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Taking a swing for sight
by Nick Mason
Jan 19, 2012 | 1794 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Andrew Steines and his drumsticks snuggle up with his stepmother, Rachael, at their home in Carver.
Andrew Steines and his drumsticks snuggle up with his stepmother, Rachael, at their home in Carver.
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Andrew Steines will be in the spotlight at noon Saturday with his new friends in the city of Carver.

The 9-year-old boy will be the star of the Soggy Bottom III golf tournament, sponsored by the Carver Lions Club and Carver Fire & Rescue Department.

“I get the first swing. That is awesome,” he said.

Andrew will open the 18-hole tournament with a ceremonial shot, hitting a yellow tennis ball with a hockey stick. He was given that honor because the third annual Soggy Bottom event was crafted to raise money to pay some of his expensive vision tests.

Andrew is a typical boy in many ways, but his vision is becoming limited because of a macular problem first noticed last fall.

“I’ve been seeing Andrew as a regular patient since 2009,” said Chaska optometrist Dr. Stacey Ulrick. “At his last exam in October 2011, I noticed his vision had decreased. He was not seeing 20-20 anymore. He was two lines down on the eye chart, about 20-30. It’s not usual for a young person to have a vision decrease like that.

“When I looked inside his eyes, I did see a change I hadn’t noticed in prior years,” she said. “The change was in the look of the macula. It’s part of the retina that is your central vision area. It has the highest concentration of rods and cones. It takes care of detail focus.”

Following a visit with a retina specialist, Andrew went to the University of Minnesota for treatment. The diagnostic focus now centers on retinitis pigmentosa or a genetic disorder.

“Most people do not go completely blind, but just lose a significant amount of vision,” Rachael Steines said, of retinitis pigmentosa.

SCHOOL AND PLAY

At home in Carver, Andrew is among four boys and three girls, including a twin sister, Emily. He is a fourth-grade student at East Union Elementary School.

“Lunch, recess and going home,” Andrew said when asked his favorite part of school. With a little prodding from his stepmother, Rachael, he expanded his answer.

“I don’t like anything of math,” he said. “I like a little bit of art. The only thing I like about music is the drums.”

Andrew plays a child’s drum set on a music synthesizer, builds cars and army tanks with LEGO pieces, enjoys video games and wrestles on the floor with older brother Anthony. His declining vision was apparent as he demonstrated doing math homework, sitting within two feet of a television screen to see large print displayed on the School District 112 website.

Steines and her husband, Peter, want to “create memories” for Andrew by having him see as many sights and places as possible in case his vision continues to decline.

“It’s one of the things I’ve thought about,” she said. “I want him to see how big an ocean is. There are so many things that are visual. It’s something I’ve thought about, but we haven’t talked to him yet.”

The Steines are educating themselves about vision disorders. She is used to talking about medical conditions in her job as a nurse for Hiawatha Home Care, a private duty nursing firm in Red Wing.

“I work with kids and adults, and I work with disabilities all the time,” she said. “It makes it easier for me to understand what the doctors are talking about. I know what to do to get us where we need to go. I know where to go to get the information we need.”

Steines contacted the Carver Lions Club because she knew the organization is dedicated to preserving vision and helping people with sight disorders. Andrew’s sophisticated testing is expensive and not covered by the family’s health insurance, she said.

“They’ve been just amazing,” she said of the Carver Lions. “Their generosity has just blown Peter and me away.”

LIONS CLUB

Andrew attended a Carver Lions Club meeting and captured the hearts of club members, said Tim Craig, the club’s vice presi-dent and co-chair of the Soggy Bottom III golf event.

“He looks like every kid I ever played with when I was his age,” Craig said. “He may or may not know what he is going through, but it doesn’t seem to affect him. It wasn’t woe is me. It wasn’t you need to help me. It was I’m just a kid running down the street.

“He asked when he can come back to the Lions meeting so he can play with the puppies,” Craig said. “We have two puppies [for guide dog training].”

Lions Club members decided to earmark their 50 percent share of Soggy Bottom III proceeds to benefit Andrew. Craig said the goal is $2,900, but he expects to surpass that if the weather cooperates to produce a large turnout of winter golfers.

“It’s gotten a little bigger this year than we thought it was going to be,” Craig said. “When you have something people can see and touch and feel, it has an impact. That is pretty cool.

“It’s fun to get to do something like this,” he said. “We send so much money to different Lions clubs or send money to Japan to help tsunami victims. It’s nice to be able to do something for someone I drive past every day. That is the whole thing. When you see somebody that young whose sight is getting affected, it’s a different thing, it’s a different feeling.”

Carver Fire Chief Dan Meyer said the fire department voted unanimously to also give its 50 percent share of Soggy Bottom III proceeds to the Steines family. “The fire department is not in serious need of money. We would like to give something back to the community,” Meyer said. “We felt it would be better for it to go to somebody who really needed it.”

“Whatever is raised is a blessing,” Rachael Steines said. “I think Andrew’s going to have a ball [at Soggy Bottom III], and that is most important. Right now, it’s about creating memories for him.”

Andrew Steines Benefit

What: The “Soggy Bottom III” golf tourney will be a benefit for Carver 9-year-old Andrew Steines, who has a disease attacking his sight. Soggy Bottom stocking caps included with price. Winter golfers may register for Soggy Bottom III at the Carver Lions Club website or at Riverside Park the day of the event.

Time: Noon, Saturday, Jan. 21

Cost: $20; $5 for ages under 12 (kids’ course)

Location: Riverside Park, 300 Main Street East, Carver

Info: caringbridge.org/visit/andrewsight; www.carverlions.org

* Peter and Rachael Steines have opened an account at Wells Fargo Bank to accept donations for Andrew’s vision disorder diagnosis and treatment. Contributors may visit any Wells Fargo branch and donate to “Andrew’s Sight Donation Fund.”
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