Fighting Blindness Hosts Sporting Gala Dinner to Raise Vital Funds for Research and Support Services

Media Release: Thursday, January 29, 2015.

Fighting Blindness is calling for nationwide support to break the isolation of blindness as its members enter a new era in the fight against sight loss. The patient-led charity is highlighting the issue of isolation as more and more people are affected by the stark reality of sight loss in Ireland, yet the current services in place are over-stretched and under-resourced.

Avril Daly, CEO, Fighting Blindness said, “This is an exciting time for Fighting Blindness at the forefront of global research that is demonstrating success in treating conditions causing severe sight loss, but it is also proving to be a tough time for those personally affected. Since launching our Target 5000 project, where patients receive a clinical and genetic diagnosis of what are often complex conditions, our counselling support services have been severely over-stretched. Our members are in greater need of support to break the isolation a diagnosis of sight loss can bring.

“We are 100% committed to creating a national – and global – voice for everyone affected by sight loss, and to ensuring that research continues and counselling supports are available to everyone in our community who might need them. To do this, we are calling on people throughout the country to help us in any way that they can,” she added.

The plea for support coincides with the annual Fighting Blindness Sporting Gala Dinner which takes place on Saturday, January 31. The gala kicks off the charity’s fundraising activities for the year and brings legends from rugby and horse racing together, including Shane Byrne, Mick Galwey, Philip Doyle, David Casey, Ruby Walsh and Brian Cooper, to discuss their insights and expertise on the upcoming sporting season. It is also an opportunity for Fighting Blindness to thank its loyal supporters and valued members for their ongoing support.

Fighting Blindness will present its Empowerment Award during the Sporting Gala Dinner; a special honour given to those who help the charity with its mission to cure, support and empower people affected by sight loss. This year, Aine Lennon, an inspiring young woman from County Carlow, will receive the award to reflect her incredible achievements in patient empowerment over the past year. Aine was one of three people to complete the 700km Paris2Nice Cycle on a tandem bike, as she has a vision impairment, and, with her family, raised an amazing amount for the charity.

As master of ceremonies for the Sporting Gala Dinner, broadcaster Ivan Yates will be on hand to interview the sporting legends and encourage guests to participate in the silent auction. “As a broadcaster I am very aware of the impact that the spoken word can have, especially on those affected by sight loss. I am delighted to support Fighting Blindness’s sporting gala dinner and look forward to an enjoyable night ahead grilling the sporting legends about the upcoming horse racing and rugby seasons. I am also excited about the betting tips we are sure to hear on the night!” he said.

“I am very grateful to have this opportunity to help Fighting Blindness with their first fundraiser of 2015 and hope to encourage everyone to reach deeply into their pockets to support this important organisation,” he added.

Fighting Blindness represents the voice of 224,000 people affected by sight loss in Ireland. Its Target 5000 research project aims to provide genetic testing for the estimated 5,000 people in Ireland who have a genetic retinal condition. They will also be added to a national patient registry so that patients who are eligible for future clinical trials can be easily identified. To date, 600 people have been recruited into the programme between the three sites in Dublin and Belfast.

Caitríona Dunne, Target 5000 participant commented on the importance of the Target 5000 project to her personally, and the need for increased support for research. “I often feel helpless when it comes to my condition as there is no treatment at the moment. Target 5000 is something proactive that I can do to find out more about my condition, but that will also help research which may lead to some form of treatment in the future,” she said.

For more information please visit www.FightingBlindness.ie.