Atlantan Karen Garber Shulman and her husband Matt understand what it means to be a friend where distance is not a barrier. They are supporting their University of Arizona college friend Jared Root and his wife Rachel who have a personal family mission that spans the miles.
The Roots are parents of a 9-year-old son Zachary, who was born deaf and has a genetic disease that affects Jewish children. This New Jersey Jewish family brainstormed the idea with their friends to raise awareness and funds for research into Zachary’s condition. They created the Cereal Challenge, which offers a small taste of what life might soon be like for Zachary. The challenge, sweeping social media, asks people to blindfold themselves and make a bowl of cereal.
Zachary was born with Usher Syndrome Type 1F, which is the leading cause of inherited deaf/blindness. Zachary’s father Jared Root said, “Usher 1F is one of the 19 Ashkenazi Jewish genetic diseases on the standard testing panel for young Jewish couples. Approximately 2 percent of all Ashkenazi Jews carry the mutation.”
The #Usher1Fcerealchallenge tries to raise awareness about the syndrome and funds in a race against time to find a cure. The Shulman family along with many other families in the Atlanta Jewish community are supporting the Roots, including those at The Epstein School.
The challenge the Roots created of pouring cereal is quite ordinary for most, but a daunting task for Zachary, who will progressively lose his vision over time. Kellogg’s initially donated $10,000 and then also offered to donate $100 for anyone who does the challenge with either Rice Krispies or Fruit Loops, takes a video, posts to Instagram and tags them.
Shulman, an Epstein parent, said, “My husband Matt, who is on the Usher 1F board, and I are dedicated to this important endeavor. We are proud of the Epstein community that both teaches and inspires our kids to care for others and give back. I know the Roots feel incredibly supported by our efforts.”
David Welsher, Epstein’s associate head of school and elementary school principal, was so moved by the challenge himself, he joined in and even FaceTimed Zachary to get to know him. “I had the honor to meet Zachary and his dad. Here is an amazing young man, going through a unique challenge, and yet his spirit couldn’t be higher. He is making changes, inspiring others, and raising awareness all through this cereal challenge. I am beyond proud of him.”
Susanna Ames, Epstein’s middle school principal, also had her students participate. Head of School David Abusch-Magder, added, “I’m so excited to challenge myself and others to see the end of usher 1F and make sure the leading cause of deaf-blindness is in the rear view for all humanity.” The Epstein School is now challenging all the local private schools in the area.
“For the first time, a cure for Usher Syndrome type 1F is within reach,” said David Corey, one of the eight leading scientists Usher 1F Collaborative is funding. “The Usher 1F Collaborative is working to make that cure a reality by raising awareness and funds. In the laboratory, a team of scientists brings diverse skills to develop new therapies. We do believe a cure is achievable, and every member of the team is dedicated to that goal.”
For more information on how to get involved and donate, visit here.