Melissa Caffey, executive director of the Hope Alliance, left, helps Sunglass Warehouse CEO Rick Doty and his wife Amy pack 1,000 donated sunglasses that
Melissa Caffey, executive director of the Hope Alliance, left, helps Sunglass Warehouse CEO Rick Doty and his wife Amy pack 1,000 donated sunglasses that will be distributed to impoverished residents of Peru and Guatemala this summer. (Courtesy of The Hope Alliance)
The Hope Alliance is a Park City-based nonprofit humanitarian organization that works with impoverished people around the world to create sustainable and positive change in their lives and communities.

Service areas include Haiti (see accompanying titled "Park City High School students are in Haiti with the Hope Alliance"), Peru, Guatemala and the Navajo Nation in Southern Utah.

One of its main missions in Peru, Guatemala and Southern Utah is to provide basic eye and dental exams and works closely with the Moran Eye Center's outreach program.

When Hope Alliance embarks on its next trip to Peru on July 5, and Guatemala in August, it will be taking 1,000 pairs of sunglasses donated by Sunglass Warehouse.

The sunglasses will help protect the local residents of these areas from the harmful UV rays that cause pterygium and other visually threatening ailments, said Melissa Caffey, Hope Alliance executive director.

"Pterygium is known as Surfer's Eye here and it's a growth on the cornea that affects many people who spend a lot of time outdoors," Caffey said during an interview with The Park Record. "There has been an increase of the disease in countries located along the equator and approximately 40 to 70 percent of the disease is attributable to UV exposure. So having sunglasses will help prevent or at least help cut down the cases in these areas."

Rick Doty, founder and CEO of Sunglass Warehouse, who, with his wife Amy, splits his time between homes in Atlanta, Georgia, and Park City, said donating the glasses is a great opportunity for his company.

"We are happy to help," Doty said during a phone call from Atlanta. "I mean, the Hope Alliance volunteers who are going to these countries are the ones doing all the hard work. They are the ones who are spending seven to 10 days in the hot sun to get their services to these areas. So, I'm happy to have the chance to donate a few sunglasses."

Doty established Sunglass Warehouse in 2004, after working 20 years as a commercial general contractor who specialized in retail construction in outlet centers.

"Sunglasses have always been intriguing to me, almost like a passion, and I noticed that, other than the Sunglass Hut, there were not a lot players out there," Doty said. "So I decided to open my first store in Beaufort, South Carolina, and it went well."

Encouraged by the response, Doty opened another store in Hilton Head.

"That also went well, and then a Tanger Outlet opened in Charleston, and we were allowed to go in there," he said. "This was in 2004 and, now, 10 years later, we're opening our 25th store next month."

In addition to the 1,000 sunglasses, Sunglass Warehouse will donate 1,000 microfiber bags.

"The people who will be getting the glasses live a hard life and these sunglasses will probably be the only ones they will own," Doty said. "We wanted to make sure there was a way for the people to protect the sunglasses.

"We work with vendors who are more than happy to get involved with us when we tell them what we're doing," he said. "So one of our vendors donated the bags for these glasses."

Also, Doty knows how sunglasses can break or scratch if owners put them in pockets or wear them on tops of their heads.

"There's a company called Cablz that makes small unobtrusive neck wires to hold the glasses and they gave us 1,000 of these for $15 to $20," Doty said. "We bought them and we're going to give those out, as well."

Doty learned about the Hope Alliance when he and Amy were in town dining at The Blind Dog almost four months ago.

Seated at the next table were Glenn and Ellen Artist and Derick Loyola, who are on the Hope Alliance Board of directors.

"We started talking with each other and the conversations started to meld," Doty said. "They told us what they did and they asked us what we did."

When Doty mentioned Sunglass Warehouse, the Artists and Loyola perked up.

"We became immediate friends and they told us what the Hope Alliance was doing in Guatemala and Peru and other areas of the world," Doty said. "They told us about the issues concerning cataracts and other eye problems are so prevalent in these countries because they are so close to the equator."

Doty was taken aback that children were suffering from pterygium.

"We don't think about things like happening to children here," he said. "It hit me between the eyes, so to speak, it was pretty moving for us."

Doty said he is amazed at how much Park City residents care about what's going on in the world, and that they are always doing something to help.

"It's so great there and you see so many organizations that are doing amazing things," he said. "We think the Hope Alliance does a great job and it was obvious from the first time we met Glenn, Ellen and Derick that it's a labor of love. And we're happy to be a part of it."

For more information about Sunglass Warehouse, visit www.sunglasswh.com . For more information about the Hope Alliance, visit www.thehopealliance.org .