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YouTube star MrBeast wants to plant 20 million trees. Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey, and more are helping him do it.
The content creator’s latest stunt is paying for cataract removal for 1,000 people who were blind or near-blind but could not afford the surgery.
“We’re curing a thousand people’s blindness,” says MrBeast — real name Jimmy Donaldson — in the Saturday video, which reached over 32 million views as of Sunday afternoon.
The video features touching before-and-after footage of patients seeing with clear vision after finishing the surgery. The YouTuber also gave cash donations and other gifts to some of the participants.
Jeff Levenson, an ophthalmologist and surgeon, worked with Donaldson to perform the first round of surgeries in Jacksonville, Florida. Levenson has coordinated the “Gift of Sight” program for over 20 years, which provides free cataract surgery for uninsured patients who are legally blind due to cataracts.
“Half of all blindness in the world is people who need a 10-minute surgery,” Levenson says in the video, referring to the cataract removal surgery.
Levenson explained to CNN he became inspired to help people access cataract surgery after undergoing his own cataract correction surgery.
“In the days and weeks after my own cataract surgery, I was stunned by how bright and beautiful and vivid the world was,” he said. “But I was shocked by the idea that there are hundreds of millions, probably 200 million people around the world, who are blind or nearly blind from cataracts and who don’t have access to the surgery.”
Levenson got a call from a member of Donaldson’s team in September. “I had never heard of MrBeast,” he said. “So I almost hung up. But I gratefully did not hang up.”
They started by calling homeless shelters and free clinics to create a list of patients in the Jacksonville area who needed cataract surgery but could not afford it. Eventually, they had a group of 40 patients — and Levenson performed all of their surgeries in a single day, starting at 7 a.m. and ending at 6 p.m.
Levenson said that patients were in “disbelief that somebody would actually seek them out to to rescue them from blindness, and then have the kindness and generosity of spirit to offer the surgery.”
The ophthalmologist also connected Donaldson’s team with SEE International, for which he serves as the chief medical officer. The nonprofit provides free eyecare around the world to patients in need. The organization helped Donaldson reach even more patients, for a total of 1,000 surgeries completed around three weeks. The video shows patients receiving the surgery in Jamaica, Honduras, Namibia, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, Vietnam and Kenya.
Levenson said he hopes the video and Donaldson’s generosity inspire “a concerted effort to end needless blindness.”
“If MrBeast can light a fire, and if we can get governmental and private support behind it, we can end half of all the blindness in the world,” he said. “Without all that much cost, and with incredible gains in human productivity and human potential.”