Hundreds will gather in Phoenix Saturday for the Seventh Annual Arizona 5K VisionWalk in efforts to fight blindness and show support to families devastated by retina diseases.
The Foundation Fighting Blindness, a nonprofit organization, assists the walk by funding cutting-edge studies toward preventions, treatments and cures for individuals who have been diagnosed with eye diseases.
Since 1971, the organization has raised more than $500 million being the leading non-governmental finder of retina research.
One Ahwatukee Foothills family that has been fighting for a cure for blindness is the Crosby family.
Being a part of the VisionWalk since 2010, VisionWalk chair Amber Crosby’s main goal is to spread awareness in hopes to raise money for the Foundation Fighting Blindness.
Her daughter, Abby Crosby, 9, was diagnosed with cone dystrophy, a rare optical disease that muddles her central vision making Abby use her peripheral vision to see.
The initial diagnosis came as a huge shock to the Crosby family, considering neither Amber nor her husband have any genetic problems that would cause such a disease.
“We were blindsided when Abby was diagnosed because to the best of our knowledge we had a perfectly healthy 5 year old who we thought probably needed glasses,” Crosby said. “The initial shock was a hard pill to swallow. I spent the first six months crying at the drop of a hat, but when the shock wore off I realized Abby was still the same little girl the day after the diagnosis.”
During the first year of her daughter’s diagnosis, Crosby stumbled upon the Foundation Fighting Blindness and learned that they were hosting the VisionWalk event for families that have been shaken by retina diseases.
Determined to find a cure and spread awareness, the Crosby family formed “Abby’s AllStars” and began recruiting walkers to raise funds for research.
With Abby spreading her story around the community, “Abby’s AllStars” goal is to have 75 walkers join the team, and raise $5,000 before they cross the finish line.
“The best thing that I can focus on is helping to fund something that may eventually restore Abby’s eye sight. If it would stop the progression of her loss of sight, or can be able to help someone else, it was all worth it,” Crosby said. “As a whole I feel that we are giving back.”
“Abby’s AllStars” won’t be the only team lacing their running shoes for the VisionWalk.
Team Ashley will also be attending the event, a team that has broken national records with having more than 200-plus walkers.
The team started off small by sending letters out to people in hopes they would join the cause, and their voices were heard by having more than 100 individual walkers join Team Ashley.
Judy Haugher, captain of Team Ashley, said the team is more focused on keeping it a community-based organization.
“We want to keep Team Ashley among friends and family members because every single person who is on our team knows us and are there to just support our family,” she said.
Haugher said that her daughter, Ashley, 30, has lost 50 percent of her vision, and is getting ready to be married in April.
“As a parent there is nothing harder than watching your child go blind, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Haugher said. “The only things that I can do is bring in money for research dollars to find a cure for retina diseases and build awareness by doing these walks.”
The Seventh Annual Arizona VisionWalk begins with a check-in at 8 a.m. and the walk starts at 9 a.m. on March 2 at Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix, 300 E. Indian School Road at Third Street.
• Daniel Ochoa is a senior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is interning this semester for the AFN.