DEAR ABBY: In the summer of 1997, when I was 11, I was injured in an accident with an illegal firework. In celebration of the Chicago Bulls' fifth championship, my friends and I were watching an adult neighbor try to light a firework. Without warning, the firework went off, spraying gunpowder and debris in our direction. I was struck on the left side of my face and lost my left eye. Two of my friends were also burned and scarred. Before the accident, I had been diagnosed through my school's vision testing program with amblyopia of the right eye. The vision in my right eye was limited.
I have learned from personal experience that fireworks are always dangerous, even when used by an adult. I encourage everyone to celebrate every Fourth of July by going to a local park to enjoy the professional demonstrations.
On Saturday, June 26, I am proud to be a part of the second annual Light the Night for Sight Walkathon, sponsored by Prevent Blindness America. I implore all of your readers to join all of us working to increase fireworks safety awareness. Please help your local Prevent Blindness America chapter by walking or by pledging your financial support.
Prevent Blindness America also has many programs to screen for eye diseases and detect conditions such as amblyopia and to prevent workplace injuries to eyes. I am enthusiastic about helping other people avoid having to go through what I had to experience. Remember to always appreciate the gift of sight. -- COLIN J. BURNS, CHICAGO
DEAR COLIN: Thank you for a terrific letter, and for the timely reminder about fireworks safety. I respect your effort to educate the public so that other children and adults will not have to experience the trauma that you did.
And while we're on the subject of fireworks, let me add that sparklers can also be very dangerous in the hands of children. Sparklers are not a benign firework; they heat up to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit -- hot enough to melt gold! -- and they are the second-highest cause of fireworks eye injuries requiring trips to the emergency room. A wise parent will forgo making sparklers a part of children's celebrations.
For those interested in knowing more about fireworks safety, Prevent Blindness America's toll-free number is (800) 331-2020. The organization will be happy to provide callers with more information about fireworks, the Light the Night for Sight Walkathon, or how you can help. They are offering the booklet "Safe Summer Celebrations" at no charge, as well as fireworks injury fact sheets and a "quiz" to educate both parents and kids. But don't wait to call -- vision safety is nothing to wink at.