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Biology club sponsors ND Vision walk

Catherine Owers | Monday, October 14, 2013

The Notre Dame Biology Club sponsored the 4th Annual Vision Walk on campus Sunday. The walk raised awareness for those suffering from retinal degeneration and collected money for the Foundation Fighting Blindness, event chair Antoinette Pusateri said.
“FoundationFighting Blindness is one of the largest non-profits for blindness research in the nation,” she said.
Pusateri said Maria Sellers, a part of the Notre Dame class of 2011, founded the 5K walk in honor of University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, She said Father Hesburgh suffers from macular degeneration, a retinal disease.
“When I was a freshman, I had visited him in his office, and he had told me a little bit about his disease,” Sellers said. “This caused me to research blindness, and I learned about the Foundation Fighting Blindness.”
Sellers said she interned at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, which Foundation Fighting Blindness supports.
“I was actually able to see firsthand how people were being cured, and how research and the support [of those attending the walk] really does add in us restoring vision,” Sellers said.
Before the walk began, local optometrists Dr. Steve Gerber and Dr. John Offerle offered a doctors’ perspective on research for retinal diseases, especially research supported by the Foundation Fighting Blindness.
“It is the largest source of private funds for retinal research,” Gerber said. “We have people and patients right here in Michiana with these conditions.”
Dr. John Offerle said he encounters patients with macular degeneration on a daily basis.
“When I started in practice there wasn’t a lot you could do for it, and over the years incredible research has gone into developing new drugs,” he said. “We’ve actually seen legally blind patients get to a point where they can drive now. It’s pretty amazing, and we’ve been doing that for maybe the last 10 years.”
Pusateri, who also chaired the event last year, said she worked this year to increase community outreach.
“My big goal with it all is to make it a community event, not just the Notre Dame community, but also the South Bend community,” she said. “We reached out to a lot of the eyecare centers, and it was just so exciting to see how inspired they were to help with this cause.”
Pusateri said the event committee worked with local businesses and eyecare professionals in the Michiana area to gain support for the walk, which raised nearly $8,000 last year.
“Local businesses gave monetary donations, as well as in-kind, donations, like gift cards, for us to raffle and auction off,” she said. “It’s so inspiring to see all these community members and individuals …who have reached out to donate their time and talents.”
Sophomore Caitlin McCreary said she participated in the walk in honor of her brother, who was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“Part of his condition is having problems with neurons in his eyes, so I felt like his condition was connected to this, and that’s why I’m here,” she said.