Jefferson Awards For Public ServiceBy Sharon Chin

LOS GATOS (KPIX 5) — A Los Gatos man previously honored for his work to bring light to communities in the dark is being recognized with a national award.

Doug McNeil is a Jefferson Awards silver medalist and he has now been honored at the national Jefferson Awards virtual ceremony hosted by the award’s nonprofit, Multiplying Good.

With his family around him, McNeil’s daughter Jessica Eastland accepted on behalf of her father, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“It’s a huge honor for him, and a huge honor for our entire family” Eastland smiled.

McNeil co-founded Lighting for Literacy in 2012. He helped invent a renewable light source using a battery, solar panel, charged control circuit, and LED strip.

Thousands of middle school students assemble the kits to send overseas, giving light to more than 20,000 young people in poor communities without electricity so they can study after the sun goes down.

“This award is also a huge light in the dark for our family just like we hope the light that goes into those communities also provides light for the dark,” Eastland said.


McNeil requires round-the-clock care, but he communicates with a scanner that reads his eye movements to type words.

“I hope to be an example for others with diseases and disabilities to not let it stop them from serving by mentoring youth to change the lives of others less fortunate around the world,” he said, communicating his remarks through a speaker.

McNeil, an engineer who helped build the Hubble Space Telescope, still runs the Lighting for Literacy board meetings.

Board member Brian Rhea says McNeil remains just as committed to the nonprofit as when he co-founded it with his late friend Jesse Salem eight years ago.

“While he may not be able to move, speak or move his eyes to communicate, in his heart burns this passion to serve, to mentor, to see a generation affect change in their generation,” said Rhea. “Many people just say, ‘That’s it, I’m done. I’m outta here,’ but life is short. Doug McNeil is getting the most out of life. And he’s doing good.”

LEARN MORE: Jefferson Awards for Public Service

So for winning a National Jefferson Award for his inspiring service through Lighting for Literacy, we honor Doug McNeil.

Doug and his family raise money toward finding a cure for ALS. They also have a GoFundMe page to help them with expenses, because neither Medicare nor insurance pays for the in-home nursing care that allows him to continue his nonprofit work.

LINK: Doug McNeil Fight Against ALS