Apr 7, 2024

Spotlight on Volunteers: Carol Lithwick

As part of our 50th anniversary, we are paying tribute to the community members, families and volunteers who helped to light the path along the way. Today we celebrate Carol Lithwick: volunteer, fundraiser, advocate, activist, mom.

For close to 30 years, I worked at the Carleton Board of Education (after amalgamation it became the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board). During my employment at the school board I became the Chief Psychologist and Manager of the Special Services Dept. I had many different responsibilities, including conducting assessments on children who had, for example, learning disabilities, others who were on the autism spectrum and/or those who had special learning disabilities along those who had visual and/or auditory challenges. Part of my role was to assist parents in accepting their child as a unique person with his/her own individual needs along with giving parents strategies on how to develop acceptance and resiliency in their child.

Image of Carol Lithwick
Carol Lithwick

As a professional who spent most of her entire career assisting parents to accept and, subsequently, to develop strategies on how best to parent a child who had individual challenges, I had to learn to deal with my own concerns when our son, Stuart, was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a genetic eye disorder of the eye that may cause severe vision loss and or/ blindness. Our son was diagnosed while he was doing graduate work at the University of Toronto in medical and molecular genetics. He was looking at continuing graduate work and was hoping to be an optometrist.

I remember the day of his diagnosis as if it was yesterday: November 10, 2003, to be exact. He went to see an optometrist to find out about the profession and, while he was in her office, he asked to have his eyes assessed. The optometrist in Toronto took one look at his eyes and said, “You’ll will never be an optometrist because you have retinitis pigmentosa.” That was the defining moment not just for our son but for our entire family and our circle of friends. As a post script, Stuart successfully completed a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto and is doing very well. From the moment of his diagnosis my life changed significantly. Advocacy for those living with vision loss became part of my heart and my soul, not only for my son, but for the other 1.2 million Canadians living with vision loss.

One way I advocate is by volunteering at fundraising activities in support of innovative vision loss research. In 2013, I started to participate in Cycle for Sight, a major fundraising event that was initiated by Fighting Blindness Canada, and I was asked to chair the first Cycle for Sight committee in Ottawa. It gave me an outlet for my passion and a platform to inform people about the challenges faced by people living with vision loss.

I’ve been participating and volunteering with Fighting Blindness Canada now for many years, and I encourage everyone to participate in this year’s new peer-to-peer virtual fundraising event, MOVE FOR SIGHT on June 23.

We thank Carol for her passion, advocacy and volunteerism over the years. It’s because of volunteers like her that Fighting Blindness Canada has provided $45M to fund vision loss education and research.

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