EVENT: Blindfold Challenge 2017
You have to walk before you can run. Do something uncomfortable every day. Before you judge someone, walk a mile in their shoes. Check. Check. Check. And today was only the training session. Next Saturday April 15th, I will run a 5k road race with several thousand people through the streets of Boston -- blindfolded. My guide Bridget will alert me to turns in the road, other runners, potholes and obstacles. When we cross the finish line I will flip the blindfold off and resume my life as a sighted person, able to drive myself wherever I want to go, run whenever I want to run, and navigate everyday situations without the caution or confusion many visually impaired folks live with every day. I will be different after that experience, though. I know that for sure, because after the one-hour training session today -- on a track with plenty of space and lots of support -- I already feel different. It was HARD. Initially, my guide and I walked at a snail's pace. Getting my balance was hard, not 'drifting' to one side of the track and bumping into her was hard, hearing people talk and wondering 'are they talking to me?' since I couldn't see them was hard. At times the tether didn't feel supportive enough and I had to reach for her arm since I felt like I was tipping over. It was very challenging and very tiring. My dad was diagnosed w/RP (retinitis pigmentosa) over 20 years ago. His vision has deteriorated over time to what he now describes as something akin to looking through a straw. I try to be as patient and as understanding as possible when guiding him, but I now have a better sense of how he feels and how I can do better and be more compassionate. I have a whole new appreciation for the challenges he faces and the outstanding job he does living independently, traveling, reading, taking in art museums, and volunteering. Today's training session was led by a runner who is visually impaired himself. He emphasized that our mission as blindfolded runners and guides is not only to raise funds (for the Mass Association for the Blind, Carroll Center for the Blind, Perkins, and National Braille Press) although that is important and appreciated. Our mission is to raise awareness - not only awareness of the CHALLENGES faced by blind and visually impaired people, but most importantly, of the CAPABILITIES in this community. THIS is what I'm most excited about. I know that everyone is bombarded with fundraising requests and many of you have been so generous with your contributions to our endeavors - Meghan and I are both very appreciative. If you can contribute to my fundraising efforts, please do so knowing that you have my sincere thanks. Most importantly though - challenge yourself to walk in someone else's shoes today. See the challenges they face, but also their CAPABILITIES. Look around you and know that the folks you see with visual (or other) impairments are busting through barriers to get where they want to go...and they are rockin' it. Be compassionate. Be supportive. Lend a hand. And cheer for those around you. THANK YOU.