To fund cutting-edge research for the more than 10 million Americans affected with blinding retinal degenerative diseases, the Foundation Fighting Blindness will host its 2nd Annual Santa Barbara VisionWalk on Saturday, April 28 at Chase Palm Park. The 5K walkathon aims to raise $50,000 for research that will lead to preventions, treatments and cures for retinal degenerative diseases, including retinitis pigmentosa (RP), macular degeneration, Usher syndrome, and Stargardt disease. These sight-stealing diseases affect people of all races and ethnicities, young and old.

“It’s incredibly difficult to watch someone you love suffer from a disease robbing them of their vision,” says VisionWalk Chair Rhonda Wash, of Santa Barbara, CA. “I’m hopeful because the Foundation Fighting Blindness is funding many avenues of promising research, like breakthrough gene therapy clinical trials that have restored vision in children and young adults previously blind from a rare retinal disease. VisionWalk is an opportunity to take action in support of advancing research and moving one step closer to a cure.”

At age 8, Wash’s daughter Lily was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a genetic disease that is slowly stealing her sight and could lead to total blindness. There’s currently no cure for RP, but advancements in stem cell and gene therapy research offer hope for a brighter future of treatment options. The Wash family’s “Looking Out for Lily” VisionWalk team raised more than $3,000 in 2011 over a mere three weeks, and they’re hoping to double that amount this year to help move the research forward. Like Lily, 10-year-old Santa Barbara Montessori School 4th grader Meghan Downing doesn’t let her eye condition hold her back. Despite her vision declining quickly to Stargardt disease, Meghan plays Irish fiddle tunes, ‘kicks butt’ as a green belt in karate, and travels to summer camp each year for adventures in kayaking and trampoline. She’s a true inspiration to her family, and her “Meghan’s Posse” VisionWalk team is rallying to engage the community in the fight against blindness.

Hundreds of walkers, many of whom are visually impaired, are expected at the free, family-friendly 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. Since the VisionWalk program started in 2006, tens of thousands have participated in events across the country to raise more than $20 million for blindness research.

Events Calendar Information

  • WHAT: Santa Barbara VisionWalk, Benefitting the Foundation Fighting Blindness
  • WHEN: Saturday, April 28, 2012
  • Registration: 9 a.m., Walk Starts: 10 a.m.
  • WHERE: Chase Palm Park- Carousel Pavilion

To participate or support the VisionWalk, visit

About the Foundation Fighting Blindness

The Foundation Fighting Blindness is a national nonprofit driving research that will lead to preventions, treatments and cures for retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration, Usher syndrome and the entire spectrum of retinal degenerative diseases that affect more than 10 million Americans. In its 40-year history, the Foundation has raised more than $450 million as the leading non-governmental funder of retinal research. Breakthrough Foundation-funded studies using gene therapy have restored significant vision in children and young adults who were previously blind, paving the way for using this method to treat a wide variety of retinal degenerative diseases, and proving a cure is in sight. With a network of nearly 50 chapters, the Foundation also provides support, education and resources to affected individuals and their families in communities across the country.


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