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Concerted Effort

Haynes Lea holds a yearly Western bash to raise money for the blind

Published in 2007 North Carolina Super Lawyers magazine

You won’t find the Lea Brothers Band rehearsing, but what a concert The Western Classic and Barbecue they host is. Held almost every year since 1990, the event has raised nearly $1 million for the national Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) organization.

Haynes P. Lea, organizer of the fundraiser and a member of FFB’s board, is a North Carolina attorney who specializes in venture capital transactions. He plays harmonica and percussion, and became acquainted with the foundation after his 5-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, failed a routine eye exam in 1989. A specialist told Lea and his wife, Liz, that their oldest daughter had an incurable eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Those with RP gradually lose their night vision and peripheral vision, and ultimately lose their sight completely. The Leas channeled their frustration and anger into efforts to find a cure. Lea and his brothers hosted their first fundraiser in 1990 with headliner Jerry Jeff Walker (“Mr. Bojangles”). Held at an antebellum plantation, the open-air concert and barbecue raised $40,000 for the foundation. “We realized we had a winning formula,” Lea says.

Lea hopes a breakthrough will come soon to help his daughter and others with RP. Elizabeth, 22, cannot drive due to poor peripheral and central vision, but her sight has been stable for several years. Lea notes with pride that she graduated last year with honors from Princeton and works for a Charlotte bank as a capital markets analyst.

This year’s The Western Classic and Barbecue will be held Sept. 22 in Linville. For more details, visit www.westernclassic.org.

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