Steve Stockton says that his best decision in life was getting married and having a family. However, his work as an optician—which allows him to change people’s lives by giving them the ability to see clearly—is just as important.
Stockton, 59 and a Palm Desert resident for the past year, works for OneSight, a nonprofit organization “committed to eradicating the global vision care crisis in our lifetime.” According to the organization’s website, OneSight has helped more than 9 million people in 46 countries since 1998.
“I was in Costa Rica,” Stockton says, “and went back there after 10 years for the anniversary of our OneSight program there. I saw a woman I had helped on that earlier trip, and she still had the same pair of glasses that had transformed her ability to see. For a little boy from Ogden, Utah, to be able to make that difference, around the world, is the proudest accomplishment in my life.”
Stockton was raised in Ogden and Kaysville, Utah. “My mom was the light of our family,” Stockton says. “She was an incredible woman, the person who brought our family together. I was always able to go to her and tell her anything. She would just hug and love us, no matter what. Her message was, ‘There’s no one better than you are.’
“Mom was a third-generation Mexican American, whose father was a very religious man. He would sit down and preach the gospel to us in Spanish. I do believe in a higher being, and what I hope for is one day to be able to see my mother again.
“Mom and my birth father got divorced. She remarried when I was about 10, and my ‘dad’ adopted my older brother and myself. (Stockton also has a younger brother and a sister.) He was a really good role model for us. He, my mom and dad all had a friendly relationship.”
After graduating from high school, Stockton attended college in Ogden, but then moved to Colorado to study to become an optician—a professional who measures patients’ eyes for vision aids, makes eyeglass adjustments, and educates patients about eyewear. He was licensed by the time he was 23.
“I had originally intended to major in psychology, but I had a friend who was studying nursing and encouraged me to consider becoming an optician,” he says. “Funny, I had always loved drawing eyes. Once I completed my studies, I fell in love with the job—working directly with people and helping them see better.”
Stockton’s first job was with an optical company in Denver, and he is still in contact with friends he made during that time. Stockton later began working with LensCrafters and soon became a general manager. In 1988, the company started collecting used eyeglasses with the idea of giving them to children who couldn’t afford them. That ultimately led to the formation of OneSight, which is now an independent nonprofit.
In 1997, mobile eye clinics were being put together, and Stockton became a clinic manager, leading the expansion of clinics around the world.
“I originally drove a van around the U.S., Canada and Mexico,” he says. “To help people be able to see, cook, sew and read—it’s wonderful to have had that opportunity. In 2018, I became program manager with OneSight.”
The organization’s mission is to bring eye exams and glasses to people who lack access to vision care. They see more than 3,500 patients every week, at mobile clinics all over the world.
“We do comprehensive eye exams at the clinics,” Stockton says. “We have up to 15 optometrists, and a team of about 50 from all over the world. We do eye exams and make glasses right onsite.”
What brought Stockton to Palm Desert? “My husband, Danny, is a teacher. We had been living in Arizona, but salaries for teachers are much higher in California, and we liked the desert. My job is mobile, so I just need to be near an airport.
“We have an incredible daughter, Kylie, 26, from Danny’s first marriage, who is engaged to be married next year. Kylie was 5 when Danny and I got together, and we raised her up until her high school graduation. I’m looking forward to being a grandfather one of these days!”
What’s something others might not know about him? “One thing I really love to do is draw—animals, people, eyeballs,” he says with a laugh. “I work in colored pencils and charcoal, and I’m always doodling.”
Stockton loves to travel, and obviously travels a lot for his job. “Danny and I went to Thailand along with his mother, and I was able to give them the experience I’d had when I was doing clinics,” he says. “They got to see what I’ve seen—meeting people and forming relationships.
“We do clinics through the Fresh Air Fund at summer camps and see about 2,600 kids in four weeks.”
The people who work for OneSight believe that when the world sees better, the world lives better—and Steve Stockton has definitely made the world a better place by helping other people see clearly.
Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show The Lovable Liberal airs on IHubRadio. Email her at Anita@LovableLiberal.com. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.