About The Founder
My name is Michael Benson and I need your help.
I was born in 1961 with Glaucoma, an eye disease that inevitably steals your vision by damaging the optic nerve. There is no cure for glaucoma, however medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. At that time Dr Aldolph Posner a Madison Avenue, New York City physician performed surgery on both of my eyes. It was recorded in 1961, that I was the youngest baby to have glaucoma surgery in the world, I was less than one week old.
It may be safe to say that having lived with Glaucoma for over 60 years of my life and with the current vision that I still have today is nothing short of a miracle.
I have lived a normal life with very little restrictions. I have had multiple glaucoma surgeries over the years. Having advanced glaucoma has led to and included detached retina surgery as well as cataract surgery. My entire life I have been on a steady regimen of assorted drops as well as oral medication to keep my pressure down and to help prevent another surgery.
It is with certainty and boldness that I say and feel that the quality of my vision is somehow linked into my attitude which is anchored in my faith and belief in Jesus Christ.. I have watched the faces of some of the young residences or assistants over the years preparing my eye exam for the doctor. Sometimes there are comments that are made and my perception of their tone and or voice inflection is one of, wow you have been through a lot. They seem to be taken back by an attitude of gratitude with a comment such as “if someone who is totally blind could take magic drops every day to see they would do it in a heartbeat, I am so blessed.”
Today I am under the care of the Wills Eye Hospital glaucoma team. Dr. George Spaeth is my physician. He is an amazing doctor. He is now 80 years old and shows no signs of slowing down. I was a guest at the 50th Glaucoma Foundation Gala in which he was honored. His speech that evening and the dedication of the foundation to the vision of others has inspired me. One of the other honorees that evening was Dr. L. Jay Katz from Wills who performed my last surgery, just this past year. So yes, I am absolutely grateful for the level of care I have received and am very grateful for my vision. I have never taken my sight for granted.
I am not in denial of the seriousness of my condition, however I am claiming “Vision” for all the days of my life. I have a strong faith and if and when I am asked, how are your eyes doing? I typically answer with, “I will have vision all the days of my life, and a long life, by the way”, then I smile. I can continue discussing this because it is an important element of what I want to share with others however, what has prompted me to start the “Visual Experience Foundation” is a calm still voice inside me that says “You must give it away to keep it.”
This really isn’t about me though. I have had so much opportunity to see amazing things throughout my life and because of the threat of blindness all my life I have looked at things differently. I know someone who lost their vision just five years ago, I will keep him nameless, yet he has impacted me tremendously without really knowing it. He knew he had little time left to see. And I was just being me one day and I started to tell him that he should go do this or that or go see this or go see that. Due to my condition I have made traveling, the arts, concerts, sporting events etc. a priority for my life. I want to see all I can. He responded to me by saying, “I don’t have any money to do those things Michael”. My heart dropped. He was already wearing dark glasses and knew he was out of time. I can’t explain all the feelings I felt that day or feel when I see him today. I can tell you that this is very personal and emotional for me. I am brought to tears just writing this. His blindness came on quick and was unstoppable.
I have had the fortune of riding an elephant in Thailand, visiting the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, walked the streets of Shanghai in China. I have seen amazing fish while scuba diving in Hawaii, zip lined in Costa Rica and skied the bowls in Vail. I have let the mist hit my face at Niagra Falls and stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon. I have had the opportunity to watch a friend perform at Carnegie Hall, taken in Times Square after a Broadway show. I called a Derek Jeter home run to my son right before he hit one at Yankee stadium. I have sat center court at a Spurs game in San Antonio and watched live bull riding at the rodeo. I have seen my favorite performer Bruce Springsteen countless times.
I can continue on because my life has been a full life of visual experiences. I have been experiencing and making visual memories for many years and I feel it is time I share this gift with others. I “burn it”, and want to have others have the same experience and burn into their memory an amazing sight or experience.
Burn it! Is a self-talk statement that I have been making to myself for years. Everywhere I go I take extra time to stare at a visual image and say the words “burn it” and I close my eyes and open them again and burn the recording in my soul during my experiences. I am later able to close my eyes and tell you the temperature, the feel of the wind and in some cases smell of something.
I know that there are others going through these same visual challenges and the outcome has not been so great. The Visual Experience Foundation is about taking people who are losing their sight to have a visual experience that will last beyond their physical sight. Some have never seen a Broadway show or a Springsteen concert, I have seen many. It is time to give back and I need your help.
I hope that by reading my story it has opened you up to a concept that will provide precious, unforgettable memories for someone who is losing their sight. I cannot do this alone. Life goes by in a blink, especially for someone whose vision is deteriorating. It is time to give back and make a difference. Having glaucoma is difficult and sometimes when I blink I wonder if my vision just changed.
I want to see and take in as much as I can. I want to provide the opportunity for others who do not have the means to see and experience some of life’s most beautiful and amazing things. I want to take them somewhere that they have always wanted to go and see and give them the memory of that experience. This is especially important when the reality is, they are going blind and soon maybe without vision.
If you knew you were losing your sight would you look at things differently? Would you go see something or someone you wanted to see? Would you feel the urgency?
Donate, become a monthly partner, become a volunteer, share our message on your social media, refer a friend that needs to go on a visual experience, share in someone else’s visual dream. I believe that if you are reading this then you are meant to be involved.
Thank you for taking the time to read this it was not easy to write.
May you continue to see all the days of your life and never take your sight for granted.