Too often, kids dealing with visual impairments are told they can’t.
Joshua Vanderworken (12 years old)
“I can’t really do anything physical in the other school, because they say you’re going to hurt yourself, and I say no I’m not," said 12-year old Joshua Vanderworken. "I just hate it how we’re separated and put in groups.”
But for the 55 blind, deaf, or visually impaired kids at Camp Abilities in Brockport, it’s about discovering that they can.
One of my favorite sports is baseball," said 13-year old Daniel Parker. "If I wanted to get on to the baseball team at school, they might say, well, you can’t really do that. Here, no one can say that to you."
Perhaps no-one is a better example of what you can do than Marla Runyan.
Diagnosed with Stargardts disease at the age of nine, her vision deteriorated until she was legally blind. But she never let that affect her dreams.
“I could just get on the track and run, and there wasn’t anything in my way, and I wasn’t afraid," said Runyan. I just took on the perception that if I trained hard, I could run with the best.”
So Marla ran, and kept running. She became a 3-time champion in the women's 5000 metres, and in the year 2000, became the first legally blind American to compete in the Olympic Games.
Last week, Marla took her drive and her accomplishments to Camp Abilities, and became an example of what’s possible. An example the kids could reach out and touch
“People said you can’t run, your blind," said Vanderworken. "Well people say I can’t do a lot of things because I’m blind, but you know what I’m gonna tell em, guess what I am”
“For someone who’s visually impaired to be on the Olympic team, that says a lot," said Parker. "That says you really can do this if you make the effort and if you really put your mind to it, you can really do this stuff.”
Whether it was running around a track, playing beep ball, or riding a bike, these 55 kids learned this week that nothing is impossible.
“I just remember, the very first day, this little boy is nine years old," Runyan said. "He ran nearly a mile with his sighted guide…they had a tether..and he finished and said 'wow I didn’t know I could do that.' He’s just smiling ear to ear. That’s what this is all about.”