Runner sees a way to win race against eye disease

NEIGHBORS

May 01, 2000|By William Lowe | William Lowe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

JEFF CLEVELAND IS certainly not one to run away from a problem. Instead, he runs for a solution.

The Ellicott City resident and his 9-year-old daughter, Megan, have been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), an eye disease that causes degeneration of the retina and can lead to blindness.

The condition is hereditary; Cleveland's father and grandfather suffered from RP and experienced progressive loss of vision. His grandfather eventually became legally blind.

So far, Cleveland has experienced only slight visual impairment, and Megan, a fourth-grader at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, has suffered no significant loss of vision.

"I'm more concerned about Megan than I am about myself," Cleveland said.

He hopes researchers will discover a fully effective treatment for Megan and other children with RP.

At present, there is no cure for the disease, but it can be treated with daily consumption of high doses of vitamin A. While vitamin A cannot restore lost vision, it has been shown to reduce the rate of retinal degeneration. Both Jeff and Megan Cleveland are on vitamin A regimens.

The Foundation Fighting Blindness is funding promising research on treatments for RP, including cell transplants, gene therapy and the development of drugs. But such medical research is costly, and progress can only be made if sufficient funding is available.

Cleveland, who has been a runner since 1983, conceived of a way that he could help fulfill the need for RP research funding by combining fund raising with distance running. The 41-year-old management consultant used e-mail solicitations to secure more than $17,000 in pledges for his running of the Bull Run Run, a 50-mile ultramarathon. (An ultramarathon is any race longer than a standard 26.2-mile marathon.)

The donations will go toward research funded by the Foundation Fighting Blindness.

On April 15, Cleveland was among the runners departing from the starting line in Manassas, Va., at 6: 15 a.m.

It was a chilly and damp day, and the trail was steep in places and everywhere covered in mud. But 50 miles and more than 11 hours later, Cleveland crossed the finish line. Among those there to greet him was Megan.

He is still accepting donations, and expects the final sum to exceed $19,000.

"Megan and I are truly fortunate to have such a generous, caring group of friends," Cleveland said. "I am overwhelmed by the tremendous amount of support."

Readers who would like to contribute can send a check, payable to the Foundation Fighting Blindness, to Jeff Cleveland, 8713 Haycarriage Court, Ellicott City 21043-6562.

Those seeking more information on retinitis pigmentosa are encouraged to visit the Foundation Fighting Blindness Web site at www. blindness.org.

March on

Columbia Volksmarch Club will hold a spring weekend walk in Ellicott City and Oella on Saturday and Sunday.

The self-paced walk features three courses, of 5, 10 and 15 kilometers.

The 5K walk will be limited to downtown Ellicott City, while the 10K and 15K walks will begin in Ellicott City and proceed on to Oella.

Information: 410-730-6011.

Benefit dance

Centennial Lane Elementary School will hold a benefit dance for Raymond Chase Meldrom May 12.

Raymond, the infant brother of Centennial Lane fourth-grader Eric Moubrey, is being treated for liver cancer.

Business proprietors who would like to donate products or gift certificates for a dance raffle are encouraged to contact Nicole Mroz at 410-799-4654.

Performance

Fifth-graders at Waverly Elementary School will give a public performance of "Give Thanks America" at 7 p.m. tomorrow. The play is directed by American University drama professor Gail Mardirosian, mother of a Waverly fifth-grader.

George and Martha Washington are the primary characters in "Give Thanks America," which features spotlight monologues from characters of historical significance such as James Madison and Abraham Lincoln.

`La Boheme'

Clayton Alexander and Kevin Driscoll of Ellicott City are performing with the Peabody Children's Chorus in "La Boheme" at the Lyric Opera House in Baltimore.

The show runs through Sunday.

Information: 410-727-6000.

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