private donations and donations from groups such as the American Foreign Legion who donated $450. He had even had events such as the pancake breakfast hosted by the Knights of Columbus of Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Maricopa that raised $1,775 to help Jesse see.
Those groups offering large enough donations to push his fund-raising efforts over the edge were few and far between.
Then, the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars stepped in. The group voted to give Jesse $1,000 in hopes of kick starting a community-wide effort to get Jesse to his goal.
“Everyone was nickel and diming him and he wasn’t getting anywhere,” VFW Commander Mike Kemery said. “So we took a vote and gave him $1,000. After that, people jumped on and helped.”
After the donation from the VFW, Jesse was within $2,000 of his goal. It was a figure Harrah’s Ak-Chin was happy to cover. Jesse and Joe received word the casino will cover the remaining cost of his glasses and host a celebration for him to receive them.
“Jesse is extremely excited,” Matrishion said. “The glasses will come a few days before the event so Jesse can adjust them, but he will actually get the glasses during the event.”
Jesse’s event will be held in the ballroom at Harrah’s Ak-Chin on Monday, Sept. 14, from 6 to 7 p.m. According to Matrishion, Jesse is expected to receive the glasses during a presentation, and monitors will be connected to the glasses for the audience to see what he sees for the first time in eight years.
“He’ll be excited to see anything and everything,” Matrishion says. “It has been so long since he could that he just wants to see it all.”