Auger and Auger are proud to announce that Hayden Lovelace has won the Disabled Scholar Award, worth $1,000. When she was just 14, Hayden was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a juvenile form of macular degeneration. This condition is untreatable and caused her to slowly lose her central vision. When Hayden received this diagnosis, it was shocking. She and her mother thought their visit to the optometrist that day would be routine. But when the doctor told her she would never drive and would face other obstacles for the rest of her life, Hayden was ready to throw in the towel. However, instead of letting Stargardt’s keep her down, Hayden rose up to reach accomplishments most thought impossible.
Just two years after her diagnosis, Hayden obtained her driver’s license. In fact, she is able to do most things others can, if not with a little assistance. In school, she relies on her friends and peers to help her find the classrooms, at least until she has her schedule memorized. When she uses her computer, she has to greatly enlarge the text, and her textbooks are all in large print. Since she cannot read anything on a board at the front of the classroom, she needs handouts of everything. Yet, even with these struggles, Hayden has excelled in academia.
Hayden graduated from high school in Tennessee with a 3.8 GPA. This fall, she will start her first semester at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. She has been accepted into the university’s early-entry pharmacy program, and will eventually earn her Doctorate in Pharmacy from Ole Miss. It’s a competitive seven-year journey, made more difficult by Hayden’s vision problems. But Hayden knows she can achieve her goals, if not with a little help. She has always had an interest in the medical field, and pharmacology is an area in which tools can be adapted so she can excel.
Every year, Hayden helps to raise money for the Foundation Fighting Blindness by participating in the Memphis VisionWalk. She first became involved when her mother was researching potential treatment options and found a retinal research specialist in Memphis. Hayden began visiting that doctor, who has been conducting extensive tests to keep up with the progression of her disease. He is also the president of the the Memphis Foundation Fighting Blindness chapter, and explained the VisionWalk to Hayden and her family. This year, they have already exceeded their goal of $2,000 raised.
Though Hayden has overcome many of her struggles by her own strength, she says she wouldn’t be where she is without her parents. They have provided her with all the tools she has needed to succeed, including glasses, magnifiers, a large television and phone and zooming software for her computer. No matter what she needed, her parents were there to help and provide. What’s more, her mother is on the board for the Foundation Fighting Blindness, and has always been proactive in keeping up with doctor’s visits, researching and organizing the VisionWalk team.
“She has taught me that I will be miserable if I sit back and wait for a cure. I have to make the best of my situation, and I would not have done that if it weren’t for my mom,” Hayden says.
Along those lines, Hayden encourages those who struggle with vision impairments to be self-sufficient. There are always alternative methods to accomplishing one’s goals, even without site. In addition, being proactive is crucial. One way in which Hayden pushes forward is with her involvement with the Foundation Fighting Blindness. Each person who makes a team at the VisionWalk is getting researchers a step closer to a cure for macular degeneration, something she hopes to experience in the near future.
Above all, Hayden encourages those who are facing difficulties similar to hers to push forward. As she has learned in the four years since her diagnosis, nothing is accomplished by simply standing still.