Jul 8, 2024

Barry Smith and Emily Harding Smith

Personal Stories

“I have spent a lifetime attempting to prove what I can do, which has allowed Emily and I to be in a place where we can help. Please consider joining us.“

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Barry and Emily met at the age of 17 while working at a grocery store. They have been together for 39 years, and Barry credits Emily as his primary source of support and inspiration to persevere.

Barry was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) while attending college, but his diagnosis came as no surprise.

“I had been experiencing symptoms at least as early as middle school,” Barry recalls. “By the time I was in high school, I was mature enough to understand I had the rare eye disease that affected my mother’s side of the family.”

Instead of asking for assistance, Barry hid the challenges he experienced and did his best to ignore the potential impact RP could have had on every aspect of his life.

“I had just watched my mother and grandfather lead successful lives and decided there was no reason I couldn’t do the same,” says Barry.

But after Barry completed college and graduate school, he was more honest with himself and the people around him.

“Hiding the impact of RP and attempting to live a ‘normal’ life was a heavy lift,” says Barry. When Barry felt like his vision loss was too much of a burden, Emily was there to support him.

Barry and Emily on the beach

Barry recognized the need to relinquish his car keys at the age of 32 when, on his way to work, the sun shining on a wet road caused a complete loss of visibility.

“It was a miracle that I did not cause an accident,” Barry recalls. “Eventually, I went back home and told Emily what happened. Emily grabbed her car keys and took me to work.”

She would continue doing so as Barry now approaches 30 years with his employer, Guideposts, a spiritual non-profit organization, publishing inspirational magazines, books, and online materials. As Director of Customer Service at Guideposts, Barry doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that he works for a company founded on hope, faith, and the power of positive thinking.

“Emily and I are neither doctors nor are we scientists,” says Barry. “But we can make a difference. I became aware of the Foundation Fighting Blindness through my mother and started supporting the organization as soon as we were financially able to do so. As we consider how to deploy and allocate our financial resources, it is difficult to imagine a better investment than the Foundation.”

When Barry reflects on his life since his RP diagnosis, he has no regrets and feels that his RP has made him an even stronger person.

“I have spent a lifetime attempting to prove what I can do, which has allowed Emily and I to be in a place where we can help. Please consider joining us.”