Fundraiser for retinal blindness planned at park

SALEM – An event to raise funds for the Curing Retinal Blindness Foundation will combine bicycling with a popular word game on Sept. 22, kicking off at Centennial Park and ending at Waterworth Memorial Park.

Participants in the “CRBF Scrabble Run” will collect scrabble pieces along the way and win prizes for the words they can form at the end of the ride, with even more activities planned to close out the event.

The Salem Parks Commission gave permission for the use of the parks to event organizer and CRBF member Kim Hoffman, a Salem resident whose 7-year-old daughter Olivia suffers from a rare, degenerative retinal disease known as Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis, which can eventually cause blindness.

Hoffman pitched her idea during the commission meeting Wednesday, explaining that CRBF is a group of families trying to raise money for research regarding the rare CRB1 gene which afflicts just 300 children in the United States, including Olivia, a first-grader at Buckeye Elementary School. Hoffman and her husband, Mike, have been dealing with the diagnosis since their daughter was 4 1/2 and joined the CRBF as a means to learn from other families dealing with the disease which has no cure and to raise money for research. They have two other children.

Hoffman said plans call for registration and the kickoff to take place at Centennial Park, then follow a route to Waterworth Memorial Park where there will be food available and other family fun activities. She said she wanted to have it the same weekend as the Family Fun Day in Salem, which is set for Sept. 21.

Both commission Chairman John Panezott and commissioner Terry Hoopes expressed safety concerns about having participants travel along city streets to get from one park to the other.

Hoffman said she talked with city Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst about a route and he said he was okay with that and offered the use of auxiliary police for traffic control. She said they’ll charge a per person fee for participants and possibly a fee for families to participate, along with having donation jars available.

Plans call for the formation of a committee to cover everything they’ll need and she said they’re already working on recruiting volunteers. She spoke with the Canfield Lions Club and she’s making contact with the Salem Lions Club. They’ll also be seeking business sponsorships and donations and designing T-shirts for the event.

“It sounds like a good project – an ambitious project,” Hoopes said.

To learn more about the foundation, visit and visit the group’s Facebook page. The Hoffman family is featured under the families section. Olivia also has her own Facebook page at Eyes for Olivia. Anyone wanting to volunteer to help with the event can contact Hoffman at

In other business, the commission gave permission for the Salem Historical Society to go on park grounds to make repairs to the Old City Hall Bell, which sits at the entrance to Centennial Park at State Street. City Council President Mickey Cope Weaver came to the meeting as a representative of the Salem Historical Society.

The bell forged in 1882 by the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, Md. was a fixture at Salem’s old city hall from 1882 to 1952. The bell was moved to its current location in 1954 by the Salem Historical Society and dedicated in June 1956 during the Salem Sesquicentennial in memory of Miss Alice MacMillan.

“We feel a responsibility to repair it,” she said.

She said they’ll cover the costs and have all the work done, with plans to complete the project before planting season.

“That truly is a landmark. It’s good for the historical society, the city and the park,” Hoopes said.

Panezott thanked the Salem Historical Society for taking charge and getting the repairs done.

Park Foreman Jim Grimm reported the maintenance crew has been picking up trash, mending fences, trimming trees, inspecting playground equipment, working on the nature trail at Waterworth and reorganizing the storage building at Kelley Park. He said they’ve also been working on the grills at the parks and Hickey Fabricating has offered to donate some parts needed for the repairs.

Recreation Supervisor Shane Franks gave his first report, noting he moved his office upstairs from the basement of the Memorial Building and said the yard sale held last weekend went well. He said softball leagues are coming up and he’s hoping to re-establish the slo-pitch mens summer softball league.

Parks Director Steve Faber announced he’ll be targeting April 16 as the opening day for fishing at the Salem Lake on Gamble Road. He also released dates for events scheduled at the parks this summer, with the Summer Concert Series on most Sundays from Memorial Day to Labor Day at Memorial, Relay for Life June 14 and 15 at Memorial, a car cruise on June 21 at Centennial in conjunction with the Salem Super Cruise, Summer Arts & Crafts Bazaar on June 22 at Centennial, girls softball tournament June 28, 29 and 30 at Memorial, Salem City fireworks July 3 at Memorial, Kiwanis Antique Show and Sale July 20 at Centennial and the CRBF Scrabble Run Sept. 22 at Centennial and Waterworth.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at