Brianna Mullins, Chapter Engagement Manager
In the fledgling years of the RP Foundation, the original name of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the trustees of the Princeton affiliate would gather around a dining room table and discuss ways to raise money for research. Remember, this was back in the day when no one knew about retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Even in the medical community, so little was known that a medical text book covered the topic in one paragraph!
Our goal was to raise awareness and fund research that would help us find the cause, cures and preventions for this blinding disease. One of our enthusiastic trustees, the late Connie Katz, suggested we solicit our collective group of friends -- and that’s how the Princeton Chapter began 40 years ago. Our first mailing lists were the names of our neighbors and friends handwritten on 3” x 5” index cards.
The early solicitation pieces were hand drawn and then hand colored by our children – a homespun grassroots effort. We mailed the piece to coincide with the December holidays. The message was “Searching for the Perfect Gift: Donate to the RP Foundation!” We were hoping to entice contributors to make a donation in honor of the person on their holiday list who has it all and would be pleased to have a gift made in his or her name to a worthy cause. After all, how many bars of fancy soap does Aunt Millie need! The recipient received an acknowledgement of the gift. And, of course, the contributor received a personalized and hand-signed thank you note. To this day, every single donation -- no matter the dollar amount -- is acknowledged with a hand-signed letter.
Things have really changed in 40+ years! The holiday solicitation has evolved from hand drawn to a professionally designed piece. We have gone from a 300-piece mailing to 5,000 pieces. An army of 25 volunteers gathers around long makeshift tables; and in one very long day, we stuff, seal, stamp, and sort 5,000 envelopes – all accompanied by delicious food and camaraderie among volunteers.
Today, only a small percentage of our donations are made as gifts in honor of someone. Most are simply contributions to the Foundation. Our records are now kept in an elaborate database, and we raise around $100,000 every year. This money goes directly to the headquarters office of the Foundation Fighting Blindness to fund the cutting edge research that is beginning to restore sight.
If you are visiting the Princeton Chapter’s website, it’s probably because you or someone you know is affected with a retinal degenerative disease such as retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration, Stargardt disease, choroideremia, or Usher syndrome. Perhaps, you have a list of friends and co-workers who you would like to solicit; our holiday solicitation is a terrific way to reach out. Please share with us your fundraising suggestions and, together, we will make a difference. Funding will enable us to research those ideas that are currently sitting on shelves waiting for money.
Thank you for visiting our website.
In memory of Llura Gund
Chapter Engagement Manager