Sofia Sees Hope Vision and Mission

Our Vision and Mission

Sofia Sees Hope is a 501c(3) nonprofit patient advocacy organization dedicated to transforming the lives of those affected by blindness caused by rare inherited retinal diseases. Our mission is to generate awareness, raise funds for research, and provide outreach, support and education to those affected by LCA and other rare retinal diseases.

We see a cure for blindness.

Strategic Priorities

YOUR GENEROUS GIFTS TO SOFIA SEES HOPE MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR US TO:

Fund research to treat and cure blindness caused by an inherited retinal disease

Increase public awareness and understanding of inherited retinal diseases and hope for cures

Provide education and resources to LCA families

Increase awareness and resources within the medical community

Support genetic testing and related medical expenses

Our Team

WE’RE A SMALL TEAM WITH BIG HOPES AND PLANS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF THOSE AFFECTED BY BLINDNESS CAUSED BY AN INHERITED RETINAL DISEASE.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

LAURA MANFRE, CHAIR, CO-FOUNDER

Director
Cloud Technology Partners, a Hewlett Packard Company

PATRICIA COAN, VICE CHAIR

Product Manager
Portfolio Development at Eagle Investment Systems

ELIZABETH BORYSEWICZ, SECRETARY

Educational Consultant
State of Connecticut Department of Rehabilitation Services
Bureau of Education Services for the Blind

DANIEL KING, ESQ.

Attorney
Suisman Shapiro Attorneys at Law

GEORGE ADRIAN, O.D.

Owner
Groton Eye Center

CHARLES PRIEBE, CO-FOUNDER

Former Construction Executive

STEPHANIE FILIPPETTI, TREASURER

Senior Accountant
Hoyt, Filippetti & Malaghan, LLC

JEFFREY FINMAN, PH.D.

Independent Consultant
Jupiter Point Pharma Consulting, LLC

SHANDA EASLEY

Program Manager
Thames River Family Program

ADVISORS

JEAN BENNETT, PH.D., M.D.

University of Pennsylvania

LISA CARBERG

Lisa Carberg Communications

ELIZABETH PITE

Beth Pite Consulting

SUSETTE TIBUS

Owner of Simply Majestic

CHARLES BUNNELL

Chief of Staff and External Affairs for Mohegan Tribe

CRISTINA MANFRE

Senior Associate and Partner at Cultural Practice, LLC

EMILY PLACE, M.S., LCGC

Senior Genetic Counselor
Ocular Genomics Institute, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Institute

DAVID WILLIAMS

President and CEO of Make-A-Wish Foundation® of America

FOUNDERS CIRCLE

Elizabeth & George Adrian, O.D.
Eyecare Expressions
The Manfre Family
Mystic Lions Club
Elizabeth Pite & Paul McCary
Franco & Luigi Simeoni
Silvia Bard
Mary Liz James
Laura Manfre & Charles Priebe
Mystic Aquarium
Ruthmary & Edward Priebe
Susette Tibus & Chuck Sneddon
Patricia & Stephen Coan, Ph.D.
Jeanette Jezick, O.D. & Peter Wilbanks
Beth & Mike Mondello
Nancy & Christopher Nagy, Ph.D.
Elisse Rosen & Paul Turetzky
Paula & Dennis Widstrom

STAFF

Danielle Chiaraluce, Chief Operating Officer
Elissa Bass, Director of Marketing & Communications
Rosanne Smyle, Staff Writer
Gina Morin, Design

Our Story

WHEN SOFIA WAS 2, WE KNEW SOMETHING WAS WRONG.

She was a happy and otherwise normal kid, except the more mobile she became, the more she would fall, walk into things, and trip. After a series of visits to doctors and countless tests, Sofia was clinically diagnosed with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA). This rare degenerative genetic condition causes the cones and rods in her retina to deteriorate and eventually they will stop working altogether. She will be totally blind by the time she is an adult.

We were told the best we could hope for was that the disease would progress slowly, and if she were lucky she would retain some perception of light through the end of high school, maybe even into her twenties. Aside from checking her vision every few years to monitor progression, there wasn’t much else to do medically.

We were told if she were ever genetically diagnosed, there might be a chance for treatment. So for more than seven years, we underwent genetic testing in the hopes of determining which of her genes was defective.

sofia playing basketball
EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED

In the summer of 2012, at an LCA family conference, we were told, “Everything has changed. Progress is being made and you will all be able to see in your lifetime.” Thanks to Dr. Eric Pierce and his team at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Institute, Sofia finally received a genetic diagnosis: IQCB1/NPHP5. This is one of nearly 30 genes associated with LCA that have been identified. With this diagnosis, and with the 2017 approval for gene therapy treatment of one LCA gene, RPE65, we now have hope that Sofia won’t necessarily lose all of her sight. In fact, she may even gain sight she never had.

In 2013, working with a few other families, we set ourselves the task of raising funds to develop a cure for blindness caused by Sofia’s gene. Thanks to the generosity of our family, friends and people across the globe we have never even met, we raised more than $47,000 in six months. That enabled us to support two labs working on cures for our gene.

WHY SOFIA SEES HOPE?

Although we raised enough to kick off the first year of research for Sofia’s gene, we knew we couldn’t stop there. In January of 2014, we established a 501(c)3 organization to fund the development of cures not just for Sofia’s gene, but also to support diagnosis, treatment and cures for all children and adults suffering from blindness caused by any of the genes related to LCA. This work also helps those suffering from other rare inherited retinal diseases, including, but not limited to, achromatopsia, choroideremia, Usher syndrome, retinitis pigmentosa and X-linked retinoschisis (also known as juvenile retinoschisis).

We believe that all boats float in a high tide, and as we drive general awareness and provide education and support to families and the medical community we can make a real difference in the lives of those with LCA and other inherited retinal diseases.

In short, Sofia Sees Hope aims to make vision a reality for not only Sofia, but for other children, adults and families who are affected by blindness caused by LCA and other rare inherited retinal diseases.

— Laura Manfre & Charles Priebe

sofia's parents