Local Hero: 12-year-old Torontonian with degenerative eye disease has raised nearly 50,000 dollars to fight blindness


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It wasn’t until around a year and a half ago that Owen Macgowan suspected there was something wrong with his eyesight. The 12-year-old student at Eglinton Junior Public School was on vacation with his family in Mexico when his parents suddenly noticed that he could not see the stars in the evening sky.

In the past, Macgowan did have trouble playing sports, but he didn’t think it was a cause for concern. Once back home in Toronto, his parents took him to the Hospital for Sick Children to have his vision checked as a precaution.

The diagnosis was tragic: Macgowan was found to have retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease that will gradually diminish his eyesight until he is blind. But instead of succumbing to self-pity, Macgowan decided to take action.

“At first I was really sad, and so were my parents,” said Macgowan. “So we started to do research, and I decided I wanted to try to find a cure.”

Macgowan and his parents began a fundraising effort with the Foundation Fighting Blindness last year. Initially he was hoping to raise around $5,000, but as friends and family spread word of his cause, donations began to skyrocket. Today, Macgowan and his family have raised nearly $50,000.

“It just kept going like a chain reaction,” he said.

Earlier this spring, Macgowan and his fellow students held a charitable bake sale, a basketball tournament and a pie toss to contribute an additional $3,000. 

When he’s not fighting to cure blindness, Macgowan is a competitive hip-hop dancer. He also likes playing piano and playing video games. The kindhearted youngster plans to continue his fight for years to come.

“I want to keep fundraising and raising awareness for blindness,” he said.

There is an online portal for making donations on the Foundation for Fighting Blindness’s website.

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