Participants to gather for iWalk on Saturday

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Runners prepare for the start of Jog 4 Josh on Sunday, April 19. The event, held on the Quad, is an annual 5K which raises money for the Joshua Gottheil memorial fund. This year the event raised $3500.

By Ellyn Newell

Can you imagine having to turn your head every time you needed to see what was happening to the side of you? Although most people only have to deal with this issue when they have a kink in their neck, for Ashley Soriano, it is a daily issue.

Soriano, a junior in LAS and president of the campus chapter of Hope for Vision along with her mother and two brothers, suffers from Retinitis Pigmentosa.

This genetic eye disease causes tunnel vision and night blindness. To raise awareness about this eye disease as well as several others, Soriano worked with Hope for Vision to create iWalk, a 5K in which participants can walk in masks that simulate what everyday vision is like for those with these eye disorders. Participants can also opt to run without a mask.

“I want people to be better able to understand these diseases,” Soriano said. “It’s kind of like a ‘step in my shoes’ for their eyes.”

This is the first year that the iWalk and 5K Run for Vision is being held. The goal is to raise money for the development of cures and treatments for retinal degenerative eye diseases and, more importantly, to raise awareness about the conditions, said Kimberly Musil, sophomore in ACES and campus publicity coordinator for iWalk.

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    “I personally take my vision for granted,” said Musil. “I never thought about these diseases before, mainly because you can’t tell if someone has them.”

    Through donations and registration, Hope for Vision at the University has raised over $16,600 thus far. They also have over 117 people registered. Of those people registered, over 40 people have signed up to run the 5K. The remainder have signed up to partake in the “experience,” said Soriano

    The group has been making masks that allow walkers to experience what life is like for the visually impaired.

    They have the opportunity to experience a variety of eye diseases, one being the condition that Soriano suffers from. Another condition participants can experience is macular degeneration. Sufferers can only use their peripheral vision ­— they cannot see in front of them. People have also signed up to be guides to help these people along the path.

    “It’s a really interesting way to see how people live their day to day life,” Tina Hahn, sophomore in LAS and community publicity coordinator for the event, said.

    Registration for the 5K will continue up until and including the day of the event, Saturday. The registration fee is $15 and at that time the group will also be collecting old eye glasses to donate to Unite for Sight, a registered student organization that will donate these glasses to developing countries.

    This walk comes on the heels of another 5K that took place last weekend, Jog 4 Josh. This 5K was created 9 years ago by the fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon to raise money for the Joshua Gottheil memorial fund.

    This fund was established after Joshua Gottheil, son of economics professor, Fred Gottheil, died at the age of 19 from lymphoma. The fund aids lymphoma research and also finances nurses who work with patients who have the cancer.

    Normally, Jog 4 Josh is held at Crystal Lake Park. This year, however, the chapter decided to hold the event on the Quad.

    They also decided to schedule the event during Mom’s Weekend, which added to its success, said Alex Zajac, philanthropy chair of the fraternity and junior in LAS.

    “Lots of moms came out to support the cause,” said Zajac. “Two big changes we made really had an impact on the event this year.”

    Those changes increased the amount raised to $3,500, triple the amount that was brought in last year, Zajac said.

    “We’re really proud of how well it did because it is an exceptional cause and it affects a lot of people both directly and indirectly,” he said.