Health

Thursday, Jan 31 2013 03:58 PM

Parents spearhead second fundraiser to fight eye disease

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    The Ingrams — including Tony and Karrie, back row, Kiley, left, Katie, center, and Anthony, who was born blind — are ready for Saturday's Seeing is Believing fundraiser for the Foundation for Retinal Research.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Karrie Ingram and her son Anthony, 7, who was born blind, are ready for Saturday's Seeing is Believing Run to raise money for the Foundation for Retinal Research. They have a garage full of items to be used in the second annual event to take place at The Park at Riverwalk. They have been receiving help for several months from family and friends.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Karrie Ingram hugs her son, Anthony, 7, who was born blind. The Ingrams are heading up a large-scale fundraiser called Seeing is Believing this Saturday at The Park at Riverwalk to raise money for the Foundation for Retinal Research.

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BY RACHEL COOK Californian staff writer rcook@bakersfield.com

When Karrie and Tony Ingram learned that their infant son was rapidly losing his sight to a rare disease, they wanted to get involved in fighting the illness.

But with three young children, they joked that Karrie had to make it through the "toddler stages" before she could take on anything else.

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HOW GO TO

Anthony's Seeing is Believing 5k/10k Walk-Run

* Registration is $30 for adults, $15 for students age 13 to 18, $10 for children age 2 to 12. Children younger than 2 can participate for free.

* Registration and packet pickup starts at 6:30 a.m. Saturday at the Park at River Walk on Stockdale Highway; race begins at 8 a.m. Runners start at the north side of the pond.

* Runners can also register or pick up packets Friday night from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Sole 2 Soul at 9000 Ming Ave., Suite K-1 in The Marketplace.

Last year, with the toddler years behind them, the Ingrams took on their son's disease, Leber's Congenital Amaurosis, to the tune of $25,000. On Saturday, they will set out to top that dollar amount raised with their second Anthony's Seeing is Believing 5k/10k Walk-Run. The run will benefit the Foundation for Retinal Research.

Anthony Ingram, 7, will start off the race and the founders of the research organization will be there to watch him run.

"(Anthony) understands (the race), he gets so excited," Karrie said. "He just loves all the excitement that goes on that day."

David Brint, co-founder and president of the Foundation for Retinal Research, said research is moving rapidly to help kids with Leber's Congenital Amaurosis, also known as LCA, and fundraisers like the Ingrams' run are making it happen.

Brint and his wife, Betsy, are coming from Illinois to watch the run.

"Fifteen years ago, we knew about two genes that cause LCA and we didn't know anything about the biology of what causes the disease other than kids were blind," Brint said. "Fifteen years later, we know (of) 18 forms of the disease and we have treatments for at least two."

Anthony and his parents recently had their blood drawn for genetic testing for the third time, hoping to pinpoint what causes Anthony's disease.

"If we can find the gene that has caused this, then we definitely see what our options are," Karrie said.

Karrie and Tony decided to raise Anthony the same way that they parented their daughters, Kiley, 10, and Katie, 8, after the initial shock of learning that Anthony's retina were deteriorating.

In the last two years, Anthony's diminished vision has further decreased. In two to three years, he will be in total darkness in his right eye, Karrie said.

But Anthony is still an outgoing boy, constantly in motion, his mother said. He bikes, surfs and bounces on the trampoline. An aide helps him out in his first grade classroom and Anthony uses Braille, puffy paint and fluffy stickers to join in the lessons. At home, Karrie and Kiley are learning Braille, while Katie is the mother hen quick to help Anthony out.

The Ingrams approach their fundraiser in the same way that they navigate Anthony's disease -- it's a family affair.

Tony, a California Highway Patrol officer, approaches businesses for sponsorship. Karrie and Tony's niece designed the logo and an uncle sits on the group's board of directors. The whole clan pitches in to put on the family-friendly event.

"All ages can participate in the run whether they're two or 65," Karrie said.

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