Sky-high dancers on stilts, free haircuts and face paintings, job opportunities and dance parties; this is not your average Saturday in downtown Los Angeles’s infamous skid row. This past weekend, the impoverished district synonymous with homelessness was radiating joy and dancing to the rhythm of hope.
Once a year, The Wayfarer Foundation and the city of Los Angeles join forces to create a street carnival for the resilient and often forgotten, people living on skid row. On Saturday, January 28, 2017, members of the DIFF Eyewear Team spent the day volunteering and donating 3,500 pairs of sunglasses at Skid Row’s Carnival of Love.
In addition to donating glasses and spending the day giving hugs and sharing laughter, DIFF set up an in-house donation center leading up to the Carnival of Love. With less than two weeks between first hearing of the Carnival and the date of the event, we had modest aspirations for the in-office donations. What we thought would be a last-minute donation initiative turned into car loads of everything from blankets and jackets to feminine hygiene products, new toiletries and bedazzled backpacks.
We recognize that not everybody has the resources to donate thousands of pairs of sunglasses. Often, many do not have the means to give tangible goods like food or clothing. One thing we are all able to give back to others, regardless of income, experience, race, or education, is LOVE.
ABOUT THE EVENT
The sensational Carnival of Love event is organized by The Wayfarer Organization— a 501(c)3 tax-exempt non-profit organization. Founder and actor, Justin Baldoni, has spent his last nine birthdays giving back to the community of skid row and this year was the biggest turn-out to date. Upon realizing that there were too many volunteers at the 2017 Carnival (what a wonderful “problem” to have!), a wave of people took to the streets to serve those in the community who would not be able to make it inside the event due to full capacity. Water, food, hygiene bags, and sunglasses were distributed to thousands of people without access to these necessities.
For those who spent the day inside the Carnival, countless free services were offered: hair cuts, resume workshops, pet grooming, job opportunities, clothing and toiletry donations, meals, carnival games, medical services, dental health, wellness education, and a kid-friendly zone with face painting and bounce house.. just to name a few.
Justin wraps up the day with final acknowledgments and thank you’s, then introduces dear friend and singer/songwriter Andy Grammer who sings his top-hit, “Keep Your Head Up.” The perfect uplifting, inspirational ballad to conclude this event of hope.
As the Carnival comes to an end, our faces sore from a day of big smiles and legs shaky from too much dancing, my cheeks can’t help but dampen with tears of gratitude and humility.
The DIFF Team could not have been more grateful to be a part of such a humbling day. A day of joy and inclusion, to remind these individuals that they are loved, and they have not been forgotten. A day where there is no rich or poor, no us or them, no “other”.. there is only love.
A special thank you to The Wayfarer Foundation and Justin Baldoni for allowing DIFF Eyewear to contribute to such an important cause. We are truly humbled.
“It felt like a one in a million chance I was being heard.”
DIFF Eyewear x Be Strong Global
DIFF Charitable Eyewear has partnered with Be Strong Global and will donate 10% of all profits towards funding the Be Strong 50-State Tour to end bullying.
Be Strong Global is a nonprofit organization providing resources to stop bullying, help teens who are facing depression, and ultimately save lives among the youth of America.
We encourage you to watch this video and see why we feel so inspired to make this commitment!
Joshua is an anti-bullying advocate for Be Strong Global and stands as a voice for the voiceless. This week, Joshua came by the DIFF Headquarters to receive 100 pairs of glasses on behalf of the Be Strong Student Leaders. These glasses will be donated to one hundred boys and girls throughout the nation who are standing up and speaking out against bullying, alongside Joshua.
Dressed to the nines, soft-spoken, an ear-to-ear smile that lights up the DIFF Headquarters, Joshua is not your average eleven (going on twelve) year old.
Since the age of five, Joshua has found comfort in wearing a dress shirt and bowtie because it makes him feel “distinguished”. Hand-in-hand in the city of Los Angeles, Joshua and his mother were homeless for three years; however, she made sure that this period of homelessness did not hinder Joshua’s ability to be himself. She kept his clothes clean, his spirits high, and his heart full of love. Unfortunately, Joshua’s days at school did not help provide any relief.
School became an inescapable dread for Joshua. Most school days, Joshua like so many others fell victim to severe bullying. This bullying took shape in the form of physical as well as emotional abuse and continued for years.
