By Kristina Houck
As a breast cancer survivor who was also diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Ann Romney is a health advocate. She and her family recently returned from a mission trip to Peru, where they worked with eye doctors to conduct vision screenings in remote villages in the Andes.
To support breast cancer and vision research, the wife of presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was the keynote speaker at a Dec. 9 local fundraiser.
“It’s an extraordinary thing to see how none of us really escape a lot of pain when we live on this earth,” said Romney to the crowd at the “Visions of Success: From Research to Reality” holiday high tea at The Grand Del Mar in Carmel Valley.
Romney gave a short speech and was later interviewed by Channel 10 news anchor Bill Griffith, who co-emceed the event with fellow anchor Kimberly Hunt. Griffith and Susie Spanos, both breast cancer survivors, also served as honorary chairs of the event.
Romney, who owns a home in La Jolla, attended the event with one of her five sons, as well as two daughters-in-law and two granddaughters. She said her family supported her through her cancer battle in 2008, as well as her multiple sclerosis diagnosis in 1998.
“Life is so precious,” Romney said. “You really feel like it might just get ripped out from underneath you. You realize how much you want to hang onto life and how you want to hang onto moments. You realize what’s important in life.”
Rancho Sante Fe resident Vivian Hardage and Wanda Garner served as co-chairs of the event, which was hosted by The Vision of Children Foundation. Hardage and her husband, Samuel Hardage, established the foundation in 1991, after their son was diagnosed with ocular albinism, a genetic vision disorder. The organization funds research to cure hereditary childhood blindness and other vision disorders.
As a three-time breast cancer survivor, Hardage is also an advocate for breast cancer research.
“I am grateful for each new day,” Hardage said. “I tell my story to pretty much anyone who will listen. In doing so, I hope people will understand the critical need for medical research for both breast cancer and vision disorders. It has become my passion, and in my mind, my reason for still being here. My vision of success is translating research into reality.”
Romney praised the couple for their efforts.
“Thank you, Vivian and Sam, for all that you do to raise awareness and to raise money for cures,” Romney said.
“She’s trying to find a cure for others. It may not be her turn to be helped by the cure, but it may be one of your daughters’ turns to be helped by the cure,” Romney told the audience.
The holiday tea featured a live auction, opportunity drawings and a fashion show. Nine of the 10 models were breast cancer survivors. The event raised more than $250,000, which will benefit The Vision of Children Foundation and the American Cancer Society.
For more information about The Vision of Children Foundation, visit www.visionofchildren.org.
For more information about the American Cancer Society, visit www.cancer.org.
Most photos/Jon Clark. Photos featuring Ann Romney/ Bill Keane.