The White Cane Warriors had trained for months to get to this moment, and 15-year-old Laura Acosta was ready.
Ahead was a foot race through mud on a course littered with demanding obstacles that would require strength, endurance and agility.
“I can still do things as normal girls,” Acosta said, “but just differently.”
Acosta, who is legally blind, was one of 10 visually impaired students participating Saturday in the Warrior Dash – a 5K run with 12 large-scale obstacles, including super walls, mud pits and flaming hoops.
The Foundation for Blind Children, a Phoenix organization that serves the needs of blind youth and adults around the Valley, pushes students out of their comfort zones through tough physical activities they call “challenge events.”
“We do these challenge events because blind kids don’t get the chance to participate in baseball or football or soccer, and they often don’t have the chance to have that moment in grade school or high school where they win,” said Marc Ashton, CEO of the foundation.
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The non-profit has taken students to the top of Kilimanjaro, through Alcatraz and across the Grand Canyon. Ashton said one of the goals of the events is to instill confidence in his students.
“(The challenge events) give them the opportunity to succeed,” Ashton said. “When they succeed, their confidence grows, and they can succeed everywhere else in life.”
The students racing through the Warrior Dash obstacle course ranged in age from 12 to 20. The team has trained for the past 12 weeks in preparation for the race, which was at Camelback Ranch in Glendale.
Acosta admitted to being nervous and excited, but mostly, she was determined to do her best.
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“Some people think that they can just give up and not continue with life, when really there’s a whole bright future ahead of them,” she said.
Linda Whitaker, a volunteer with the foundation, served as one of 20 guides assisting Acosta and her teammates. She said the experience has been an inspiration.
“We’re supposed to be helping the visually impaired, but instead it’s the reverse,” she said. “It’s given me a lot of strength to see this courage and determination.”
Jacob Brown, president of the foundation’s board of directors, said the organization strives to show visual impairment or blindness as a diagnosis, not a disability. Brown, who also acted as a guide for the race, said the experience served as encouragement for his own visually impaired daughter.