By Paul Tennant
---- — ANDOVER — Niko Skrivanos has worn eyeglasses since he was 2 years old and needs them every minute he’s awake.
He’d be happy if he could have 20/20 vision but at least Niko, 13, the son of Konse and Lorna Skrivanos of North Andover, never had to worry about being able to afford an eye examination or spectacles. As he got older and became aware that there are many children who need glasses but lack the means to pay for them, he decided to do something about it.
So two years ago, he founded Eye-See, a nonprofit charity that raises money to pay for eye exams and corrective lenses for children whose families are having a hard time making ends meet.
“I wanted to do something to give back,” explained Niko, an eighth-grader at the Pike School in Andover. Besides helping kids who need glasses, he said he wanted to “raise awareness” of the fact that many children have a difficult time seeing things.
Niko has formed a partnership with Andover Eye Care at 77 Main St. Todd Berberian, the optician who owns and operates the business, said Niko has “always been a mindful, generous young man.”
Niko, who went to Andover Eye Care for his first pair of glasses, also has “an understanding of a child not being able to see,” he said.
Two years ago, Berberian recalled, Niko came to him and said, “I have a question for you.” He asked to enlist Berberian’s help in setting up a nonprofit to help children who need eyeglasses but can’t pay for them, he said.
Since then, Eye-See has provided for the vision needs of 30 children, Berberian estimated. Dr. Charlene Glynn, an optometrist who works at Andover Eye Care, does the eye exams.
Berberian then crafts the lenses so eager young students such as Wisdom Coates, 10, a fourth-grader at Silver Hill Horace Mann Charter School in Haverhill, can see the blackboard.
Wisdom said she had such “a hard time seeing far away” that her teacher moved her to a seat at the front of the class. Wisdom was among eight young people who had their eyes checked yesterday at Andover Eye Care.
She said she wants to wear glasses. Her mother, Jasmine Robinson, said it was “pretty nice” that Niko, with the involvement of Andover Eye Care, made it possible for Wisdom to see clearly.
George Meehan found out that his daughter Maggie, 5, a kindergartner at Silver Hill, needed glasses after she took a vision test at the school. After her trip to Andover Eye Care, they’ll be able to pick up Maggie’s new glasses in two weeks.
George Meehan said Niko’s outreach is “fantastic.”
“A lot of kids go through the system and need help but don’t get it,” he said.
Emily Davis, 11, a fifth-grader at Silver Hill, initially didn’t want to wear glasses, but the people at Andover Eye Care assured her that many, many people need spectacles. Her mother, Dorothy Davis, called Eye-See “a most extraordinary thing.”
“My charity is making me happy,” Niko said. He sends out letters and makes phone calls to family members and friends to raise money for this endeavor. To make a donation to Eye-See, visit www.eyeseecharity.com.
Niko said he likes attending school and learning. He’s an A student, according to his mother. He’s an avid skier, runs cross country and track and plays squash and tennis.
He studies Spanish and Latin at Pike School and has begun learning Greek. While Niko was reluctant to say he speaks Spanish fluently, his mother said that during a family trip to Spain, he was speaking the language very well.
Niko said he aspires to be an entrepreneur someday. Without a doubt, he will continue his charitable efforts as well. Niko’s sister Victoria is a sophomore at Phillips Academy.