Certified solar eclipse viewing glasses are a hot commodity as Monday’s rare celestial event approaches. Many retailers are sold out.

But hundreds of kids in the Twin Cities will have approved glasses for the eclipse, now that UnitedHealthcare has donated 600 pairs to six Boys & Girls Clubs metro branches.

About 70 kids got their glasses Wednesday at the Jerry Gamble branch in Minneapolis. As the kids looked at each other and up at the lights in the gym, they asked Dr. Linda Chous, UnitedHealthcare’s chief eye care officer, about the eclipse and eye safety.

“How does it hurt your eyes?” one boy asked, adding that he’s not scared to look at the sun because he does it all the time.

“It’s going to be very bright, people are going to be very curious, so you want to be sure to wear the glasses,” Chous told him. “And any day, you shouldn’t look at the sun, whether it’s eclipsed or not.”

Chous demonstrated how the kids should put the glasses on before they look at the eclipse, then told them to take them off only after they look away. She told the kids that looking at the sun without the glasses could cause painful eye damage on the spot.

“It’s like a sunburn on the front of your eye,” Chous said, adding that long-term damage could include burning a hole in the retina, which she described as “a camera film inside the eye.”

Metro area locations of stores such as Lowe’s and Walmart have sold out of the glasses, which are more protective than regular sunglasses and specially coated in aluminum for watching the eclipse. The price of the glasses has increased at online retailers such as Amazon, where a pack of three is available for $75.

Spokeswoman Haley Landherr said UnitedHealthcare was distributing a total of 10,000 glasses to Boys & Girls Clubs across the country.

Jean-Paul Bigirindavyi, vice president of programs and operations for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities, said 100 pairs of glasses are available for community members.

“Having the glasses available to [the kids] — it’s automatically put them in a position where they will potentially use it,” Bigirindavyi said. “Six hundred potential youth will get to watch the eclipse without fear.”

 

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