World’s Most Popular YouTuber Helps 1,000 Blind People See Again by Paying for Their Surgeries

rBeast worked with ophthalmologists around the world to offer the gift of sight to 1,000 people.

Jimmy Donaldson, the 24-year-old known to his YouTubefollowers as “MrBeast”, recently shared a moving video on his YouTube channel revealing that he assisted 1,000 blind or near-blind individuals to see again by paying the entire cost for their cataract removal surgeries. Donaldson’s video amassed a whopping 81 million views in the first six days.

“When patients go into surgery, there’s a chance that they can get their life back,” said Donaldson, who is the most-followed individual YouTuber in the world with 131 million subscribers.

To enable this incredible feat to take place, the YouTube sensation worked together with Dr. Jeff Levenson, an ophthalmologist and surgeon based in Jacksonville, Florida. Levenson founded the Gift of Sight program that offers free cataract surgery to people who are legally blind and are 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 explained in a statement to PEOPLE Magazine.

An Internet Superstar Shocks the World by Changing Lives

In the United States, employee health insurance, Medicaid and Medicare often cover cataract surgery, but there are always thosewho fall between the cracks, Levenson said.

He estimated there being 500,000 people in Florida alone who are blind, often due to cataracts and other repairable conditions, and don’t have health insurance.

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“It’s out of the reach for the great many people, especially once you’re blind and aren’t working and unable to support yourself,” Levenson notes. “As you lose your vision, you lose your autonomy; you lose your ability to control the aspects of your life.”

“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.”

Cataracs cause the lens of the eye to become so cloudy that people cannot see through it. Cataracs are a common occurrence with aging but can also form after an eye injury or after an operation for another eye problem, according to the National Eye Institute. Some people are also born with cataracts or can develop them in childhood, says Levenson.

When Donaldson called Levenson to propose the joint project, the doctor doubted the feasibility of his plan. “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,” said Levenson. “So glad I didn’t.”

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For the first step of finding patients that badly needed cataract surgery but couldn’t afford it, Levenson and Donaldson called homeless shelters and free clinics around Florida. They had a list of 40 people and Levenson did the first round of procedures in one day, starting at 7:00 a.m. and ending at 6:00 p.m.

This first round of surgeries was just the beginning. Donaldson’s video showed people gaining their vision in Mexico, Brazil, Kenya, Vietnam, Honduras, Jamaica, and Indonesia. Working with SEE International, a global non-profit organization that provides free eye care to patients in need, he reached his goal of helping 1,000 people see more clearly in just under three weeks. In MrBeast’s video, patients cried tears of joy being able to see clearly after months, or years, of vision problems.

Leveson is ecstatic with how the entire project turned out. “Having the thing you love to do shared with tens of millions of people is a unique pleasure,” he told PEOPLE Magazine, adding that he heard from people around the world once the video was released. “First the East coast, then Central America, then the West, and then India and Philippines, and Tonga and Africa,” he said.

“There’s no reason, given our current state of technology, that 20 million people in the world should be blind for want of a 10-minute surgery,” he notes. “There’s nothing like taking a blind person and helping them see again. It’s my favorite thing in the world to do.”

“The idea of ending needless blindness binds us all together,” Levenson added. “It’s time to see it done.”

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