This week, Joshua came by the DIFF Headquarters to meet the team and share his story. While talking to Joshua about his challenges with bullying, he so wisely observes that kids tend to target those they perceive to be “different” because “different is scary”. Joshua shares some of the difficulties that stemmed from this torment but then quickly steers the conversation to focus on the positives. He chooses to look at each day as a new opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those who are enduring a similar battle.
Now homeschooled, Joshua invests time in encouraging and inspiring other students. He stresses the value in not allowing bullies to hinder one's ability to achieve their goals.
When asked what he does for fun, Joshua responds, “I am passionate about writing poetry, public speaking, and encouraging others”. This articulate, intelligent, inspiring young man is truly a beam of hope in the lives of so many. Joshua has the brightest of futures ahead of him and DIFF feels so fortunate to stand by his side as he achieves his goals.
Joshua will be taking the SATs this year with hopes of attending Cal State Los Angeles by the time he’s thirteen.
At DIFF, we see the value in making a DIFFerence as well as embracing the beauty in being DIFFerent!! Joshua is the embodiment of this belief.
“Being kind to others is an important piece in the puzzle of change” Joshua Apparicio, 11 yrs.
THE ANTI-BULLYING INITIATIVE
We have been so moved by Joshua’s story that we are partnering with Be Strong Global to put an end to bullying in the United States, once and for all.
December 17th, The DIFF Team volunteered at A Place Called Home, donating 3,000 glasses to the children of Los Angeles.
A Place Called Home (APCH) is located in the heart of South Central, an area that approximately 44% of children are living in poverty. They provide kids in the area with a safe place to go after school, weekends, and throughout the summer. APCH's caring staff and volunteers provide counseling, mentorship, and tutoring to help the students excel. APCH's Mission: "to help the underprivileged youth take ownership of the quality and direction of their lives through programs in education, arts, and well-being and are inspired to make a meaningful difference in their community and the world."
A Place Called Home had an event called "Home For The Holidays", in which kids and their families came to receive gifts and other goods. The DIFF Team volunteered and had so much fun giving out thousands of glasses!
DIFF Eyewear and beloved bachelorette, Joelle Fletcher, have partnered with the Melanoma Research Foundation's CURE OM (Ocular Melanoma) Initiative to help raise awareness and fund research towards finding a cure.
If you would like to help us make a DIFFerence, you can donate here to help fund research towards a cure:
Every day through November 29th (Giving Tuesday) we will be sharing stories on our Facebook page written by OM patients and their loved ones.
AND for every pair of the DIFF X JOJO Frames sold:
We will be donating one dollar towards finding a CURE 💕
The Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF)—is the largest independent melanoma organization in the country and the CURE OM initiative is under the umbrella of the MRF that focuses solely on Ocular Melanoma.
CURE OM mission—to increase support of research, accelerate development of effective treatments, and, ultimately, a cure for ocular melanoma, as well as increase education, support, and advocacy for the OM community.
Today, The DIFF Team honors our Veterans and our country.
One beautiful aspect of America is how much pride and love people have in being an American. With a controversial Election Day taking place a few short days ago, it is important to remember the people who have fought for our country. People that fought so you, me, and our families have a safe place to call home.
A few months ago we were introduced to the founder of Jezreel International, Barry Feinman. Jezreel International is a 501(c)(3) humanitarian aid organization that provides materials and needed resources to over 40 different countries around the world, including the US. In 2014, Barry and his team developed the Veterans Miracle Center, located in Albany, New York. This retail store provides Veterans, Active Military, and their families with resources such as clothes, beds, shoes, GLASSES - absolutely free.
Barry works with different companies all over the country to get these materials and provide them to our Veterans. We wanted to help.
Barry (left) and Jim, an Air Force Veteran (right).
In honor of our Veterans, we donated 10,000 pairs of reading glasses to Jezreel International's Veterans Miracle Center. HAPPY VETERANS DAY!
Thank you Veterans and all of those that are still active in duty. Thank you for all that you do.
Also, thank you Restoringvision.org for helping coordinate the donation and connecting us to Jezreel International. Thank you Barry for all that you do.
& last but not least, Thank YOU! - Without all of your support, none of this would be possible.
Through all the chaos and confusion this Election has created, now more than ever we need to spread love and support each other.
"What I'm trying to say is that we have so much in common, our differences actually make us stronger," she said. "We need to have the kindness and respect for one another." - Ellen Degeneres
We love you.
- DIFF Family
If you would like to learn more or make a donation visit: