SeeShore Fest aims to top $100,000 in donations
In March 2013, Heather Napolitano was watching a basketball game when she realized she couldn’t see the score with her left eye.
She spent a year bouncing around among multiple doctors who offered different diagnoses, most of them wrong, she said.
“There was only one consistent thing every doctor said, ‘You are losing your vision, and there is no way to stop it,’” she said. “I slowly had to let go of things I loved – driving, my job, watching a Duke basketball game, seeing a familiar face walking toward me. On the outside, I appeared the same. That’s the most ironic thing about vision loss. It’s not a disability anyone else can see.”
She and her husband Dom moved to Rehoboth so her parents could help out with the things she could no longer do. Dom created a specialized television screen and modified her phone and computer for her use.
“We painted the house certain colors and modified the lighting,” she said. “We leaned on the incredible support that friends and family were providing. We found the Foundation Fighting Blindness.”
The foundation instantly made her feel she was not alone, Heather said. The group funds research in areas such as genetics, gene and stem-cell therapies, retinal cell transplantation, and pharmaceutical and nutritional therapies to find treatments and cures for inherited retinal diseases.
To help others raise funds and spread awareness of the disability, Heather and Dom organized the SeeShore Fest. The seventh annual event is set for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 27 at The Starboard, with all funds raised going to Foundation Fighting Blindness and the Feinbloom Low Vision Center at The Eye Institute.
“The foundation drives the necessary research to find a cure for blindness, while the institute helps the visually impaired live a better life until that day comes,” she said. “To date, SeeShore Fest has donated almost $83,000, with last year's event raising $21,823. Our goal this year is to surpass $100,000.”
The fundraiser will feature four punch boards with prizes ranging from $25 to $600 and raffles ranging from $350 to $5,000 in value. New this year will be Dax's Duck Game, introduced by Heather and Dom's 10-year-old son.
Heather said her vision has been steady the past few years.
“I’ll notice an increased sensitivity to light or a need to make a font even bigger, but I’m truly thankful for the remaining vision I have.”
Last winter, her retinal disease was diagnosed as autoimmune retinopathy when two antibodies known for attacking the retina were found in her system. She is now taking an autoimmune suppressant that doctors hope will slow her immune system and stop the antibodies from attacking her retina.
“It has proven in some patients to not only stop vision loss progression, but to bring some back,” she said. “For the first time since our vision loss journey began, we have hope.”
Follow the group’s event page at facebook.com/SeeShoreFest.