When the team rolled up in a bus, people had already been waiting for hours, standing in lines that stretched around the block. These Ecuadorians had gotten word that American eye doctors were coming and bringing used prescription eyeglasses with them.

For the better part of a week in October 2003, a team of 28 LensCrafters employees and optometrists "” three of the team from the LensCrafters home office in Mason "” worked from 7 a.m. to as late as 8 each night to administer eye exams and hand out used prescription eyeglasses to Ecuadorians who had come to the city of Guayaquil for the program. Within a week, close to 16,000 pairs of glasses were handed out.

"You are seeing patients all day long; it was very dramatic,'' says Regina Sharp, associate vice president of marketing for LensCrafters headquarters in Cincinnati, who participated in the Ecuador mission. "I got to put eyeglasses on folks. That is the most emotionally rewarding, actually putting the glasses on somebody's face. The look is just amazing. There's a lot of folks who don't realize why their sight or reading is so bad. They grab your hand and say, gracias, gracias. It's just phenomenal.''

Since 1988, Give the Gift of Sight, established by LensCrafters Foundation and now sponsored by the foundation, Luxottica Retail (LensCrafters' parent company) and Lions Club International, has administered eye care to 3 million people (not everyone who receives eye care needs glasses) in North America and in developing countries.

Used eyeglasses are donated by individuals at more than 2,500 LensCrafters and Sunglass Hut outlets in North America. They are cleaned and recycled; the stores read the prescriptions and ship them to headquarters in Cincinnati.

In addition to the domestic program, LensCrafters conducts about a dozen missions a year to developing countries in Latin America and Asia, where teams of LensCrafters employees and doctors travel to offer the eye care and recycled glasses. The Lions Club does the screening for neediness. More than 900,000 people in developing countries have received eye care since 1991, when the international program began, covering about 75 missions in that time in more than two dozen countries, involving about 2,000 employees.

"Our company does it because it believes vision is a basic right and not a luxury,'' says Nikki Walden, communications supervisor with LensCrafters. "We do it to take our skills and passion to another level in other countries. We feel it's important to give back.''

The October mission to Ecuador was the first to that country. People lined up at the Lions International building, filed in and had their eyes checked. One older woman could not walk and was carried about in a chair by her family. And a 7-year-old boy named Gabriel became Gift of Sight's 3 millionth recipient.

Gabriel came to the Lions Club with his mother, with whom he lives at the edge of town in a one-room cinder block home with electricity but no running water.

"We can change lives,'' says Sharp, who last year went on a mission to Laos in Southeast Asia. "For someone like Gabriel, helping him see may make the difference with what he does. He's an amazing little boy.''

Gabriel wrote a letter and drew pictures, which were given to the team. He drew two round faces, one a boy without glasses and a frown on his face. The other, a boy wearing glasses, a smile on his face.