Happiness is a choice, urges BC woman with vision loss: will walk in CNIB Night Steps to help others reach for the stars


Cherise McGee may see the world in black, white and shades of grey, but she lives in vibrant technicolour. A 34-year-old entrepreneur and mother of three from Langley, Cherise hasn’t let vision loss get in the way of pursuing her dreams.

Following a frustratingly long diagnostic process as a child, Cherise discovered that she has a rare eye condition called achromatopsia that leads to low vision, severe sensitivity to light and the inability to perceive colour. 

“It took a long time to figure out what was going on with me since my condition is very rare,” says Cherise. “It was exasperating in the beginning because no one was listening to me about what I needed. But, by the time I was 14, I found my voice and started to self-advocate.”

And once Cherise found her voice, she hasn’t stopped using it. Now, Cherise volunteers with CNIB to build awareness and raise funds in support of vital vision rehabilitation services for community members living with blindness or partial sight. 

“School was challenging for me because I couldn’t see the blackboard, which put me behind in math and spelling,” recalls Cherise. “Learning to self-advocate was necessary to my academic success, but it’s hard to be perceived as different. I spent a long time pretending that I didn’t have special needs in order to fit in, and to this day I regret doing that.”

Cherise eventually came to CNIB to find some tools and assistive devices that leveled the playing field for her academics. An optical device called a monocular allows Cherise to see what others can up to 100 feet away, and she is an avid user of accessible technologies like the iPhone. 

CNIB helped Cherise obtain funding to offset some of the costs associated with acquiring assistive devices, and she credits this assistance for completing her post-secondary education and starting her own emergency preparedness business that she runs with her husband. 

In addition to being a busy mom and professional, Cherise’s next aspiration is to mentor teens with disabilities. “I know what it’s like to feel lost at that age,” says Cherise. “But, I also know from first-hand experience that it’s possible to overcome the challenges of having a disability – set, and achieve goals.”

Cherise recently completed another bucket list goal when she finished the notoriously difficult Tough Mudder obstacle course in Whistler. “In some ways I overcompensate,” laughs Cherise, “but I think my whole family is better off keeping busy and jumping into every opportunity we can to challenge ourselves.”

So, when Cherise learned about CNIB Night Steps, a 5km fundraising walk under the stars in Surrey on September 26th, she leapt at the chance to form a team and raise funds for a cause very close to her heart. 

“How we experience life comes down to choice,” says Cherise. “I live by the rule that it’s my choice to wake up and feel sorry for myself or not, and I choose happiness.”

To help members of your community who are blind or partially sighted achieve their dreams, register for CNIB Night Steps today at cnibnightsteps.ca​

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