One Ontario teacher isn't letting retinitis pigmentosa determine how he lives his life. Despite John Tomasino's sight impairment, he has been raising awareness for eye research through his involvement in the group Cycle For Sight. On June 24th, the 55-year-old teacher cycled in the annual Cycle For Sight event in Creemore, Ontario.
Tomasino, who currently serves as the Ambassador for the Cycle For Sight's Creemore division, told reporters cycling is something that he's grown attached to in recent years. In particular, Tomasino loves speeding down hills at 90km per hour. Of course, raising funds for revolutionary eye research drives Tomasino to push himself even harder.
Interestingly, Tomasino didn't discover his love of cycling until later in life. Once he started developing retinitis pigmentosa at an early age, Tomasino was forced to give up sports and biking. Due to his poor vision, Tomasino got more involved in his schoolwork and activities like cooking and theatre.
All his hard work at school eventually led Tomasino to become a teacher, a job he says he's extremely thankful to have. As of today, around 80 percent of Canadians with visual impairments are unemployed. Tomasino hopes his efforts will help address this serious problem in the Canadian community.
One way Tomasino raises awareness of the capability visually impaired people have to work in meaningful professions is by bringing in blindfolds to his fourth grade students. He asks all of his students to walk around the room with the blindfolds on to get a sense of what Tomasino experiences everyday. He says this short lesson really helps students relate to Tomasino's struggles.
The other way Tomasino is helping to raise awareness of issues facing Canada's visually impaired people is to take part in events like Creemore's Cycle For Sight. Over the past nine years, Cycle For Sight has raised an impressive $20,000 thanks to Tomasino's efforts.
Cycle For Sight currently sends all of its funds to the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB). Scientists at the FFB are conducting inspiring research into many aspects of sight loss and potential treatment options like new medications and even gene therapy. As of today, the FFB estimates that around one million Canadians live with some kind of retinal disease.
In addition to being an avid cyclist, Tomasino is a member of the Achilles Running Club. He says that he hopes to inspire others living with retinal diseases to never let their visual impairments dampen their dreams...or their workout routines!
The Creemore Cycle For Sight is a looped bike ride that begins and ends at Creemore Springs Brewery. Participants can choose to go on a 50km, 100km, or 150km ride.
In addition to Creemore, other Canadian cities will host Cycle For Sight events on June 24th. A few provinces slated to participate in this fundraising event include Newfoundland, Alberta, and on the West Coast.
Cycle For Sight organizers hope to raise $250,000 this year. As of today, the group has raised around $185,000.
Anyone interested in joining the Cycle For Sight in June can look up details on the fundraiser's official website.