Last week into the early part of this week, a community rallied around a local 15-year-old boy, donating more than $16,500 as of Wednesday morning to a gofundme page designed to raise funds for breakthrough new technology that would allow Caleb Conner, legally blind since birth, to see.
Caleb was born at just 25 weeks old, weighing less than two pounds and required a 14-week stay in neonatal intensive care to stabilize a number of dangerous health situations.
He survived those tough first few months, but due to retinopathy of prematurity, Caleb was left completely blind in his right eye and severely nearsighted in his left eye, stripping him of most of his peripheral vision and all of his depth perception.
Lack of 20/20 vision aside, Caleb has lived a mostly normal life thanks, according to those who know him, to an abundance of spirit. Sheri Conner, a teacher at Ocean City Elementary School, called her son “a remarkable young man” and a “phenomenal student” with an aptitude for computer science and biology.
His teachers at Stephen Decatur High School rave about his positive outlook, she said, and marvel at his ability to perform on a high level for the school’s cross country and track teams.
Conner and her husband, Robert, recently traveled with their son to Philadelphia to test eSight glasses, a device that combines a digital camera and advances in computer and display technology to deliver real-time streaming video to the device’s wearer, essentially enabling sight for people with severe vision loss.
The results of the test-flight, Conner said, were amazing.
“Caleb was able to see details on a car across the hotel parking lot, read the exit sign on the other side of the hotel lobby and order a caramel macchiato from a menu board,” she wrote on the gofundme page.
“He even commented on the high calorie count! He didn’t want to get his hopes up prior to the demonstration, but he was rendered speechless from the results. We were moved to tears.”
When the Conners found out their insurance would not cover the glasses, they turned to the popular crowdfunding website, and asked the community to help.
Several local organizations rallied behind the Conners, including the Ocean City Hotel-Motel Restaurant Association where Executive Director Susan Jones jumped on the cause because of her relationship with the extended family, who owns and operates the Captain’s Table in Ocean City.
“Caleb is a dear, dear kid. They are part of the restaurant family and their family has been in the restaurant business for 50 years,” Jones said. “Their campaign also hit home to me because I’m the mother of two teenage kids. It just tugged on my heartstrings.”
In just over seven days, the Conners had surpassed their goal, raising $16,685 as of Wednesday afternoon.
Jones, who reposted and emailed the gofundme page to friends and clients, said she was elated by the community’s response to the Conner’s campaign.
“It’s obvious that we live in an amazing community because everybody looks out for everybody else,” she said. “I was thrilled to hear the Conner family reached their goal. The outpouring of love and support our community provides is one of the many great reasons we all choose to call this place home.”
For more information visit www.gofundme.com/r35n9hw.