Posted: October 25, 2018
When she began to lose her sight, Marge Vitale couldn’t have imagined how this loss would inspire a new vision in those around her.
Sixteen years ago, Marge was diagnosed with a rare but hereditary eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa. Within a few years, she was legally blind and could not drive. The transition wasn’t always easy.
“My nickname used to be Marge in charge,” she explained. “I miss being able to walk on my own. I used to walk three to five miles every day.” Now she relies on the help of her husband Dave and a white cane to navigate around Holly Creek Retirement Community, where they moved a year and a half ago.
Marge Vitale isn’t the only one, either. Nearly ten million Americans and a disproportionate number of those being older adults experience extreme vision loss. At Holly Creek alone there are 20-30 seniors who gather weekly to listen to speakers, offer each other support and share tips for living with low vision.
But losing their sight hasn’t slowed these seniors down. This Fall, they decided to once again to take a stand, or rather a walk, for the cause that they all care about deeply. Last year, Dave and Marge Vitale introduced to the group a way that they could work for a cure while also sharing a favorite pastime — walking. The couple previously led a team to raise funds for the Foundation Fighting Blindness at the Annual VisionWalk in Buffalo, New York.
This Fall, the Vitales once again gathered family and friends from the Low Vision Group and surrounding Holly Creek community to join Colorado’s Annual VisionWalk. More than 10 walkers laced their sneakers as part of “What’s in Sight for Holly Creek,” which still remains the first and only retirement community team to ever participate in Colorado’s Walk.
On a gorgeous morning gifted between a series of chilly-weather days, the team made their way around City Park’s lake — many of them completely by feel — to raise more than $9,000 for the Foundation Fighting Blindness. Not only did this impressive accomplishment place them 4th in the list of biggest contributors, but it also offered an important contribution to the Foundation’s work.
“All of that money goes straight into research,” explained Bob Stong, who helps lead the Low Vision group and has had molecular degeneration himself for nearly 40 years. The Foundation Fighting Blindness works with premier universities and retinal groups all over the world, and, as Dave explained, has just entered human testing of a new stem cell therapy with the potential to restore sight. Their VisionWalk goal this year is $175,000, which is more than they’ve ever raised before.
“We love raising money for such a good cause,” Marge Vitale shared. “That truly is why we’re involved, and it’s why we encourage other people to participate.”
Marge Vitale crosses the finish line with her daughter Jill
Going forward, the Vitales and their friends plan to continue Holly Creek’s participation in future Colorado VisionWalks and encourage other seniors and retirement communities to do the same.
“I’d love to have other senior communities get involved,” Dave said. “Getting together teams and raising the funds—This is how we walk together toward a cure. It might not be in time for Marge, but we hope to help it be for future generations.”
This story originally appeared in Denver Post’s YourHub and is used by permission.