Legally blind Sydney man Matt Formston and his friend Scott Williamson are currently cycling from Sydney to Melbourne to raise awareness and money for Australia's leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss, macular degeneration (MD).
MD is a degenerative disease that causes progressive loss of central vision. Although it is generally age-related and most often affects those aged over 50, Matt, a 31-year-old business analyst, was diagnosed with MD at just five years of age. He now lives with only 5% vision but has never let this stop him achieving his goals.
Matt and Scott will cover a gruelling 1,200 kilometres over their 13-day journey, cycling along the east coast of Australia. The pair will donate the money they raise to the MD Foundation, the leading charity working to reduce the incidence and impact of MD in Australia.
"Living with MD for the past 26 years has been all about overcoming adversity in all aspects of my life. The ride to Melbourne will be a physical and mental challenge in itself. To do this as a legally blind individual adds a whole new level of difficulty. I want to show people that if you put your mind to something, anything is possible, no matter what challenges you may face," Matt said.
"I will just have to follow Scott and trust that he is not going to ride out in front of a truck! As long as I can see the back tire of his bike in front of me, I will be able to focus on that and follow wherever he takes me. I will also rely on Scott letting me know what's coming up like big hills, sharp turns and pot holes.
"Raising money to support a Foundation that is proactively supporting the Australian MD community is something that's extremely significant to me. I'm really looking forward to this challenge and I know that it's something I'll remember for the rest of my life," he said.
CEO of the MD Foundation Julie Heraghty said: "I have so much admiration for what Matt and Scott are doing. Not only is Matt challenging himself in such an amazing way, but the generosity of spirit the two friends have displayed by choosing to donate the money they raise to the MD Foundation is truly inspirational. I wish both of them the best of luck on their journey."
Scott said at first he was nervous about the idea of riding with someone who is legally blind. "Our biggest hurdle is going to be communication and making sure we have a mutual understanding. This will require honesty to ourselves and each other at all times.
"Since I started training for the ride I've also been exercising my mind to be more aware of some obstacles on the road that I may not have noticed before. Cycling with Matt and having the opportunity to raise money for the MD Foundation is something I couldn't pass up," he said.
Matt and Scott's journey began at 7am on Thursday 12 November at the Sydney Opera House, a very fitting location given that the national icon's architect the late Jørn Utzon had MD himself in his later years. Matt and Scott will be blogging about their experiences along the way and will end their trip in Melbourne, arriving at Federation Square on Tuesday 24 November at 4pm.
10 November 2009