For blind runners, Long Beach Marathon is just the beginning
After Elizardo Del Rio began losing his sight as a boy and went totally blind by the age of 12, he learned a lesson he now shares with other blind folk.
“It’s not the end of the world,” Del Rio said. “It’s the start of a new world. Sure it has its challenges, but it can be beautiful.”
These days Del Rio, 50, and his friends spread their own brand of beauty through song and inspiration.
Del Rio is the lead singer and de facto spokesman for a blind a cappella singing trio called Out of Sight that on Sunday will add running to their set list. After singing the National Anthem to kick off the Miller Children’s Hospital 5K run, the trio joins the race.
The band comprises of Del Rio; Robert Smith, 45, of Long Beach; and Otis Albert, 49, of Torrance. Smith and Albert have been totally blind since birth. They will be joined by Bob Hartley, 58, a sighted friend and compatriot; Mark Pritchard, 52, Artesia, who is legally blind with retinitis pigmentosa, also called tunnel vision; and Pete Benevedez, CEO of Blindness Support Services of Riverside, who also is completely blind.
Although this is the first race for the six collectively, they say it is just a first step. Next year, they hope to add to the group and possibly form teams, and Pritchard even envisions an entire blind division one day. Hartley said plans are in the early stages to organize a running and walking trek for the blind from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
The idea to form a blind running group began with Pritchard.
After letting his weight balloon to about 380 pounds, Pritchard, who can see just well enough to get around, took up running as part of a regimen to lose weight.
Last year, he ran in the Long Beach race, one of about a half-dozen 5K runs he participated in as he lost 125 pounds.
Earlier this year, as he readied for this year’s run, Pritchard said he had an inspiration.
“I thought, ‘I can do this on my own and be selfish, or I can include other (blind people),’” Pritchard said. In short order, the group of six came together.
The group plans to run, walk and, of course, sing throughout the race. Hartley will take the lead and navigate, and the other runners will form a conga line holding each other’s elbows while Pritchard follows.
“We’re seeing through their eyes,” Del Rio said. “We’re experiencing what it’s like to do something sighted people do. It might be just a run for some, but for us it’s the experience of a lifetime.”
Blind Entrepreneur Robert F. Smith Inspiring a Million Acts of Kindness
His Journey Includes First Pitch & National Anthem at Pawtucket (R.I.) Ballgame June 24
LOS ANGELES, CA (June 16, 2016) -- Blind entrepreneur Robert F. Smith, son of Grammy winning singer
O.C. Smith, is scheduled to throw out the first pitch and sing the national anthem June 24 at the Pawtucket Red Sox
(PawSox) game in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Game time at McCoy Stadium is 7:05 p.m., with Smith scheduled to
sing and toss out the first pitch just prior to its start.
Blind since birth and determined to give back in a big way, Smith is on a personal mission to throw out the first
pitch and/or sing the national anthem at every professional ballpark in the country. It’s a dream and journey that
began in April 2015 at the Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville, Iowa.
While this will mark Smith’s first East Coast appearance, he already has eight ballparks under his belt, including an
Oakland A’s game last season at Oakland Alameda Coliseum. Smith is using his quest to draw attention to his Little
Green Apples Project, a volunteer effort to inspire one million acts of intentional kindness and raise awareness for
those in society most in need.
In order to fund his kindness project, Smith created the new Toss’n Towel™ game, which is being offered through a
special Indiegogo campaign set to launch June 20. Sales of the Toss-To-Target game will not only raise funds for
charity, but allow supporters to engage in their own acts of intentional kindness through participation. Smith seeks to
send 10,000 games to deployed troops, veteran groups, children’s hospitals, and other worthy organizations. A
portion of the net profits from Toss’n Towel will also go to support Pitch In For Baseball (pifb.org), Boys and Girls
Clubs, and the National Alliance of Resident Services in Affordable and Assisted Housing (narsaah.com).
The PawSox game will feature an historic reunion as Smith will be escorted to the mound by his father’s longtime
record producer, Charles Wallert (Scheherazade Recordings). “Charlie was the best producer my father ever had,”
says Smith. “He is a dear friend who always believed in my dad and recognized that he was one of the best singers
ever of love songs.”
A singer in his own right, Smith hopes his efforts lead more people to display intentional acts of kindness.
According to Smith: “Even a blind man can see that one act of kindness makes the world a better place. And that
world begins with you.”