Running with purpose

For 20 years, the Run for Retina Research has supported critical eye care at the Ivey Eye Institute

Kim Spriet was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, an inherited form of macular degeneration, as a young adult. But it wasn’t until her late thirties that the progressive vision loss started to impact her daily life.

“I started questioning, will I be able to travel? Will I see my kids get married? Will I be able to see my grandchildren?”

Paul and Kim Spriet sitting together on a sofa
Kim and Paul Spriet started the Run for Retina Research 20 years ago to create awareness about vision problems and raise funds for the Ivey Eye Institute.

The day she turned 40, she lost her driver’s license.

“It was a dark time for me,” she says. “I worried a lot about the future.”

Confronted with a lack of awareness about genetic eye disorders and visual impairment, Kim channeled her energy into building awareness and improving eye care and research in the region.

For 20 years, she has spearheaded the Run for Retina Research, in partnership with her husband, Paul, as well as community sponsors, friends and coworkers.

The annual event has raised more than $650,000 in support of the Ivey Eye Institute at St. Joseph’s Health Care London.

A national leader in eye care, research and education, the Institute sees upwards of 150,000 patients from across Western Ontario each year.

"When I started losing my eyesight, I didn't know where my life was going to go," says Kim.

Fundraising through the Run for Retina Research has contributed to critical research projects, equipment and tools, and, most recently, it is helping expand emergency eye care services at St. Joseph’s.

Dr. Gonder, Kim Spriet and Dr. Sheidow embracing each other
Dr. John Gonder, Kim Spriet and Dr. Tom Sheidow celebrate the significant impact the Run for Retina has made on patient care at the 2023 event.

With the demand for acute eye care growing in the region, the highly specialized emergency eye care unit fast-tracks patients and relieves pressure on hospital emergency departments. Money raised from the event is supporting, in part, the renovation and equipment costs for two additional emergency treatment rooms – doubling the available care space.

“The support from the Run for Retina is paramount in taking eye care in the region to the next level,” says ophthalmologist and surgeon Dr. Tom Sheidow. “These dedicated eye exam rooms will ensure we are providing timely intervention and coordinated care to patients.”

After two decades, Kim and Paul organized the final Run for Retina Research this year, personally matching the $25,000 raised as a farewell gift.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without the tremendous community support,” says Paul. “The people of London have stood with us for 20 years and we’re forever grateful.”

Throughout the years, the personal stories of participants made a big impact. “We would hear from people running for themselves or for their loved ones, and that’s why we committed to this event, to help improve other people’s lives,” says Kim. “When we first started, not many people knew about eye diseases like macular degeneration, so building that awareness has been incredible.”

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