Kate Winslet donates thousands to help girl with rare eye condition | Ents & Arts News

Jan 23, 2024 | Entertainment, News


Oscar winner Kate Winslet has donated thousands of pounds to help a young girl with a rare eye condition.

The British actress, best known for films including Titanic and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, and thriller series Mare Of Easttown, sent the donation and left a message for Lily-Rae Merchant-O’Hanlon on a GoFundMe page set up by her mother, Emma Merchant.

Lily-Rae, 11, from Nottingham, was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, an inherited eye condition which causes blurriness in the central part of the eye, in December.

Kate Winslet poses for photographers upon arrival at the Vogue World event on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023 in London. (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)
Image:
Pic: Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

The condition affects one in 10,000 people according to the Macular Society, and the 11-year-old is using a cane and learning braille as her sight is deteriorating.

Ms Merchant set up the fundraiser to arrange for Lily-Rae to see “the things she wants to see” before her sight gets worse – with the Northern Lights top of her list.

The pair were overwhelmed to see a £5,000 donation and a personal message from Winslet.

‘I can have mental memories’

“We were shocked,” said Lily-Rae. “We were both in tears.”

She said she hopes “to see the world” with her mother before her vision deteriorates, “and I can just have mental memories and also muscle memories of all the different experiences”.

Ms Merchant, 45, an executive assistant and DJ, said: “We’re very overwhelmed. The donations we’ve had have been absolutely appreciated.

“To have somebody such as Kate Winslet… I cannot explain how much I respect that woman as an actress, let alone now as an individual as a human being, to be so generous.

“She sent a lovely message as well. To have made it so personal was just so special.”

Lily-Rae Merchant-O'Hanlon, 11, has Stargardt disease, an inherited eye condition affecting vision in the central part of her eyes

Winslet’s message to Lily-Rae

On GoFundMe, Winslet wrote: “Wishing Lily-Rae some magical adventures so she can make many special memories to treasure! With lots of Love, Kate Winslet and family.”

The donation “means the world”, Ms Merchant said, “because I can’t do this on my own”.

Ms Merchant noticed Lily-Rae’s poor eyesight when she was just five, as she struggled to read at school.

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The youngster was diagnosed with juvenile macular dystrophy in 2023, with the family receiving confirmation “a few weeks ago” that she has Stargardt disease.

Ms Merchant described the diagnosis as life-changing.

“Now it’s all about what we can do together and have those memories,” she said. “I want to live for today. We both live for today.”



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