Mountain City family to host fundraisers for sight-impaired four-year-old daughter

Published 8:44 am Thursday, May 23, 2019

Growing up blind is an extra hurdle for children to cross in their already complicated lives, but for a Mountain City family, partial blindness is part of a web of complications that has driven them to reach out to their community for any help they can find.

A Mountain City family is raising money for their four-year-old daughter’s medical difficulties, and they are doing it by hosting a fishing competition at Watauga Lake.

Mountain City resident David Torbett said his grandniece, Kourtnee Dawne, received a diagnosis for Optic Nerve Hypoplasia (ONH), meaning the optic nerve that connects her eyes to her brain is underdeveloped.

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“It ranges from normal to almost blind,” Torbett said. “And she is almost blind.”

In addition to being virtually blind without some kind of eye-ware, Dawne also received an autism diagnosis at the age of two. With the combination of sensory issues and the degeneration of her eyesight, Torbett said the family looked into getting her a seeing eye and comfort dog to comfort and assist her in her daily life, but the process of obtaining a service dog at her age is difficult.

“My cousin had to spend two to three weeks with them,” he said. “They have to pick each other.”

Another complication, however, is the cost. Torbett said the cost for a service animal is around $25,000, on average, which is where the fundraiser comes into play.

The fundraiser will consist of a fishing tournament at Fish Springs Marina at Watauga Lake. There, contestants can register teams of two people, at $35 per boat. The first $20 go right off the top towards Dawne, while the remaining $15 go towards the tournament.

“For her, this will make her life a lot better,” Torbett said.

He said it is generally better for a child to receive a service dog early, so they have a chance to grow up with the dog and form a closer bond as they get older. He said the dog would help comfort her during times of sensory overload, common among those with autism.

“We want to try and make her life more comfortable,” Torbett said. “We can make it where she is not so scared in life.”

Torbett said he decided on a fishing tournament because of his fishing friends in the area, but the fundraiser is not just for those who enjoy fishing as a sport or hobby.

“It is not about fishing. It is about her,” he said.

For those unable to make the tournament itself, the family is also hosting a benefit dinner on Friday, June 7, at the Crewette Building in Mountain City, at 203 Vandilla St., from 3:30 to 7 p.m.

The fishing tournament itself will take place Friday, July 19, from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. at the Fish Springs Marina, located at 191 Fish Springs Road in Hampton.

For those interested in making a donation directly, Torbett said people can do so by going to the Paws for Hope website at

Those with any questions or who want to register can do so by contacting Torbett at 423-895-2453.