Diana Flory and her husband are raising money to help Jeanyth Richard of St. Lucia save her eyesight. The youth suffers from a degenerative eye disease, keratoconus.
SEMINOLE – Diana Flory is getting a room in her house ready for the arrival of “Nicey,” a 12-year-old St. Lucia girl who is losing her eyesight.
Diana and her husband, Edward, are ecstatic that they have raised enough money for Jeanyth Richard to undergo the initial treatment from a California specialist for the girl’s degenerative eye disease, keratoconus.
“I’m like an expectant grandmother,” Flory said Sept. 6.
Richard has an appointment Wednesday, Sept. 18, with Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler, in Beverly Hills, Calif. The specialist pioneered the Holcomb C3-R procedure that is named after Steve Holcomb, an Olympic bobsledder who was legally blind due to keratoconus until Wachler treated him.
The Florys need to obtain a medical visa for Richard to stay with them at their Seminole home for six months as she undergoes treatment, but Diana doesn’t expect any problems because Wachler sent a compelling letter to immigration official’s on the child’s behalf.
Through fundraising, the Florys have collected enough money, $7,400, to pay for the cost for the first procedure, which is expected to stop the progression of the disease and prevent her corneas from rupturing.
The cost of the second part of the procedure, which includes the surgical insertion of the corneal implants, is $9,400. The Florys hope to raise more money to pay for that procedure and other costs associated with Richard staying with them.
As a member of the First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks Beach, Flory went to St. Lucia on a mission trip in 2007 and first met Richard at a church function.
Though she is bright and does well in school, Richard’s loss of vision in the past 15 months has changed her life, Flory said. Her friends and classmates refuse to play with her because she is considered different. Her parents also are excited that the youth will get treatment and supportive of plans to bring her to Seminole.
A garage sale is planned for Saturday, Sept. 14, at 13944 Danielle Court, Seminole, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with all proceeds going toward Flory’s airfare. Donors can call Diana at 392-1647. The Florys also say that miles can be donated for Richard’s flights.
Flory said a Belleair Bluffs resident who attends her church read the article in Tampa Bay Newspapers about Richard and bought five tickets for a benefit concert that was held in July.
When Edward Flory gave the man the tickets, which cost $10 each, he gave Flory “a one hundred dollar bill and said, ‘Keep it.’ ”
The donation that moved Diana the most was from a girl about Nicey’s age at New to You, a thrift store on Seminole Boulevard where Diana volunteers.
“She handed me her allowance and came in a week later with her grandpa. And she said, ‘Grandpa, donate your change for Nicey.’ ”
People are taking the youth to heart, she said, through donating and offering words of encouragement and prayer.
“It’s just been amazing. I always heard it takes a village to raise a child. The community coming together,” Flory said.