The event is designed to raise $150,000 to support promising gene therapy, stem cell and pharmaceutical-based research that could save and even restore sight, according to organizers. Blinding retinal degenerative diseases like macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and Usher syndrome affect more than 10 million Americans, but the Foundation Fighting Blindness is funding cutting-edge research and clinical trials that have actually restored significant vision in children and young adults who were previously blind.
Co-chairing VisionWalk are 20-year-old identical twins Alexa and Nicole Finzi of Rancho Santa Fe, who were unexpectedly diagnosed with the genetic retinal disease retinitis pigmentosa (RP) in 2011, despite no family history of vision problems. The girls still have near 20/20 vision with limitations only in dimmer settings, but RP causes night blindness and a progressive loss of peripheral sight that can lead to blindness.
The women have traveled the country, competing for many years at the national level in synchronized ice skating, where 16 skaters perform together on the ice. Alexa went on to skate on Team USA. Both women are studying at Concordia University in Irvine. Alexa is pursuing psychology and a business minor, while Nicole is working to become an elementary education teacher. Determined to help advance research that could one day save their sight, the Finzi sisters hope to rally their “Double Vision” walk team to build on the impressive $66,000 they raised last year.
“Being diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa was a complete shock, but we’re hopeful because of the amazing research and many clinical trials the Foundation Fighting Blindness is making possible, including right here in San Diego,” said the women in a statement. “Raising awareness and funds for research through VisionWalk is our way to help move the needle forward so that one day, we and others won’t have to live in darkness.”
Walkers and runners, many of whom are affected by retinal disease, are expected to participate in the family-friendly, free VisionWalk, which includes entertainment from a live band, children’s activities, a bounce house, laser tag, refreshments and more.
Dogs and strollers are welcome on the scenic 3.1-mile walk/run course along the water. Serving as media sponsor for the event is Yelp. Other sponsors include San Diego County Ford Dealers Association. Since the VisionWalk program started in 2006, tens of thousands have participated in events across the country to raise more than
$27 million for blindness research.
The walk/run begins at 10 a.m. with registration at 9 a.m. at NTC Park on Cushing Road.
To participate or support the San Diego VisionWalk, visit www.Fight-Blindness.org/SanDiego-VisionWalk.