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Lions Club to hold fundraiser for local child

LEESBURG -- The quest for a young boy to regain his sight is getting a little help from a Leesburg service organization.

The Leesburg Lions Club will be hosting a bake sale and car wash Saturday to benefit Jacob's Hope for Sight, a campaign to help a seven-year-old boy diagnosed with a rare condition regain his sight.

According to Leesburg Lions Club Treasurer Lesley Barbosa, the club plans to hold the car wash and bake sale at Lee County Auto Service in Leesburg. The club is asking the public to make a monetary donation in exchange for a car wash or baked goods. The fundraiser is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Saturday.

"The Lions Club helps with vision, so this is the perfect opportunity to help on a local level," said Barbosa.

Lions Clubs provide continuous support for sight programs and services including vision screenings, eye banks and eyeglass recycling.

Barbosa said seven-year-old Jacob, whose parents are Ashley Dollar and Jack Bradfield, was diagnosed with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia (ONH) in May 2003 after his parents realized their son was not following objects with his eyes in a normal manner.

ONH is a medical condition that results in the underdevelopment of the optic nerve. Because of the rare condition, Jacob shows autistic traits and does not communicate verbally.

There are few treatment options for ONH. While doing research on speech delays, Jacob's mother learned of an advanced treatment of stem cell injections in China that has shown the capacity to improve sight for those who are vision-impaired. Recently, an Australian boy who was born blind showed signs of gaining light perception after one round of the stem cell treatment.

The stem cell treatment that could restore Jacob's sight is currently not available in the United States and is not FDA approved. The procedure is not covered through the family's insurance.

After weeks of researching stem cells, Jacob's mother contacted a medical consultant at Beike's Hospital in China where Jacob was approved to receive the stem cell injections. The treatments include several stem cell transfers of 10-15 million stem cells over a period of 20 to 30 days. Jacob will be in rehabilitation six days per week in an effort to train his eyes to see again.

The treatment will be performed at Qingdao Chengyang People's Hospital in China, where Jacob and his family will have to live while he undergoes the treatment to restore his sight.

Jacob's family started the Hope for Sight campaign in an effort to raise funds to provide for Jacob's medical costs and travel to China. It is estimated that $40,000 will be needed to cover the family's costs. According to Barbosa, $12,000 has already been raised for Jacob.

"We are trying to raise enough to get them the rest of the way to their goal," said the Lions Club member.