Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Child fights blindness with community support

Derek Wynne has been legally blind since he was 18 months old.

He was born with a genetic retinal disease that progressively robs his vision, said his mother, Anita Wynne.

Derek, now 11 and a sixth-grader at Metrolina Christian Academy, is helping fight diseases that cause blindness by participating in the 5th Annual Charlotte 5K VisionWalk.

His team, called "Derek's Dream Team," consists of about 23 members.

This is the family's fifth year participating in the event following their move from New Jersey to Charlotte in 2006, Anita Wynne said. Each year, they try to have a different team name.

"This is the only hope we have right now for this research," Anita Wynne said about the walk.

To fundraise for the event, Derek sells vision bracelets and chocolate covered pretzels to family and friends. He leaves for school with six bracelets on each arm and comes home with none, his mom said.

"It's a good time to have everybody get together and donate," Derek said.

Aside from participating in the walk, Derek also had the opportunity to join in on Dining in the Dark, another event that benefits sight-saving research.

At the event, Derek presented the foundation's Visionary Award to his role model, NASCAR driver Richard Petty.

"It felt really good inside" to meet Richard Petty, he said.

As for advice to children who may be struggling with vision impairment, Derek says, "Try your hardest and don't overwhelm yourself."

How to help:
5th Annual Charlotte 5K VisionWalk
When: Nov. 12
Time: Registration begins at 9 a.m. and the walk starts at 10 a.m.
Where:Freedom Park
1900 East Blvd.
What: Hundreds are expected to gather to walk to fight blinding diseases like macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, which affect more than 10 million Americans. VisionWalk aims to raise $65,000 for blindness research.