YouTube Star MrBeast Helps 1,000 Blind People See Again by Paying for Their Cataract Surgeries
YouTube star MrBeast is helping 1,000 people see a little more clearly.
Jimmy Donaldson — known to his followers as "MrBeast" — shared a video on his YouTube channel on Saturday revealing that he helped 1,000 blind or near-blind people see by paying for their cataract removal surgeries. The video, which was released on Saturday, has amassed 47 millions views as of Monday morning.
The 24-year-old YouTube sensation worked with Jeff Levenson, an ophthalmologist and surgeon based in Jacksonville, Florida, whose Gift of Sight program offers free cataract surgery to people who are legally blind and uninsured. He performed the first round of surgeries for Donaldson.
"More than half of the blindness in the world is caused by cataracts; a 10-minute surgery, at a material cost of less than $100 in resource-poor places, cures it forever," Levenson explains in a statement to PEOPLE.
"In the days and weeks after my own cataract surgery, I was stunned by how bright and beautiful and vivid the world was," Levenson said in an interview with CNN. "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."
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When Donaldson called Levenson to chat about the project, the doctor almost didn't take the call.
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"When MrBeast first called me, he enthusiastically described wanting to do a thousand cataract surgeries on blind people, all around the world, in three weeks!" he recalls.
"I'd never heard of him, the whole thing sounded crazy, he sounded like a 12-year-old, and I almost hung up," he tells PEOPLE exclusively. "So glad I didn't."
MrBeast/youtube MrBeast helps 1,000 blind people see
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To find patients that needed the cataract surgery but couldn't afford it, Levenson told CNN he and Donaldson called homeless shelters and free clinics in Florida. They grew the list to 40 and Levenson did the first round of procedures in one day, starting at 7 a.m. and ending at 6 p.m., according to CNN.
The YouTuber didn't stop there. Donaldson's video showed people gaining their vision back in Mexico, Honduras, Indonesia, Brazil, Vietnam, Kenya, and Jamaica. Working with SEE International, a nonprofit that provides free eye care around the world to patients in need, he reached his goal of helping 1,000 people see more clearly in just under three weeks. In the video, patients cry as they are able to see clearly after months, or even years, of blurred vision.
Leveson is absolutely thrilled with how the video — and the undertaking — turned out.
"Having the thing you love to do shared with tens of millions of people is a unique pleasure," he tells PEOPLE, adding that he heard from people around the world after the video was released. "First the East coast, then Central America, then the West, and then India and Philippines, and Tonga and Africa," he says.
"The idea of ending needless blindness binds us all together," he added. "It's time to see it done."