Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 14.56.57Local eye cancer survivor joins Vision Express Chester-le-Street to support fundraising drive for World Retinoblastoma Week 2015.

A local toddler who has battled a rare eye cancer will be guest of honour, as employees at Vision Express Chester-le-Street embark on a fundraising drive during World Retinoblastoma Awareness Week (10 – 16 May 2015).

20-month-old Zak Sutherland from Houghton Le Spring will join the Vision Express team to rally support, as the optical retailer’s 400-plus stores nationwide dedicate the week to supporting charity partner The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT).

Zak was diagnosed with a rare eye cancer called retinoblastoma and has undergone chemotherapy and laser treatment in an attempt to battle the effects of the disease. A local ambassador for CHECT, Zak and his mum Stacey will visit the store on Tuesday 12th May at 10am to support Vision Express Chester-le-Street in its fundraising efforts.

The team will be raising money by inviting the public to correctly guess the name of a teddy to win the bear, with entry priced at £1. A donation-only glasses ‘MOT’ is also on offer, plus free family eye tests are available.

Joy Felgate, CEO of CHECT, explains what the Week means to the Trust: “In the UK, almost every week a child under the age of five is diagnosed with retinoblastoma. It is very treatable, with 98% of children surviving. However, most will need an eye removed to save their life, and some will lose both eyes. Retinoblastoma is often unheard of by parents, so World Retinoblastoma Awareness Week is important to focus attention on the vital signs to spot, and help raise funds so we can continue to support families and individuals affected by this devastating and life-threatening condition.”

Vision Express Chester-le-Street’s Store Manager, Joanne Howell added: “We’re really looking forward to welcoming Zak and Stacey to the store, to support our fundraising and share their personal experience of eye cancer. It’s a great morale boost for the team to do something meaningful for such a good cause, and having Zak here will spur us on – every single penny we can raise will count, and we hope the local community will dig deep to support us.”

Free eye tests for families and children will be available during World Retinoblastoma Awareness Week, as Vision Express drives home the importance of an eye test as a crucial way to detect vision issues, as well as serious conditions such as high cholesterol, diabetes and increased risk of stroke.

Vision Express has supported CHECT since 2010 and was the first optician in the UK to roll out a protocol to ensure a quick and effective referral if retinoblastoma is suspected. Employees and customers of Vision Express have raised almost £300,000 since the partnership was forged and won an award from the Institute of Fundraising in 2014.

Vision Express offers an eye test to best practice guidelines of the College of Optometrists (COO), with each Vision Express optometrist being a qualified eye health professional. To find your nearest store to book an eye test visit www.visionexpress.com/book-eye-test/

For more information on retinoblastoma please visit www.chect.org.uk