Malibu resident Jason Silver is a “sports fanatic” whose love of sports is the catalyst behind his community service organization. He is founder and president of 20/20 Sports Experience, an organization devoted to taking the visually impaired to live sporting events.
By Kevin Connelly/Special to The Malibu Times
His birth certificate may say Silver, his eyes may betray a shade of bronze, but this young man’s actions are as good as gold.
At 17 years old-an age when many Southern Californians are peeling out in new cars or peeling dead skin off their sunburned backs-Malibu resident Jason Silver is appealing to the visually impaired by founding and presiding over a volunteer organization geared toward taking them to live sporting events.
The main objective of the organization, called 20/20 Sports Experience, is to help visually impaired kids build the confidence, self-esteem and social skills necessary to lead more fulfilling lives. Silver takes them to sporting events in the Los Angeles area and provides them with the proper visual and auditory enhancement devices when necessary.
Silver, who has a 4.0 grade point average and is a member of the varsity volleyball at Santa Monica High School, said he was inspired to form the organization out of a desire to combine his love of sports with his passion for optometry. He figured it was also a good way to help others.
“I felt like I had an obligation to give back to the community,” the oldest of three brothers said. “I have grown up in Malibu and gone to Santa Monica High School, and my upbringing was relatively easy and painless. I realize that other people have gone through harder times than I have, so I thought it was necessary to give back.
“Sports are valuable to [the visually impaired kids] because it gives them an opportunity to be with a group of fans cheering for the same thing,” he continued. “It gives them something in common with these fans when they are alienated from other social groups because of their disabilities. There are no borders for [the kids] at sporting events.”
According to the organization’s research, the legally blind are socially alienated in many ways. For example, 20/20 claims in its Mission Statement that one out of every three children with visual disabilities does not complete high school and 78 percent of the legally blind are unemployed. More somber still, the suicide rate for those with visual disabilities is substantially higher than for those without.
Silver participated in the organization’s first outing in August 2004, when he and a young man with traumatic bilateral optic nerve damage attended a Dodger game. Although the boy said he was an avid Dodger fan, he had never before attended a live game at Dodger Stadium.
“He was kind of like an idiot savant,” Silver recalled. “He knew all of the individual players’ statistics. He knew their batting averages and on-base percentages. He would even correct me when I made mistakes. It was a pretty rewarding experience for me.”
A few days later, Silver took a 12-year-old girl with a brain tumor and optic atrophy to the Home Depot Stadium in Carson to watch the Galaxy play soccer. Through various sponsorships, Silver provides these patients with the best seats available at the game, refreshments, a souvenir T-shirt and transportation.
He said he has been on five such outings to date.
As a volunteer organization, 20/20 relies on sponsorships to function. The organization estimates each game to cost from $300 to $500, depending on the number of attendees and asks sponsors to finance two events. Companies can also donate tickets to sporting events in the Los Angeles area. Information about donating to 20/20 can be found at www.2020sports.org.
With the help of sponsors, Silver said he hopes to organize at least 20 outings by the end of 2005. His mother, Paulette Silver, commends his efforts. “Jason is a very goal oriented and altruistic kid,” she said. “He is an A-student, but more importantly to me, he is an A-person.”
When asked how she would describe her oldest son in as few words a possible, Paulette didn’t take long to respond. “A sports fanatic,” she said.
Silver will take his A average to a university next fall. At this point he is unsure what school he will be attending, but his top two choices are UC San Diego and UC Berkeley. He said he plans on ending up working in sports in some fashion regardless of what he studies.