The West Coast Cycle for Sight drew more riders and bigger donations than ever, with 130 people taking part in the fifth annual ride that began and ended at West Langley Hall in the Township on Saturday (June 2).
That was a substantial increase from the previous years, when about 100 cyclists took part, organizers said.
“The funds that you are raising are making an incredible impact,” said Dr. Mary Sunderland, director of research and education at the Foundation Fighting Blindness Canada, who spoke to the riders before they departed Saturday morning.
“There is an unbelievable transformation that we are living through,” Sunderland said.
“The diseases that were once thought to be untreatable are now treatable.”
The Foundation estimates it has invested $30 million to support vision research across Canada since 1974, providing over 200 research grants that have led to over 600 new discoveries in stem cell research, neuroprotective therapies, technological developments, pharmaceuticals and gene therapies.
For most of the participants in the Langley event, the fight to find a cure for retinal diseases is close to home.
Christina Henderson, the co-chair of the event said her two children are both affected.
“They’re losing their vision at a very young age and they risk going almost blind,” Henderson said.
“Our hope is we can find a cure for them and the way we do that is hosting events like this to raise money to fund all the research necessary to get us there.”
“This is a very personal thing,” Henderson said.
This year, the funds raised by the west coast ride were well over the announced goal of $125,000.
“We are at about $180,000,” Henderson estimated.
Her team was the top fundraiser, raising more than $60,000.
The Foundation Fighting Blindness estimates over 1 million Canadians are living with “blinding retinal eye diseases” right now.
The foundation warns that number could rise to the point where seven in 10 Canadians could be affected by retinal eye diseases like retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 50), Stargardt disease, Usher syndrome, Choroideremia, Leber’s congenital amaurosis or others.
The foundation was originally known as the Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation of Canada, the name it was incorporated under in 1974.
The name was changed to the RP Eye Research Foundation then, in 2000, to the Foundation Fighting Blindness.