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Colorful beginnings in 2020 for CHS Freshman Student Brendan Huckabee gifts classmate Tyler Schoen Enchroma Glasses to help correct color blindness

 

January 8, 2020

Chinook High School freshman Tyler Schoen wears the Enchroma Glasses that classmate Brendan Huckabee gifted to him during fourth period, Friday, January 3 in Mrs. Julie Terry's classroom.

The Holidays are a time of celebration, a time for inclusion and a chance for us to get together with friends and family. They brighten our spirits, and our sense of being as we bring closure to the current year.

Sometimes we are thankful the year is ending, maybe because it was a difficult one, while some are grateful to put the finishing touches on a year that brought a lot of joy. Whatever the case may be, the fact that a New Year is about to begin seems to energize even the most pessimistic of us in some little way.

There is magic to the beginning of anything, after all it's a first, a start. With that comes instantaneous hope, belief, and even for a brief moment, a willingness to commit to whatever is necessary to make it happen takes over us.

In that spirit, many will create resolutions to do better or set work, personal, family and/or social goals to make the new year special. In reality, it's just a continuation of what has already been put in motion, and the only thing that has really changed is our attitude, our approach to life and moving forward.

Winter starts to really set in, snow and cold and the resulting problems that are associated with those elements quickly dampen our spirits and we turn our attention to just getting through it, after all spring will show up soon... hopefully!

So when a young man at Chinook High School by the name of Brendan Huckabee, a freshman, gifted a classmate a life altering pair of glasses, it instantly got the 2020's, a new year and a new decade off to a perfect start. What better way than for the people of Blaine County, the readers of the Blaine County Journal ~ News Opinion and the surrounding areas to experience a true act of kindness. It's hard to top friends helping friends like this.

Freshman Tyler Schoen has been color blind his entire life. He has the more common Red/Green blindness but also experiences trouble with purple and blue.

Since its something he has dealt with his entire life, it didn't create too many problems, it's the only way he saw the world. In recent years Tyler had heard of color blindness correcting glasses but never really looked into them.

Brendan began working a part time job this summer at Finley's Food Farm as a box boy. Initially, like any young adult entering the work force his intent was to put a little extra change in his pocket.

Mrs. Julie Terry, Chinook High School English teacher, organized the Secret Santa exchange on a class by class basis and Brendan drew Tyler as the recipient of his gift exchange.

"Initially I knew what the glasses were and what they did and a lot of our classmates kept mentioning to him that he should get color blind glasses," said Brendan.

Mrs Terry brought the idea of the exchange to her students around the Thanksgiving break and Huckabee sprang into action, "I didn't care about cost, I just wanted to find the best pair available. I did some research on YouTube and various Internet searches to find out how well they work and which were the best to get."

Brendan ended up purchasing a pair of EnChroma Glasses and according to their website, "They might look like sunglasses, but EnChroma's product actually boosts the saturation of red and green light. That helps to improve color vision in people with red-green color-blindness, the most common color vision deficiency, affecting up to one in 12 men and one in 200 women (a true lack of color vision is very rare)."

The invention was derived from the work of Don McPherson, who earned his PhD in glass science at Alfred University. McPherson was trying to design protective eye wear for doctors performing laser surgeries. It wasn't until he let a friend try on the glasses during a game of ultimate Frisbee that he realized the technology's true potential. McPherson's friend just happened to be color-blind, and the glasses gave both of them a shock.

That serendipity led to NIH-funded research for helping the color-blind. Early versions of the glasses were unsatisfactory, so McPherson began working with mathematician and computer scientist Andrew Schmeder to help optimize the glasses. In 2010, they cofounded EnChroma, and the first pair of glasses was released in 2012.

The exchange took place the last week of school prior to the Holiday break and since the glasses had not arrived yet Brendan was in a bit of a pickle and chose to give Tyler a 'bunch of pop and candy'. This didn't seem out of the ordinary as it fit right in with the majority of other gift exchanges. The exchange had a cash limit of $7, but sometimes, something can be so worth breaking the bar that it can be overlooked. And that is what Brendan chose to do for his friend.

This may seem like an out of this world 'Secret Santa' gift, but Brendan is an out of this world student. A freshman at Chinook High School (CHS) and just 14 years old, he was looking for a way to reach out to someone in the community and do something to improve their life. When the 'Secret Santa' exchange came up he saw it as a prime opportunity to accomplish that goal.

During the Christmas break the glasses finally came in and he decided to present Tyler his gift when school resumed in 2020. Tyler missed the first day of school in the new year as he attended a wrestling meet in Shelby with the 'Beeter grappler's. When he returned to class on Friday, January 3 Brendan presented Tyler with his new glasses at the start of fourth period.

"Most of my classmates knew I was going to give him the glasses in fourth period, but I'm not sure everyone did. I'm pretty sure Tyler didn't have any idea," stated Huckabee.

The actual presentation of the gift was pretty casual, "I just handed him the box when he walked in, but after I gave it to him all of my classmates were excited to see him open it," added Huckabee. "He had no clue what his gift was, so he looked a little confused when he started to open them."

Everyone was very happy to see him put them on, it was a surreal moment for everyone in the room. Students began scrabbling for all kinds of items with vibrant colors and for him to see for the very first time. Mrs. Terry allowed the students to venture outside so Tyler could take it all in.

"When I got to school I knew something was coming, but I didn't have any idea what it was," said Tyler. When I opened the box I was really surprised and I never imagined looking through the glasses would be so different."

Tyler is all smiles as he enjoys a new experience to the delight of his friends.

For Tyler the color blindness was never an issue, just how things were, but now he is learning to see the world with a much larger color wheel.

Like anyone who as ever worn corrective lenses of any kind, it's taking some time to get used to, "A couple hours a day I try to figure out the colors, it's been challenging but it's been fun," commented Tyler. "I was with JT (Hauer) in Spanish Class and he was helping me recognize the colors, it was pretty fun."

Brendan and Tyler have been classmates since early on at the Meadowlark Elementary in Chinook and have clearly became good friends through the years.

Brendan worked three hours a day, Tuesday through Friday, 12/week, 24 per pay period to save up money to buy the glasses, and to boot, Brendan has yet to get anything special for himself.

 
 

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