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Child eye cancer survivors launch national sunglasses giveaway for World Retinoblastoma Week, as study reveals ignorance of condition among UK parents

Press Release   •   May 09, 2016 08:55 BST

Eliza Thomas with mum April. Eliza was diagnosed with rare eye cancer retinoblastoma following an eye test at Vision Express.

Youngsters across the UK who have battled a rare eye cancer will join Vision Express this week to launch a sunglasses giveaway marking World Retinoblastoma Awareness Week (8 - 15 May 2016).

Survivors of retinoblastoma aged from just one to eighteen years old will visit selected Vision Express stores to rally support as the optician offers the opportunity to win two pairs of sunglasses – one adult and one child – at over 380 of its UK outlets, in aid of charity partner The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT).

The competition is being launched in support of CHECT’s #inthedark campaign to raise awareness of the signs of the disease.

The initiative follows research commissioned by CHECT for World Retinoblastoma Awareness Week, which reveals that less than one in three parents have ever had their child’s eyes checked, with half of parents unaware that children could get eye cancer.(1)).

Patrick Tonks, chief executive of CHECT, said: “For too long retinoblastoma has been shrouded in darkness – children are left in the dark because some or all of their vision has been stolen and parents and healthcare professionals are in the dark because of a lack of awareness.

“Parents usually know when their little one is unwell but with retinoblastoma children often seem perfectly happy and healthy so it’s much harder to spot. We want all parents to be ‘eye aware’ and to take their child to see a health professional if they have any concerns at all.”

‘My daughter lost her eye to cancer’

Eliza Thomas was three years old when she was diagnosed with retinoblastoma following a routine visit to Vision Express in October 2015. Just a week later Eliza had her eye removed to save her life, with mum April Thomas, 27, later learning that her daughter had been going blind in one eye for months without anyone knowing. April, from Westminster, London, took Eliza to the optician because she had a squint that seemed to be getting worse. She admits that when she turned up to her appointment at Vision Express’ Oxford Street store she didn’t expect anything was seriously wrong. During the eye test, the optometrist spotted what looked like a tumour growing in Eliza’s eye and referred her to hospital immediately. Eliza had her eye removed soon after and now has an artificial eye.

April says: “I want all parents to be aware that children can get cancer in their eyes. If you notice anything unusual about your child’s eyes, don’t just assume it’s nothing – get it checked out to rule out anything serious and don’t give up if you think something is wrong.”

Vision Express was the first optician in the UK to roll out a protocol to ensure a quick and effective referral if retinoblastoma is suspected. The latest study by CHECT shows that opticians are now taking the appropriate steps to refer the condition in 100% of cases.

The award-winning partnership with the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) was forged in 2010, with initiatives raising awareness and funds for the charity, so it can help more families affected.

Employees and customers of Vision Express have raised around £300,000 to date, with the nationwide sunglasses giveaway during World Retinoblastoma Week set to drive further donations.

The raffle will offer selected ‘Exclusive Brands’ sunglasses from the recently-launched Vision Express collection. The new range provides a high quality, value for money alternative to designer glasses, with frame prices starting at £39.

Click here for more information on retinoblastoma 

A short video of Eliza Thomas’ story is available here 

Additional images of Eliza and April Thomas are also available.

1. 1,030 parents took part in the online survey, conducted by MMR Research Worldwide in April 2016. All parents had at least one child aged between 0-6 years. Eye checks exclude regular childhood developmental checks and exams. Weighting factors applied so as to align demographic make of the samples across project waves.

About Vision Express

Vision Express is the third largest optical retailer in the UK and part of GrandVision,the global leader in optical retail operating across 43 countries, spanning over 5,800 stores and online.

With more than 390 stores nationwide, Vision Express first opened its doors in Newcastle in 1988. Built on a passion for the profession, it has gone from strength to strength, driven by a commitment to unparalleled customer service and providing the best individual optical care, the right product and great value. Customers can select from a vast range of genuine designer brands and the latest technology lenses, through to complete glasses from £39.

Vision Express is considered one of the leading and most trusted opticians in the UK and Ireland, with its European offering supported through sister eye care brands Grand Optical, Solaris and Generale D'Optique.

With around 4,000 employees, Vision Express makes a significant difference to the communities it operates within, and the organisations it chooses to support. As part of its commitment to Vision. Taken Seriously, and as a responsible and caring retailer, Vision Express is proud to partner with a range of healthcare charities, which have touched the lives of customers and teams. These companies provide vital support to people affected by vision-related conditions. They are part of the Vision Express Charity Project and include:

  • Alzheimer’s Research UK
  • Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT)
  • International Glaucoma Association
  • Macular Society
  • Stroke Association
  • Temple Street University Hospital.

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