Earlier in the year, Maria Cartagena, a five-year veteran of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders came to visit the squad and shared that she had been diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa. RP is characterized as progressive peripheral vision loss and night vision difficulties that can eventually lead to central vision loss.
The cheerleaders were immediately compelled to act. We have shown our support by attending fundraisers, donating to research and support organizations, and most importantly have just been there to show Maria how much she is loved and supported by our organization.
Our efforts to support Maria were most visible Saturday, October 27, at Al Lopez Park, where current and former cheerleaders took part in the Tampa Bay Vision Walk with over 350 other participants. Our team was one of the largest, with over 50 people coming out to show their support for Maria and others affected by vision disabilities. Our team wore matching purple “Marching for the Cure” shirts displaying her initials to show our commitment to Maria and her battle. Together we were able to raise over $8,600.
To date, the Vision Walk has raised over $52,700–surpassing the $50,000 goal prior to event. Maria’s diligent fundraising work was recognized at the event when she earned the All Star Vision Walk Award for individually raising over $1,000 for the cause!
The walk was so motivating and special to me because it showed the love that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders have for one another. Regardless of whether we individually cheered with Maria or not, we all consider her a part of our family–the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders family. We all want Maria to know she is not alone in this battle.
It is my hope that with growing knowledge of the disease and continued support from the community we can help bring The Foundation for Fighting Blindness closer to finding a cure for all of the people affected by this disease.
If you would like to donate to Maria’s Marching for a Cure team please visit: http://www.fightblindness.org/site/TR/VISIONWALK/VisionWalktr?team_id=64090&pg=team&fr_id=4720