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Eyes for Olivia History Walk set for October 6

From left, Jeff Noble and Roxann Leverknight, who will portray Underground Railroad conductors Jacob and Elizabeth Heaton for the Eyes for Olivia History Walk through Hope Cemetery stand near the Heaton family monument, accompanied by Jillian Pieren, who will portray Susanna Myers, a young wagoneer, for the event next Sunday, Oct. 6. Registration begins at 5 p.m. at the cemetery chapel, with the first walk leaving at 5:40 p.m. (Photo by Mary Ann Greier)

SALEM — This year’s Eyes for Olivia History Walk through Hope Cemetery focuses on Salem’s Conductors of the Underground Railroad, with tours beginning at 5:40 p.m. next Sunday, Oct. 6.

But there’s also a free preview event at 7 p.m. Thursday at Liebe Wein in historic downtown Salem, where visitors can listen to Jacob and Elizabeth Heaton describe their days as abolitionists and conductors on the Underground Railroad, as portrayed by Jeff Noble and Roxann Leverknight.

The preview event takes place on the very spot where the Heatons owned a dry goods store in downtown Salem. After their presentation, visitors can remain for some guitar music.

The Heatons will be featured at one of six stops inside the cemetery during the history walk. Visitors will hear stories about the Underground Railroad conductors who helped slaves in their travels through Salem on the way to freedom. They’ll also hear from the people known as wagoneers who provided safe passage to the next stop in wagons, including a 10-year-old girl named Susanna Myers portrayed by Jillian Pieren.

Registration begins at 5 p.m. at the cemetery chapel, with parking off of Superior Avenue at Waterworth Memorial Park. To attempt to secure a particular time slot for the walk, pre-register online at EyesforOlivia.org by clicking on the fundraiser tab. Tickets can be purchased at the event, also. The cost is $5 per person.

Groups limited to 25 people each will take off every 20 minutes beginning with the first group at 5:40 p.m.

Cookies and cider will be available in the chapel where visitors can also see some historical displays.

All proceeds from the event once again benefit the Curing Retinal Blindness Foundation, which funds research and advocates for treatment of the CRB1-related retinal disease. CRBF was founded by parents of children diagnosed with the rare retinal disease.

Eyes for Olivia is a local fundraising group for CRBF established several years ago by Salem residents Mike and Kim Hoffman, whose daughter Olivia was diagnosed with the disease that could eventually render her blind.

They’ve been holding all kinds of events to raise funds for research, starting with a scrabble walk and then transitioning to the history walks through the cemetery. They also hold a quarter auction in the spring and other smaller events throughout the year.

“We’re grateful for all the support the community has given us,” Kim said.

She’s especially thankful for the assistance from the Salem Historical Society with the history walks, actors from the Salem Community Theatre, Crown Theater in Columbiana and the Youngstown Playhouse, Olivia’s friends, the Canfield High School Leos group from the Canfield Lions Club and several monetary sponsors.

“Thank you to all of our sponsors,” she said.

Olivia was first diagnosed at age 4 and now she’s a 14-year-old eighth grader at Salem Junior High School. So far, Kim said she’s had minimal vision loss, which is good. She said CRBF is working with people overseas with groups to help with outreach and fundraising. They’re also looking at adding multiple medical research projects and just established a patient registry through CORDS as a means to locate patients dealing with the CRB1-related retinal disease.

The history walk is expected to take an hour for each tour and will be held rain or shine. Kim said they’re hoping for good weather, but if the weather appears inclement, people may want to bring umbrellas.

To learn more, visit the Eyes for Olivia website or Facebook page.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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