Ronn Fletcher lost the remainder of his family in 2008, leaving him alone with his dog and a step-son who already married and began a family of his own. Not willing to stay shut in his house, Fletcher set out to find something good to do with his life.
“I needed to look at what direction my life needed to go,” he said.
He visited the Chester County Community Foundation in an attempt to locate a place where he can try and make a difference and they pointed him in two directions, one of which was AREUFIT Health Services, Inc.
Lo and behold, there was this van, up on jacks and completely stripped on the inside and had Eagles players adorning the outside. It immediately caught Fletcher’s attention.
“It was a rainy day,” he said. “I don’t wear my religion on my sleeve, but maybe it was one of those things God puts in the right place.”
What Fletcher stumbled upon was the old Philadelphia Eagles Eye Mobile, which was at AREUFIT because they maintain the vehicles for the Eagles Youth Partnership (EYP).
When Fletcher was looking for a nonprofit to work with in 2009, he had a number of personal characteristics he wanted them to meet.
One of those characteristics was an organization or charity who is trying to change the paradigm.
The EYP, and more specifically the Eagles Eye Mobile which he stumbled upon, fit right into his ideals.
“You’re talking about giving a child sight,” Fletcher said. “That changes the paradigm.”
All this just from that broken-down van.
Fletcher asked how much it would cost to repair the van and get it back out on the road doing more good for children. He was told it would cost roughly $3,000 and he cut a check right there – for double the amount, just to ensure everything would be covered.
“We had to renovate the inside and we had to get the equipment in,” Fletcher said.
Since that time, he has almost adopted the van, which is one of two in operation, and makes sure it will stay in working condition for as long as possible.
There is even a plaque inside the “Classic,” the one Fletcher saved, dedicated to him and what he has done for the Eagles Eye Mobile and to keep that van going.
“Seeing it used is very fulfilling,” he said. “Every time that I hear it is being used, it makes me feel great because it’s something that would not have been there.”
Shortly after Fletcher’s donation, the EYP invited him down to the NovaCare Complex in Philadelphia – the same place where the team practices – and discussed with him to become a supporter of the Eagles Eye Mobile.
The problem was, they wanted to keep the focus on Philadelphia children, and that wasn’t what Fletcher had in mind.
“I want to have an impact, so when I come down here [to Chester County], I can see an impact,” he said. “I want to be able to measure it.”
With all the work and donations made to the Eagles Eye Mobile, Chester County can more than feel the effect of what Fletcher has done for the children.
“He’s one of our larger donors,” said Sarah Martinez-Helfman, executive director of EYP. “He has a really generous heart and has a real passion for our mission, especially for kids getting the eye care that they need.”
Since he became involved, he has donated more than $100,000 to the EYP and over $80,000 of that has gone to vision care to the clinics in Chester County, said Martinez-Helfman.
What Fletcher does with the Eagles Eye Mobile is sponsor clinics in the area to bring it out this way for those children in need.
The Eye Mobile, founded by former Eagle Jermane Mayberry in conjunction with the EYP in 1996, serves to bring vision care to under- and uninsured kids in Philadelphia and surrounding areas.
The vans which come is staffed inside by professionals and provide the children eye exams and prescription glasses, if needed, and a follow-up care from an ophthalmologist, all for free.
The Eye Mobile is special to Fletcher not just because he is helping the youth, but due to the fact he has “one eye,” which means he has no depth perception, just like Mayberry.
“Growing up, you end up being the last person picked for sports teams,” Fletcher said. “It goes to an esteem thing. Kids in Philly are having the same exact experiences. Vision issues for children have no zip code.
“This makes me very proud, considering where I’ve come from growing up with eye problems, and being able to help kids.”
Fletcher may have lost his actual family, but he has found a new one with the Eagles and EYP.
“We think of him as [part of the family],” Martinez-Helfman said. “We call him to sing him happy birthday. He just has such a passion for what we do that he’s one of the first persons we think of when we are planning.”
At an Eagles Eye Mobile event at La Comunidad Hispana Dec. 5, the EYP recognized Fletcher’s contributions as he reached a milestone of 400 children – 432 to be exact as of Dec. 5 – receiving eye exams in Chester County from his 27 sponsored events. Out of those, 359 needed glasses and 718 were provided for them with each child receiving two pairs.
“I do not write a check and walk away,” Fletcher said. “I am an involved donor partner. You want to have an impact with your contribution. You want to have an ongoing relationship and you want to make a change.”
To say he has made a difference would be an understatement.
“The Eagles Eye Mobile would not be in Chester County without Ronn Fletcher – period,” Martinez-Helfman said. “He has paid for every visit we have made there. It’s Ronn who brings us to Chester County.”