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Diseases and IllnessesHealthMike Schmidt

Joe Iames plays football with so much heart, you wouldn't notice he's playing without full eyesight. The Center Grove student was diagnosed last year with Retinitis Pigmentosa. The incurable disease affects cells in the eye and causes vision loss and blindness.

"It was scary at first, we didn't really know what was going on," said Joe.

Joe's father, Gil, said he'd always thought Joe was just a clumsy kid. He said Joe would often fall off porches, or bump into things. Those are common symptoms of RP.

Now, the Iames family is raising money for VisionWalk Saturday September 24 in downtown Indianapolis. Local businesses, family, friends and teammates together have donated nearly $20,000 to "Joe's Fight for Sight."

"It means so much just that people want to help in any way they can," said Joe.

Retinitis Pigmentosa and other degenerative vision diseases affect about 10 million Americans.

In the fifth year of Vision Walk in Indianapolis, organizers hope to bring in $65,000 to fund research.

"People think there is either blind or not blind, well there's a big range in the middle of people that are losing their vision or have lost some vision. Saturday is an opportunity to help raise research and awareness but also to educate people on what's really the story on losing your vision," said Mike Schmidt, Co-Chair of VisionWalk.

This is the first year the walk is partnering with VisionExpo, a showcase of technology and services to help the visually impaired.

"To help those with a visual impairment to know that life can be lived normally with all sorts of products and services available to them," explained Carole Rose, with VisionExpo.

This fall Joe will take part in a clinical trial at the National Institute for Health.

"The long-term goal is to keep fighting, to keep raising money for research and to keep taking one day at a time," said Gil Iames. "The future looks bright, because we have faith."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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