Foundation for Blind Children staff will support 13 visually-impaired students as they hike the Grand Canyon’s Bright Angel Trail, then navigate the mighty Colorado River
“It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I get to meet new people that can I can relate to”, says Joey Trasser, a visually impaired teen from Phoenix, describing the unforgettable adventure he’s preparing to take this summer.
Trasser alongside 12 other visually impaired young adults plan to visit the Grand Canyon. However, unlike 99% of the Grand Canyon’s tourists, they won’t be admiring the national monument from the rim. They’ll be among the <1% of visitors that see this natural masterpiece from the bottom by rafting the mighty, and cold Colorado River.
“The Colorado River in the Grand Canyon has some of the biggest white water in the US, and people travel from all around the world for the opportunity to raft it. This trip will push the students’ limits, strengthen self-confidence and build strong friendships with their peers”, says Chris Hawk, FBC’s IT Manager. Hawk and seven other FBC staff members will be guiding the 13 students appropriately named the “Trailblazers” as they hike the 7.5 mile Bright Angel Trail. The group will spend a week inside the Grand Canyon hiking, rafting, camping, exploring and learning independence skills.
In the past, FBC staff and students have embarked on challenge events. Those events have raised awareness and challenged assumptions of what a person with a visual impairment can achieve. Previous trips include sailing the Caribbean, swimming Alcatraz and hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro. “This will be my third challenge event with FBC. Every trip I have been on has been life changing, humbling and a lot of fun. It’s incredible to see the growth in each student from the beginning of training to the end of the trip. There will be stories and experiences that all of us remember forever”, says Hawk.
Since the trip requires a high level of physical fitness, the Trailblazers will complete six training hikes and a water safety class. Most recently, the Trailblazers spent a weekend in Flagstaff. They hiked Mormon Mountain, a six-mile round-trip hike and a roughly 1,200 ft. climb, along with an easier three-mile hike with an elevation change of 500 ft. Both of the hikes, about 5.5 hours total, were completed with full packs weighing about 30 pounds. Plus, the group camped overnight learning how to set up and tear down camp including tents, sleeping bags, cooking and cleaning.
“I strongly believe in the stance that individuals with visual impairments are just as capable as their sighted peers in accomplishing great feats”, says Trailblazer Ivan Santiago. By the end of the trip, the Foundation for Blind Children hopes every Trailblazer will share this mindset. Their adventure begins mid-July.