Christian Guardino's Story
On March 14th, 2000, two excited parents from Long Island took their newborn baby boy, Christian, in their arms for the first time. By every test conducted that day, they had a happy, healthy baby.
It wasn’t until he was 3 or 4 months old that his mother, Beth Guardino, noticed something was off. Christian was not making eye contact and was fixating on light sources. When Christian was 6 months old, she took him to a doctor who informed her that Christian had a rare genetic vision disorder called Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis (LCA). This condition attacks the retina and may cause severe vision issues and blindness at a young age. As any parents would be, they were crushed and frightened to hear this unexpected news. The new parents were suddenly scrambling to determine where to even begin finding answers. Beth, while speaking on this time in their life, fondly remembers Christian’s spirit. She says, despite the diagnosis, Christian stayed the same happy and loving child he had always been.
As Christian got older, he had to learn how to navigate his surroundings using a cane, something he resented using as he did not like the attention it drew. His vision was slowly disappearing, but he found music to be an escape. At just 6 years of age, Christian, navigating the stage with his cane, gave his first ever live performance in front of an audience. A singer from birth, Christian knew that music was his passion.
At the age of 12, Christian and his family learned of a clinical trial using gene therapy that could possibly help with his LCA prognosis. After further testing was done to identify the mutated gene, they learned that Christian was, in fact, eligible to take part in the study being conducted by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Spark Therapeutics.
Only 13 at the time, Christian entered the clinical trials that would soon restore 75-80 percent of his vision. Beth fondly speaks of the days after the gene therapy and how quickly his vision began to improve. Three days after taking part in this life-altering trial, Christian was able to see the faces of his loved ones even while sitting in a dark room. His cane was no longer of use to him, as he could easily avoid obstacles using his own vision.
Fast forward a few years, Christian graced the stages of one of the most watched television shows of all time, America’s Got Talent. Christian, only a high schooler at the time, nervously made his way on a stage positioned in front of Howie Mandel, Simon Cowell, Mel B, and Heidi Klum to give one of the most impressive performances that stage had seen. Any traces of nerves disappeared the minute the music began. This performance awarded him a golden buzzer from Howie Mandel and a fast track to move forward in the competition. He went on to be a semifinalist on the show that season with many more impressive performances under his belt.
Since the show, Christian has released his first single and music video for the song “Missing Part of Me”, composed by Grammy nominated Sacha Skarbeck who is known for writing Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball”, James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful”, and many more. The royalties from the song, “Missing Part of Me,” were generously donated by the pair to The Vision of Children Foundation, as the foundation’s cause aligns with his mission to ensure everyone has the opportunity to see the world clearly. Please follow the link to watch the video that shares Christian’s story, created by The Vision of Children Foundation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q54LYWr5Dw8 .
Today, Christian uses his story and platform to be an ambassador and Vision Hero for The Vision of Children Foundation. His hope is to help spread awareness of rare genetic vision disorders and encourage other children with visual impairments to find their passion. Please support The Vision of Children Foundation’s mission to fund research and find a cure for genetic vision disorders in children. Our hope is that someday, all children will be able to see clearly.