Ultra-runner seeks world record to aid global blindness

    TORONTO, Feb. 27 /CNW/ - Everybody knows single moms are always on the
run, but one woman is carrying it to extremes. Calgary ultra-marathoner, Norma
Bastidas, is literally running to the ends of the earth and back in a heroic
fight against global blindness.
    Dubbed the 777 Run for Sight, Norma's quest includes seven grueling
ultra-marathons on seven continents in seven months. She'll cover more than
thirteen hundred kilometres over some of the most forbidding terrain in the
world, from the Alps of Switzerland, to the frozen, windswept expanses of
Antarctica and the sweltering sand dunes of China's Gobi desert.
    If she's successful, Bastidas will be the first person in history to do
it and will win a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. But that's not
her main motivation.
    Two years ago, Bastidas' son Karl, now 14, was diagnosed with cone-rod
dystrophy, a progressive condition that often leads to significant loss of
    While there is currently no cure for her son's condition, Bastidas was
astounded to learn that at least 75 per cent of the world's blindness is
either preventable or treatable. Ninety per cent of the world's blindness
occurs in the developing world, and is largely a result of poverty and lack of
basic public services.
    "People go blind with preventable blindness just because they can't
afford the medicine or there's not a doctor available or from lack of clean
water," says Bastidas. "As a parent I found it unacceptable."
    "The goal of the 777 Run for Sight is to communicate how lucky we are to
have the gift of sight and to share our good fortune with others who aren't so
lucky," says Bastidas. She hopes to raise at least $100,000 for medical
research in Canada and to help Operation Eyesight, a Canadian development
agency, treat and prevent blindness in Africa and south Asia.
    "In the developing world, where life is challenging enough, loss of
eyesight means loss of livelihood and often life itself," says Pat Ferguson,
President & CEO of Operation Eyesight. "Norma's incredible journey will help
draw attention to this growing problem and the money she raises will help our
partners in Africa and south Asia to save the eyesight of many, many people."
    Bastidas sees the ultra marathon experience as a metaphor for the
incredible trials faced every day by the visually impaired.
    "Ultras are tough physically and emotionally," admits Norma, "but the
challenge is only temporary. After I finish an ultra, my life goes back to
normal. But people with visual impairments have to keep overcoming huge
challenges every day of their lives."
    To support the 777 Run for Sight, visit www.normabastidas.com.

    OPERATION EYESIGHT is a Canadian international development organization
dedicated to preventing and treating blindness throughout the world for more
than 40 years, primarily in Asia and Africa. We help local communities provide
comprehensive, sustainable eye care for the people of the world who can least
afford it. Since 1963, Operation Eyesight has helped restore sight to more
than two million people and prevented blindness in nearly 33 million others.
For more information, visit www.operationeyesight.ca.

For further information:

For further information: or interviews contact: Lindsay O'Connor,
Manager International Media/PR, oconnor@operationeyesight.com, 1-800-585-8265,
(416) 438-7280, (647) 585-8265; or Lynn Leduc, Media Representative,
leducl@operationeyesight.ca, (403) 988-9751

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