Helping children in need

Thompson Child & Family Focus needs volunteers, donations for campus near Matthews

by Kara Lopp

Dr. Keshav Bhat (above) examines a child at Thompson Child & Family Focus near Matthews. The optometrist has been volunteering his services at Thompson for more than a year. He hopes other medical professionals will be willing to help children in need, too. Kara Lopp/MMHW photo

Dr. Keshav Bhat has been treating children at Thompson’s campus near Matthews for more than a year – for free.

The optometrist, a member of the Matthews-Mint Hill Optimist Club, said it’s his chance to give back to the nonprofit that cares for area children during some of their most difficult times. But nonprofit staff say Bhat gives more than free eye exams and glasses. He spreads the word about the agency and its mission: caring for children and families in need.

Founded in 1886 as an orphanage, Thompson Child & Family Focus is a three-campus nonprofit providing education, treatment and care for children up to 18 years old with a wide range of needs. Some children have suffered abuse and neglect while others are part of families who lack the means or tools to provide quality care and education. The campus near Matthews, off Margaret Wallace Road at 6800 Saint Peter’s Lane, offers a child development center and a psychiatric residential treatment center for children with serious mental illnesses stemming from early childhood traumas, most often involving violent abuse and/or long-term neglect. The center also treats children who are victims of sexual abuse. With eight cottages, the campus serves up to 60 children, ages 5 to 15.

Bhat first discovered Thompson after his wife worked at the campus near Matthews for a service day with her company planting bushes and raking leaves. She came home abuzz about the agency and he sprang into action. Then, Bhat had just opened his own practice, Austin Village Eyecare in Indian Trail.

“I thought ‘Here’s my chance to give back to the community,’” he said.

Now, when Thompson nurses suspect an eyesight problem, they call Dr. Bhat. He gives free eye exams and, if necessary, provides free glasses with help from lens provider Essilor who offers their product for free to charities.

And when the glasses go on, the change is immediate.

“When I put glasses on them for the first time I can see their personalities change,” Bhat said. “They’re more confident, happy. I can’t tell you what kind of personal satisfaction that gives me. I don’t want to boast about this, but it really is an honor for us.”

Thompson is truly grateful for Bhat, said Toinette Wilkinson, director of community relations.

“Anytime that we’re able to get professional services donated, that is money that we can put toward something else,” she said. “You know that saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child?’ It actually takes a very large village.”

But Thompson staff are even more grateful to Bhat for how he helps the nonprofit outside of his office, Wilkinson said. The doctor has become a vocal advocate for the center and talks about it as often as he can, with as many people as he can – including colleagues in the medical field. Despite its 125-year history in the Charlotte area, there are still many people who don’t know about Thompson, Wilkinson said. The campus near Matthews was built in the late 1960s.

“Unless you’re coming here to Thompson, people don’t know we’re here. The children who live out here are kind of the invisible children,” she said. “He is our visibility.”

Want to help?
Thompson Child & Family Focus needs volunteers and donations to continue its work with children in need. Medical professionals interested in donating their services, should e-mail Toinette Wilkinson at
For other ways to donate, including a list of needed items, visit The campus near Matthews also currently needs new or gently-used luggage for children transitioning to new homes. If you can help, call Rachel at 704-644-4403.

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