A CHECT Ambassador was recently the guest of honour at a Vision Express store – boldly cutting off the Store Manager’s long locks to raise money for CHECT.

Gainsborough Store Manager Mary-Ann Smith had planned to have her waist-length hair cut off for the fundraiser when her hairdresser had to cancel at the last minute. Olivia Harrison, age 10 from Doncaster, boldly stepped up to the challenge.

Olivia was diagnosed with the rare eye cancer retinoblastoma when she was just four months old. Around one child per week is diagnosed with the condition in the UK and it mainly affects children under the age of six.

Since 2010, CHECT have partnered with Vision Express to raise awareness of the condition, encouraging parents to get their children’s eyes tested as early diagnosis can help save a child’s sight, eyes and even life. Vision Express was also the first optician in the UK to roll out a protocol to ensure a quick and effective referral if retinoblastoma is suspected. The two main symptoms are a white glow in a child’s eye, seen in photos when a flash is used or in dim lighting, and a squint. Around half of children diagnosed have to have an eye removed as a result of the cancer.

Olivia’s mum Jane said: “Each time Olivia and I take part in an awareness campaign with CHECT, our story is out there in the forefront. It’s great to raise awareness and if it helps another child or family, then as far as I’m concerned that certainly makes it all worthwhile.”

Mary’s hair didn’t go to waste – her long locks were donated to The Little Princess Trust, who provide real hair wigs to children and young people who have lost their hair through cancer treatment and other conditions.

Mary said: “I’m glad I’ve had it done. Through sponsorship, Just Giving and a bake sale with the help of the team here at Vision Express, we raised £413 as well as awareness for CHECT. It also means the world to me that a child somewhere will benefit from my hair. I will admit though, I’m still getting used to my shorter hairdo – my neck does feel a little cold sometimes!”

Patrick Tonks Chief Executive from the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust said: “We are extremely grateful to Mary, Olivia and everyone at the Vision Express Gainsborough store. The money raised will help us to support other families affected by retinoblastoma, as well as increase awareness of this rare and devastating condition.”

Vision Express said: “It was a privilege to welcome Olivia to the store to help raise awareness of retinoblastoma and the wonderful work that CHECT does. Our successful partnership with CHECT is based on a mutual goal and commitment in encouraging parents to have their children’s sight checked regularly and Mary should be very proud of the donation she has made – it will help someone at a particularly tough time.”