Standing on a ledge at the top of the Holiday Inn in downtown Lancaster on Friday with the sun beating down, I shook with excitement and fear as I prepared to rappel down the side of the 10-story building.

But it was for a good cause: VisionCorps’ third annual Eye Drop fundraiser that benefits people who are blind or experiencing vision loss. Founded in 1926, the nonprofit works to empower people who are blind or vision impaired to attain independence.

The fundraiser has raised nearly $130,000 of its $175,000 goal for this year, and donations continue to be accepted at give.visioncorps.net.

Friday was Mike Hora’s third time rappelling as part of the Eye Drop fundraiser. He was diagnosed with glaucoma when he was 26. Doctors told him he would be completely blind by the time he was 60.

Now 66 and living in Leola, Hora helped raise $2,000 for this year’s fundraiser. He isn’t totally blind, but he does have some vision issues.

Hora and his cousin Daryck Fickle formed a team dubbed “American Ninja Walleyes” and rappelled together down the side of the hotel.

Hora is an advocate for National Industries for the Blind and has been to Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., to talk about blindness and vision loss with policy makers. He said he was humbled that people are taking notice of VisionCorps and by the comments from people calling him an inspiration.

“For me, (VisionCorps) has never asked me for a dime, and I know what it costs to receive a lot of this rehab,” he said in a June 3 interview. “(Eye Drop is) a way of me giving back. When you lose your eyesight, it’s not like your life ends. In fact, it starts over.”

Hora said the fundraiser is a way of giving back to the community. Vision loss does not discriminate against anybody, he said, because everybody knows somebody that has experienced some vision loss.

‘They have done so much for me’

Friday would have been Jeff Hosetter’s first time rappelling down the downtown Holiday Inn as part of Eye Drop, but an illness caused him to miss the event.

During the same June 3 interview with Hora, Hosetter talked about losing his vision.

Hosetter, 55, said he worked in the security business his whole life and started losing his vision when he was around 48 years old. He recalled a day he was having trouble seeing at work and how he almost collided with a horse and buggy on his way home from work.

“I swear it wasn’t there, but it was, and I knew that was the time,” Hosetter said of that day. “I had to call my wife to get me because I can’t see and I don’t know what is going on.”

He said he went to his doctor and learned he had degenerative vision problems that were hereditary.

Hosetter recalled becoming depressed and going through a “gloomy, dark period” because of his condition. That’s when he found VisionCorps, where he now gets rehabilitation and works on manufacturing helmets for soldiers.

“We can do the same thing a sighted person can do,” Hosetter said. “We just have to figure out a different angle to come in at it sometimes. We get the job done. We can do anything anybody else can do.”

Hosetter said VisionCorp helped him apply for a seeing eye dog, and the nonprofit also provides him with occupational therapy at his home.

“They bend over backwards for you,” Hosetter said. “They take the time if you have a problem, even if they are busy or scheduled to do something else, they take at least a few minutes with you or find somebody else. They are right there for us and that is one of the reasons why I wanted to do the Eye Drop because they have done so much for me.”

Having a goal to be independent even with his vision problems, Hosetter still goes bowling, hikes, kayaks, plays bingo at a church, cooks, takes the bus, and washes his clothes. He knows third-grade level braille and he is planning on taking his future seeing eye dog along with him on all his adventures.

‘A great cause’

Lancaster Chamber president and CEO Tom Baldrige was one of the more than 80 people scheduled to rappel down the downtown hotel Friday.

Baldrige, who is retiring from the Chamber effective June 24, said he felt “great” after reaching the ground.

“Once you get started it's almost fun, except that I was ready to get to the ground as soon as I started at the top,” Baldrige said. “As I started going down, I was getting more and more nervous. There’s no turning back at this point. However, (Eye Drop is) a great cause. That’s why I did it.”

As I looked toward the ground and saw the people waving and cheering, I thought I could never be as brave as some of the people that were going off the ledge.

I wasn’t nervous before dangling in the air, but standing on the edge of the hotel was really scary. I kept asking the woman holding my support rope at the top if she was holding me tight enough. Fear took over me until I got the hang of things.

Kevin Gannon, 61, who runs VisionCorps shipping and receiving department in Lancaster, rappelled down on the other rope with me. Telling me how scared he was to me all morning, he quickly rappelled down the building passing me with ease.

Taking that first step was one of the biggest risks I’ve ever taken, but the rest of the experience was very worth it.

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