Almost four years ago, Danielle Crull rescued a stray kitten from a Pennsylvania forest.
Now this brave kitten is changing hundreds of lives by helping children with eye problems feel more secure wearing glasses and eye patches.
Truffle, now famous for her glamorous glasses – which range from sparkling lavender to her favorite pair of green – works with her mom, an optician.
Crull runs her own practice, A Child’s Eyes, in Mechanicsburg, where her primary focus is on infants, toddlers and children in elementary school.
When children walk in – many with severe eye problems that require multiple surgeries, medications, and treatments – they are often afraid of anything that gets near their eyes.
Then truffle comes to the rescue.
“She’s literally magical with young children,” Crull told CNN. “It takes me at least half an hour to get to know her, so they can see that I’m not afraid, and Truffle will strut out from behind as if she knows exactly when I need her help.”
Truffle hops right next to the child and tilts his head up so that Crull can put on glasses. The mood changes instantly, says Crull. Tears turn into a smile and suddenly these glasses don’t look so scary anymore.
“The story that keeps happening is that a little one cries and she comes out and I put her glasses on and they immediately stop crying and laughing and put their own glasses on,” said Crull. “It happens countless times and it’s just as cute every time.”
Courtesy Danielle Crull
Danielle Crull and Truffle.
Wearing glasses is one of Truffles’ favorite pastimes. She often falls asleep with it on and doesn’t let Crull take her off. Every day, says Crull, Truffles chooses one of their nearly 20 unique glasses and prances around happily in it.
“If she had thumbs she would do it herself, she actually loves it,” said Crull. “She can take them off at any time, but often she chooses not to.”
To many people, truffles seem like nothing more than an adorable kitten who doesn’t mind casual accessories. But it is everything to the children and parents whose lives it has influenced.
One of these children is Joella Migliori, a 5-year-old with three genetic abnormalities, including iris atrophy, when someone is born where layers of their iris are missing, resulting in impaired vision.
Joella had 15 surgeries before she was 6 months old.
When she was 1 she visited Crull’s office and met Truffles, who became one of her best friends and greatest supporters.
“Do you know the videos of children wearing hearing aids for the first time? This is what Danielle and Truffles had when we saw Joella for the first time, ”Janette Migliori, Joella’s mother, told CNN. “The first thing she saw was the kitten, and it just changed everything for her.”
Courtesy of Janette Best
Joella and Truffle after one of their visits during the pandemic.
Joella has been visiting truffles regularly for four years when she needs new glasses or adjustments. Every time, truffle comes into her glasses to play with.
“It was never scary for them to go in there because truffles would be there,” Migliori said. “Joella has several ‘Ouchie’ dates, as we now call her, and she never wants to go, but a visit to Truffles is the only date we can go that she isn’t scared.”
But that’s not the only way Truffle helped Joella. The cute cat “started” a fundraiser for the Children’s Miracle Network, which is helping fund treatment for millions of children across the country.
One of these hospitals is Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, where Joella was born to fight for her life.
“They are like family at this point,” said Migliori. “They’re raising funds for their community, and that’s really special because they didn’t have to do that. Not only do they do their job, they care about their community, and that means a lot to parents like me. ”
Amblyopia – also known as sluggish eye – is a childhood disease in which nerve pathways between the brain and one eye are not properly stimulated, causing the brain to prefer one eye. The best treatment is to temporarily wear an eye patch over the strong eye to strengthen the weak eye.
“Wearing an eye patch isn’t easy for kids,” said Crull. “One thing is glasses, but eye patches are another thing entirely. It’s more worry, more fear, more confusion. ”
The confidence to wear an eye patch is not an easy challenge for children. But Truffles is committed to making children feel safe enough to carry them.
Courtesy Danielle Crull
Marin, a patient with amblyopia, and Truffle wear matching eye patches.
Truffles also wears his own eye patch over one of her many glasses. Since then, hundreds of parents of children with amblyopia have reached out to Truffles on Instagram with emotional words of gratitude.
One of those kids is Annie, a young girl who writes truffles on a regular basis to talk to her about how she feels when she has to wear an eye patch.
“Truffles that have a patch on is a very big deal. It gives the kids more confidence wearing their patches, and that’s something I really care about, ”said Crull. “It has a real impact on these children’s lives every day.”