“Having Fun While Doing Good”: Fundraiser Supports BrightFocus Vision Programs
Barbara Cheatham doesn’t always sport electric pink hair, but when she does, she makes sure it’s for a good cause.
Mrs. Cheatham’s hair transformation came about through a fundraiser conducted by her and about 20 others in the low-vision support group at the Timber Ridge at Talus Life Services Community in Issaquah, Washington, who raised $2,700 in support of BrightFocus’ Macular Degeneration Research and National Glaucoma Research programs.
Most members of the low-vision group have macular degeneration, an irreversible destruction of the central area of the retina, or glaucoma, a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve and can lead to vision loss and possibly blindness. Together, these diseases affect around 276 million people worldwide.
“I joined the low-vision support group because I wanted to be with fellow sufferers to try to help one another come up with solutions to our problems as we had less and less vision and share our feelings about losing our sight,” said Mrs. Cheatham, who has both macular degeneration and glaucoma and has lost nearly all her vision in one eye. “Having the community helps, but we don’t have enough information about the diseases.”
In thinking of ways to raise money for a cause that was meaningful to them, Mrs. Cheatham thought back to something her son told her on her 90th birthday: “Now that you’re 90, don’t be dignified. Stay silly."
So she came up with the “undignified” idea of holding a raffle where winners would get to choose the color of her hair. While there were some initial skeptics, “they were overruled,” she said, laughing.
When the fundraising committee, of which Mrs. Cheatham served as chair, discovered the free resources and innovative research funded by Macular Degeneration Research and National Glaucoma Research ,they knew they had found the right fit for their project.
Word of the fundraiser spread quickly around Timber Ridge, and soon there were three volunteers to dye their hair–Mrs. Cheatham, resident Martha Martin, and Timber Ridge executive director Heather Turner. Members of the low-vision group sold raffle tickets in the lobby, which gave committee members an opportunity to share information about their support group with other residents who opened up about their own vision challenges.
“Money started coming in, and we were surprised,” Mrs. Cheatham said. “We didn’t think we would make $1,000, and then we ended up with $2,700—nearly triple what we had started out to do!”
Raffle winners were notified with a knock on their apartment door and balloons before they were asked to choose their desired hair color for the volunteers. A group of amused residents watched the transformation take place at the beauty salon—Mrs. Cheatham and Ms. Turner to pink, Ms. Martin to green.
While the temporary hair dye has worn off, Mrs. Cheatham’s enthusiasm for fundraising hasn’t. She’s already thinking of the next fundraising project for the low-vision group to take on.
“I was excited about the idea that, as a group, we weren’t just insular, talking about our own problems, but that we could make lemonade out of lemons. We could do something that would have broader significance—not just go about our own problems. That sparked us,” she said. “We had so much fun with it.”
“Our eye doctors are all very proud of us,” she said with a smile.
About BrightFocus Foundation
BrightFocus Foundation is a premier nonprofit funder of research to defeat Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. Through its flagship research programs—Alzheimer’s Disease Research, National Glaucoma Research, and Macular Degeneration Research—the Foundation is currently supporting a $75 million portfolio of 287 scientific projects. BrightFocus has awarded nearly $275 million in groundbreaking medical research funding since inception and shares the latest research findings, expert information, and disease resources to empower the millions impacted by these devastating diseases. Join our community at brightfocus.org.