Faces Of Kansas City: Jeff Benelli 10-21-2010 - KCTV5

Faces Of Kansas City: Jeff Benelli 10-21-2010

Doctors say a person with normal eyesight should have a 180-degree field of vision that allows them to see basically from ear to ear. Imagine what life would be like if that field of vision was narrowed down to just 2 percent.
Last weekend, thousands of people flooded the downtown streets for the Kansas City Marathon, including the subject of this week's "Faces Of Kansas City," Jeff Benelli.
"I'm juiced -- I'm ready to go," he said before the race. "It's a long hard seven months of training all coming to a head right now."
Benelli is legally blind, so running in a marathon presents all kinds of problems.
"As you can see, there's a lot of people," he said. "I can barely see bobbing heads. I'm scared for the first few miles."

To fully appreciate Benelli's accomplishments, one has to go back to when he started having problems with his vision. Benelli said when he was in his late 20s he started bumping into things and he has the pictures to prove it.
"I though I was having blackouts because I couldn't explain how I would run into something then look back at it and see it clear as day," he said.
Benelli, from Overland Park, was diagnosed with the rare genetic disorder choroideremia. The disease robs men of their eyesight by the time they are 50.
"You go through the 'poor me' phase, obviously early on," he said.
In a breakthrough, researchers recently discovered how to cure choroideremia. But like a punch to the gut, Benelli found out that the researchers are less than $1 million short in funding, which means the project has stalled. It comes at a point when Benelli is running out of time.
"If that could happen, I could actually keep enough sight to read," he said. "I turn 50 in five years. Maybe I see a little bit after 50 but in the next five to seven years I won't be able to tell day from night."
And that is why Jeff Benelli runs. After discovering he was pretty good at it, he realized he could raise money to help find a cure for choroideremia.
Benelli has been featured in magazines and he's run the Boston Marathon -- all while running for a purpose.
"I'm going to look back and say I gave this phase of my life everything I could," he said. "Not necessarily for myself, but for my nephew and for others who are potentially going to be affected by this."
Benelli's 11-year-old nephew was recently diagnosed with choroideremia.
Benelli finished the Kansas City Marathon in three hours and 11 minutes.
To help Benelli's effort, go to Jeff Benelli.com.
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