(WHAS11) - When you think of people who are blind, many of us assume they were born blind or lost their sight as they grew older.
I've recently learned there's a whole lot more to it; a vast array of diseases that affect people of all ages. As honorary chair of this year's Vision Walk, I was fortunate to meet Samantha, a courageous young woman who's fighting blindness.
At South Central High School, near tiny Elizabeth, Indiana, the marching band is moving out to the practice field; or practice parking lot in this case. The small school doesn't have a football field and no football team, but that hasn't stopped band director Chris Meyer.
Meyer and his musicians marked the parking lot off in yards and carried on. Nothing seems to stop this group and nothing seems to stop their keyboard player, Samantha Mayberry, who is legally blind.
Samantha has memorized most of the marching music and her school makes a special copy of the new songs. “We have a copy machine at school. It has a “Samantha” setting; we just hit the button and enlarge it for her,” said Meyer. But Samantha's vision problems can’t be solved by pushing a button.
Samantha's baby pictures tell the story of her vision. When she was 2-years-old, her mother noticed one eye was turning inward; through the years she saw several doctors. “…he said your daughter is very, very, very, very, very, very far-sighted; with that many verys. That scared me,” said Samantha’s mother.
She had super thick glasses, and events most kids love were troubling for Samantha. “Easter egg hunting was very frustrating for her because she could never see the eggs.” Night blindness became a huge issue. “She would stumble if our lighting in our home wasn't good. She'd fall over things; she would even run into things.”
When she was 4-years-old, Samantha's family was finally given a diagnosis; retinitis pigmentosa. “I know there's a very good chance I could go completely blind,” said Samantha. Thirteen-year-old Samantha doesn't like her baby pictures and those big glasses; she now wears contacts, but they can't correct the most severe problems.
October 29 Samantha will be leading a group, walking to raise money to fight her disease and many other diseases of the retina that cause blindness. Even though many of her own classmates don't know exactly what's wrong with her eyes, Samantha is willing to tell her story.
If a cure is out there, .it just might be a cure for her. She sums it all up in one sentence when asked why saving her sight and the sight of so many others is worth her time and her money; “I can’t see things that blend with the floor so I trip -- a lot! And, I can't see stars or rainbows so....”
Samantha is the youth chairperson for this year's Vision Walk. So far, Vision Walks across the country have raised $17 million for sight-saving research. I'll be there with Samantha and many others dedicated to finding a treatment. Cures for some types of RP have already been discovered.
This year's Vision Walk is October 29 on the waterfront. Samantha and I would love to meet you there. Saturday morning you can contribute to the Vision Walk by eating pancakes; that's right, no walking involved for this one. It's Saturday morning, October 22 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Beef O'Brady's, 1450 Veterans Parkway in Jeffersonville.