A partnership between Melbourne-based e-bike importer TEBCO and the Fred Hollows Foundation reached a major milestone last month, with its accumulating donations topping a figure that would fund sight-restoring operations for 1,000 people.
The two groups celebrated the milestone when Hollows Foundation corporate partnerships manager Bronte Phillipps visited TEBCO’s stand at the Micromobility Conference & Expo on Sydney on 25th November.
“We’re very fortunate to have this partnership and we’re excited about its potential growth,” Bronte said during the visit.
“A lot of people remember Fred, so we have quite a high brand recognition but we don’t have many bike companies reaching out to donate a percentage of their income to the foundation.”
TEBCO announced in June it had signed a partnership agreement with the foundation to donate $25 for every e-bike or electric trike it sold, inspired by managing director Tony Morgan’s personal experience with restorative eye surgery.
Bronte said the foundation was thrilled when it was contacted by Tony in the midst of the pandemic.
“The pandemic was a hard time for charities, so it was especially great to have companies like TEBCO come on board,” she said.
“About 70% of our income comes from the support of the mums, dads and businesses of Australia.”
She said donating an amount per item sold is a great model because it directly links the success of the business with the size of donations.
“And it provides a really tangible outcome to the communities we work with, in more than 25 countries around the world,” she explained.
“We like to say $25 can restore someone’s sight. It’s incredible surgery that can often be done in 20 minutes. It replaces a cloudy lens – a lens with cataracts – with a clear, artificial lens and the next day those people can see.
“We train local people to do the surgery. Fred was very passionate about training locals to provide the health services, rather than providing a fly-in, fly-out service.”
“The partnership is just so simple but has so much impact at a humanity level.”
Tony said he and his team were extremely proud to have the partnership and to surpass the milestone.
“It means a lot to us that we can do something meaningful and tangible to help people who don’t have the capacity of sight, which many people take for granted.
“The ongoing success of this relationship will depend on our ability to promote what we’re doing and get retailers on board with us.”
TEBCO operations manager Graham Beeforth joked Tony has “a big heart and a very gruff exterior”.
“The partnership is just so simple but has so much impact at a humanity level. It works on a one-to-one basis, for each bike sold someone can have their sight restored,” Graham said.
“At the end of every month, we count the number of bikes we’ve sold and multiply it by 25 and send that amount to the foundation.
“It’s something to be really proud of and I’m usually pretty thick-skinned about things like that.”
The Fred Hollows Foundation was founded in 1992 by eye surgeon Professor Fred Hollows, shortly before he died of cancer.
It was established to continue Fred’s work treating and preventing blindness and other vision problems, and operates in Australia, South East Asia, East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
Its work has added significance for Tony, who was born with cataracts on both eyes.
“At age five years, I had operations to remove the cataracts and then wore extremely thick glasses for 30 years,” he said.
“With the development of quality soft contact lenses in the mid 1980s, I was able to dispense with thick glasses and wear contacts. Then in 1995, I again had surgery where I had secondary implants of plastic lenses sewn into the back of my eyes which restored my sight to a position where I no longer needed glasses or contact lenses.”