PLAINFIELD, Ill. -- Chef Charlie Doman said he got choked up watching visually impaired teens try out their new electronic glasses for the first time. The giveaway and device training event took place in the dining room of the restaurant where he works, Moe Joe's Cajun Restaurant in Plainfield, Illinois.
"They were all so happy," said Doman. "I had to leave the room a few times."
Doman, who is legally blind, helped the teens navigate their glasses with direction from a representative from IrisVision, the company who makes the devices.
"Look at your mom. How beautiful is your mom?" said Doman to 12-year-old Yousif Ali of Bolingbrook, Illinois as he tried on the glasses. Ali said his visual impairment makes it hard to see shapes and responded "yes" when asked if wearing the glasses was like seeing for the first time in some ways.
"I loved it," said Ali. "I'd be able to actually read the textbooks that they give me in school."
The device giveaway had been months in the making. Last year Moe Joe's held an event called "Pies For Eyes," making hundreds of key lime pies to help raise money to replace Doman's missing IrisVision glasses. The restaurant gifted the glasses to Doman originally to enhance his sight in the kitchen because he has no central field of vision.
"I kind of see like a T-Rex," said Doman. "I see peripherally."
The restaurant sold hundreds of pies with help from the community of Plainfield and raised enough money to purchase Doman's glasses and 3 additional pairs to give to visually impaired students.
"When I tried them on I did see a difference in details," said 19-year-old Juan Caballero of Aurora, Illinois. Caballero said his vision impairment came on gradually over the last four years but has stabilized into blurred vision.
"It gave me just a new outlet basically just to see better," said Caballero.
After the Pies For Eyes fundraiser was over, Doman contacted The Chicago Lighthouse to help identify visually impaired teens like Caballero who would benefit from the electronic glasses. The 116-year-old nonprofit organization helps people who are blind and visually impaired be independent.
"We live in a world not designed for people who don't see well," said Jill Johnson, Senior Director of Advancement at The Chicago Lighthouse. "If we fix that with technology, we can do anything."
Staff at the Chicago Lighthouse spent weeks volunteering their time to help find eligible students, including Alana Hampton, 19, of Bolingbrook. Her father Alan Hampton said she has partial vision loss that is mild in one eye and severe in the other.
"She put the goggles on and was just thoroughly excited," said Hampton. "It was like a whole new world."
Doman also gave a tour of the kitchen at Moe Joe's and took pictures with the teens. He said his occupation as a chef is proof positive that not being able to see shouldn't stop anyone from pursuing a normal life and career.
"Just because you're blind or visually impaired, doesn't mean you're not a person and doesn't mean you're disabled," said Doman. "It just means you're different."