AP NEWS

Mount Vernon boy raises money to buy color-correcting glasses for friend

February 23, 2019
Jefferson Elementary School fifth-grader Kade Forkner holds his EnChroma glasses up to the window Wednesday.

MOUNT VERNON — Ten-year-old Kade Forkner’s favorite color has always been yellow — it’s the color the Jefferson Elementary School fifth-grader can most easily distinguish.

“I can see colors, just not like other people see them,” said Kade, who has color vision deficiency.

Now, thanks to one of his classmates, Kade can see more colors.

Levi Hander raised about $550 — with the help of the community at Salem Lutheran Church — to buy Kade two pairs of EnChroma glasses, which allow wearers to see a wider range of colors.

“I’ve been seeing one color my whole life, and then when I put (the glasses) on, it’s just a whole lot different,” said Kade, who has red-green color deficiency.

Because of how much money he raised, Levi was able to buy Kade glasses suited for both indoors and outdoors.

“It’s a huge deal,” said Kade’s mother, Terra Forkner. “He’s so proud of them.”

Her son, she said, has been teased by those who don’t believe he has color deficiency. Now he can see the world as others do.

“It means a lot to him to get to actually see what they see,” she said. “I just thought that was amazing that one of his peers of that age is so considerate to take on that project to that level. Being able to give that gift of color ... is pretty awesome.”

The two boys met last year when Levi transferred to Jefferson Elementary School to take part in the Mount Vernon School District’s highly capable program for fourth- and fifth-graders.

In class, students are participating in the NPR student podcast challenge, said teacher Andy Bishop. Students write, record and edit their own podcasts, he said, and he encouraged students to make their podcasts about something they are passionate about.

Levi, who said he’d watched videos of those with color deficiencies receive similar EnChroma glasses, chose to focus on Kade for his podcast.

“I’ve always been amazed by color blindness and how people’s cones see different things,” Levi said.

He didn’t want to just learn about color deficiency, he said. He wanted to help his friend.

“I’d rather buy something for someone else and see their reaction than get (something like) a new X-box,” Levi said.

That sentiment is not out of the ordinary for Levi, said his father Marc Hander, who is the pastor at Salem Lutheran Church.

“His heart has always been one of compassion for others,” he said.

At first, Marc Hander said his son tried to raise money to buy the glasses by hosting a bake sale. After realizing how many cookies he would need to make to raise enough to purchase the glasses, the fifth-grader went another direction and hosted a raffle.

In one day, he raised enough to purchase the glasses.

“We talk about helping the blind to see and the deaf to hear,” Marc Hander said. “So I was really proud of him for that.”

In a meeting filmed by Bishop a few weeks ago, Levi gave the glasses to Kade, who took several minutes to take in his new world.

“It was sweet to see that,” Bishop said.

Bishop said he hopes adults as well learn something from the act of kindness.

“I think for people it’s knowing that someone who’s younger is so empathetic and caring and compassionate,” Bishop said. “And also so motivated to do something about it.”