The Path Toward Vision Health:
Inaugural Strides for Sight Awareness Walk Proves to be an Incredible Success
Published November 10, 2017 by Anna Ulyanenkova, VIP Program Coordinator
As the sun rose on Saturday, November 4, 2017, Vision Is Priceless’ supporters, community partners, and family and friends gathered in Riverside Park for the inaugural Strides for Sight Awareness Walk. The event, a free, family and pet-friendly 2-mile walk presented by Florida Eye Specialists, saw over 200 kids and adults come together to bring awareness to the importance of vision health.
Jami Bueker, VIP Executive Director, was thrilled to see so many walkers on November 4. “We are overwhelmed with the support Vision Is Priceless is receiving from the community. We are grateful so many people joined us this morning for our first walk to highlight the importance of vision health,” comments Bueker.
At 8:00am DJ Jim West of West Productions kicked off the festivities with kid-friendly music, hula-hoop contests, and bubbles. Kids transformed into Wonder Woman, pirates, and Minnie Mouse with the help of face-paint and the incredible creativity of event volunteers. Walkers felt energized and ready to stride thanks to refreshments courtesy of The Fresh Market, Trader Joe’s, and Winn-Dixie. The count-down to the start also included multiple free drawings for items such as glasses cleaning cloths and restaurant gift cards.
With the last drawing called and guests eager to walk, Vanilla Pittman, VIP Case Manager, and Anna Ulyanenkova, VIP Program Coordinator, made their way to the start. The walk kicked off at 9:00am as Pittman and Ulyanenkova led walkers through the first loop. Walkers marched south along Park St. on a path lined with hand-made signs, route helpers, and VIP staff. Signs that thanked walkers and volunteers, included vision statistics, and motivated participants guided guests along the 2-mile route. Up-beat music, cheering, and high-fives from DJ West also kept walkers engaged and excited.
Teams BNY Mellon, Voice of Joy Ministries, Florida Eye Specialists, Levenson Eye Associates, and Johnson and Johnson Vision stood out among the crowd. One could spot the latter team’s eyeball headbands half-way across the park! Families with strollers, kids, and dogs enjoyed the early-morning walk. Smiles, laughter, and an overwhelming sense of goodwill and community radiated from the park.
With three loops down and one to go, walkers looked forward to not only the finish, but to delicious subs generously donated by Jimmy John’s. Once re-fueled, families enjoyed the park’s playground, duck pond, and dog park. The fun continued well after the walk as DJ West played music and mediated relentless foam sword fights that entertained kids until 11:00am!
Tyler Merwin, UNF Senior and VIP Development Intern, was heavily involved in planning and coordinating the event. Merwin comments, “It’s so exciting to see the vision of this walk come to life! I feel so fortunate to have played an integral role in planning this event and watching how what we do can truly impact the lives of so many.”
Thanks to the generosity and support of our community, the 1st Annual Strides for Sight Awareness Walk exceeded its goal of raising $25,000 dollars. Bueker adds, “Thank you to everyone who helped make this event possible. We look forward to next year’s walk and hope to engage even more people in our mission to improve the vision health of children and adults in Northeast Florida.”
Keeping expenses low brought VIP’s net profit to a little over $24,000; 100% of which will go toward VIP’s sight-saving programs in Northeast Florida. This incredible event not only brought attention to the importance of vision health, it also paved the path toward vision health for thousands of children and adults served by VIP each year.
Click here for the 1st Annual Strides for Sight photo gallery.