Christine and Evan Froese will be biking across the province in July to raise money for eSight glasses, which will help Evan see.
At the end of this month, Christine and Evan Froese will be leaving Morden to bike across the width of the province to raise money to help Evan see.
Evan was born with congenital nystagmus, which is a condition characterized by repetitive, uncontrolled eye movement. “I am technically legally blind,” he said. “It’s like I say to people, ‘This is my normal.’ I don’t even know what ‘normal’ is.”
Despite being told from age five that he would never be able to drive, Evan biked to work from the age of 15 until he was 21, and now holds a limited driver’s license that allows him to get to work. “I’ve always been the type where if somebody tells me, ‘You’re blind, you can’t,’ don’t,” he said. “Bad idea. I’m going to go ahead and do it just to prove you wrong.”
“It sounds kind of odd, but at first blush when you meet me, you probably wouldn’t peg me as blind,” he said. “I’m fairly high functioning as blind people go. It’s kind of an invisible disability. I can walk down the street and you’re not going to know it, but if you leave me in that street in an unfamiliar area, I can’t navigate.”
Being blind means more than just not being able to see. “It kind of has a spill-over effect,” Evan said. “It’s not just the vision, it’s the posture. It has some social implications because I can’t go lots of places without somebody who knows my condition, who will read things and point things out. It’s kind of a cascade of things, one ties into the next.”
Evan has used traditional prescriptions like glasses, but they don’t actually improve his vision. “They improve my focus time but not really my vision,” he said. “To move my focus point in and out takes seconds, like multiple seconds, where for you or Christine it would be fractions of a second.”
eSight glasses works by projecting a high-speed, high-definition camera feed onto two OLED screens in front of the user’s eyes. The user sees full-colour video with virtually no lag. The device can be adjusted to the precise position that works best for them, while maximizing peripheral vision and preventing nausea.
Evan first heard about the glasses when he and Christine read about a fundraiser in Gretna to get eSight glasses for Everett Hiebert a few months ago.
“I basically walked downstairs with the article and said, ‘There’s a guy who has a similar condition and there’s these glasses that can make you see like a normal person,’” Christine said.
“It will be very exciting when he puts them on for the first time and he can see, because he was just born with those eyes,” Christine said. “He doesn’t know what it’s like to see. I wear contacts and glasses and the first time I put my glasses on I was like, ‘Whoa, this is how normal people see,’ but for him it will be more extreme.”
The only drawback to the technology is that one pair of eSight glasses costs $15,000.
So, to help them raise both money and awareness, Christine and Evan will be cycling west to east across the province.
The plan is to start on the Saskatchewan border just west of Virden and to end just east of West Hawk Lake on the Ontario side of the province. In between, the two plan to stop at most of the major population centres, including Brandon, Portage, Headingley, Winnipeg, and hopefully Steinbach.
The trip starts on June 30, and they are hoping to be done on Thursday, July 6 by the afternoon.
“We’re trying not to go super extreme every single day,” Christine said. “The day that will be the lowest kilometres will be 40, and then the highest will probably be 120. [Evan] has been biking his whole life, but I haven’t. It’s a lot harder for me, but I think I can do it.”
Even if she has to tap out, Christine joked, Evan has no choice but to finish the trek.
The two have created a Facebook event page, which has more information, a link to the GoFundMe campaign and videos and photos. “We’ll hopefully be putting some pictures on that Facebook page and some video to document our trip so people can follow it,” Christine said.
The page is Evan’s Ride for eSight on Facebook. “With this bike ride, we want to show people that if you have a disability that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get out there and do things,” Christine said. “It’s to make people realize that just because you were born with something or you have a problem in your life doesn’t mean that you have to be stuck at home or you can’t have a hobby.”
Evan plans to donate any extra money raised to help someone else get eSight glasses. “Should the support be enough that I have my pair covered and then some, that [extra] money will go to someone else raising money for the same thing,” Evan said.