Parents Have Added Rome to 'Visual Bucket List' for Their 5-Year-Old Daughter Gradually Losing Her Vision
Turkish Airlines is giving free plane tickets to the family of a girl with deteriorating vision to visit Rome before she loses her sight
After being diagnosed with Usher syndrome Type II, a rare condition that causes hearing loss and gradual vision loss, Elizabeth “Lizzy” Myers, 5, and her family have added an international destination to their visual bucket list before she loses her sight completely.
Thanks to the kindness of a PEOPLE reader, next spring the family of four will head to one of the most visually stimulating cities in the world: Rome.
The Myers family was contacted by a rep from Turkish Airlines with an offer for four paid, round-trip tickets to any destination of their choosing.
They picked “the eternal city” for its art, religion and familial connection.
“My wife is Italian and her family is from a small town south of Rome,” Steve Myers, 42, tells PEOPLE. “It is the perfect destination. We are Catholic, plus Lizzy loves art, so we want to take her to see all the great masterpieces.”
Tuncay Eminoglu, general manager of Turkish Airlines’ Chicago office, saw Lizzy’s story on People.com last week and immediately wanted to help the young girl see exotic sights before her world goes dark.
“Lizzy’s story reminds us all how important it is to experience new things and push the limits beyond what you know,” he tells PEOPLE. “We wanted to make sure she didn’t miss the opportunity.”
The family is extremely grateful for the outpouring of support from the community. Steve says there have been many other offers to help Lizzy complete her visual bucket list from people all over the world.
“We had one gentleman offer to take us out on his boat to watch a sunset on the Atlantic Ocean,” he says. “Another guy was willing to take Lizzy, knowing she loves science, down to Florida to look for shark teeth and other fossils.
“But we didn’t start this visual bucket list for that reason,” he says. “We just really want Lizzy to remember what this world looks like, before she can’t see it anymore. We encourage parents who think their children might have Usher’s disease to do this, too.”
For now, Lizzy’s eyesight remains intact, but Steve compares her disease to an hourglass – “it’s hard to tell how fast or slow it’s going.”
His daughter’s vision loss could occur over decades, or she could go completely blind within a few years.
“We have talked about doing a road trip to the Grand Canyon or to Yosemite, and we might,” he says, “but to us it’s the little things, the normal things, I want her to remember too catching lightning bugs, watching a sunset, going to the zoo.
“I think it’s those repetitive things that she loves right now that are going to stick in her mind.”