January 31, 2015

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WNY 5K VisionWalk aims to raise $70,000 for blindness research

BY: Community Papers of WNY Staff | April 28, 2014

Hundreds touched by vision loss will rally to fight blindness at the Western New York 5K VisionWalk on Sunday, May 18, striving to raise $70,000 to support promising gene therapy, stem cell and pharmaceutical-based research that could save and even restore sight. Blinding retinal degenerative diseases like retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration and Usher syndrome affect more than 10 million Americans, but the Foundation Fighting Blindness is funding cutting-edge studies toward preventions, treatments and cures.

“Since I became involved with the VisionWalk two years ago, I have learned that it takes extreme dedication and perseverance to raise funds for research, and quite a bit of time and energy,” says this year’s walk chair, Sarah Malburg, of West Seneca, who was diagnosed at the age of 21 with Stargardt disease, a genetic retinal condition that robs central vision and can lead to blindness. “But it also has helped me build connections with people similar to me, who struggle with life challenges because of their vision loss every day, and it has also helped me to connect with business owners and the community in the Western New York area. I think when chairing an event that is not well known by the public, it takes that much more drive to meet your goals. Many of these retinal diseases are ‘hidden’ from an outside prospective. For example, I do not need a cane or guide dog, and to many it appears as if I can see just fine. One of the hardest things I’ve dealt with is losing that sense of independence and self reliance. Being involved with the VisionWalk has empowered me to do more than I thought possible. I am truly grateful to be part of something that can potentially help my children and others affected in the community.”

Malburg, a classically-trained music teacher and mother of two young boys, is rallying her “What’s In-Sight for Sarah” VisionWalk team to raise awareness. Her team has raised over $10,000 for the past two years and plans to surpass their goal for this year’s walk. Her second annual bowling fundraiser held at Depew-Lancaster Moose Lodge hopes to draw more people to support the walk and the fight against blindness.

Hundreds of walkers, many of whom are visually impaired, are expected at the free VisionWalk, which also includes children’s activities, a bounce house, refreshments, entertainment and more. Dogs and strollers are welcome on the 3.1 mile walk course. This year’s sponsors include Fichte, Endl & Elmer Eyecare and Ryerson and teams; Ross Eye Institute Illuminators and LS&S Optical Illusions. Since the VisionWalk program started in 2006, tens of thousands have participated in events across the country to raise more than $30 million for blindness research.

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