When the Kelleher family took their daughter Kate to Brenda Bohnsack, M.D., Ph.D., for childhood glaucoma, they were grateful to discover that she is a dedicated and caring pediatric ophthalmologist. Over many visits, they also learned she is a committed researcher, working to advance knowledge toward cures for pediatric eye diseases.
They wanted to help.
“Kate is 11 and just started middle school in the fall. She is facing a disease that most people get when they are in their 60s or later, and she will have it her whole life,” says Alison Kelleher. “We were surprised at how little research is being done in this area, and thrilled that Dr. Bohnsack is changing that.”
“She is a rock star—a standout doctor,” says Michael Kelleher. “We don’t take that for granted.”
The Kellehers live in Ann Arbor. Mr. Kelleher is in a sales leadership position with Terryberry, a Grand Rapids, Michigan-based firm, and Mrs. Kelleher is a stay-at-home mom to Kate and her brother Brennan, 8. The family began making gifts to Dr. Bohnsack’s research and then decided to invite others to get involved as well.
They created Cheers! for Charity, a reception and silent auction held in Ann Arbor, and hosted events in the fall of 2018 and 2019. About 100 people attended each, and the events together have raised more than $30,000.
“These funds are so important to advancing our work,” says Dr. Bohnsack, the Helmut F. Stern Career Development Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Kellogg. Her laboratory team studies eye development. By identifying ways to intervene when it goes awry, they are moving the field closer to new therapies to prevent vision loss and improve quality of life for children.
“The Kellehers’ family and friends are so enthusiastic about our progress, which comes from how much they care about Kate and what she is facing,” says Dr. Bohnsack, who presents at Cheers! for Charity. “That is what motivates us, too—our patients.”
“These have been really, really great events,” Mrs. Kelleher says. “People tell us how much they enjoy them. Not only are people learning about this—it is an eye-opening experience— but there is just a warmth and lots of love in the room.”