Kai turned 16 in August and can’t drive because he’s legally blind. We wanted to mark the occasion by granting him a new level of independence – an independence he’s worked incredibly hard to earn. So when we read about Erik Weihenmayer’s No Barriers Summit in NYC, we thought it sounded like the ideal place for Kai to stretch his wings.
We wanted “a non-parental” to go along with him, and his 20-year-old brother Cash was a perfect choice. Cash is a junior in college and the boys have always been close. In addition to being brothers, they are both adventurers: Cash is a rock climber and cyclist, and Kai is a skimboarder and surfer. Somehow we managed to raise a mountain man and a surfer dude in the middle of rural Georgia.
The boys applied to attend the Summit and were both accepted into the program. Then we got the wonderful news that Cabinets-to-Go chose to sponsor Kai, making the trip to NYC a reality!
Kai had earned his independence through hours of Orientation and Mobility training, but this would be his first big test. He’d be meeting people (legends, actually!) without mom or dad there to make introductions. He’d be hearing from some of the world’s most influential people and participating in some really grand adventures.
Day one was spent at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Kai chose 3 breakout activities that day: bouldering, improv, and fencing. The next day the boys were traveling around NYC, with a team of like-minded adventurers completing a Cotopaxi Questival. The event ended with a big star-studded concert in Central Park. The brothers traveled by plane, Uber, and subway and walked more than 15 miles in one day! Both boys reported it was the absolute best weekend of their lives! Kai’s exact adjective was “impeccable.” (I had never heard him use that word before, so it must have truly been impeccable!)
Cash said his favorite part was Day 1 of the conference when they met so many people who were “doing crazy stuff that most people would think was impossible.” That’s also the day that they created their Questival team and made lifelong friends with 3 other participants – one was visiting all the way from South Africa!
Kai’s favorite moment was when his Questival team chose to do the “Brooklyn Bridge Run.” He followed directly in the footsteps of a teammate as they ran across the 1.1-mile bridge as a team. He said it felt so freeing to run, through the crowd, in the wind and fresh air from one end of the bridge to the other. Click here, then click play, to watch a time-lapse video of their bridge run.
As a mom, it was an exciting, scary and liberating experience. I was so excited the opportunity was given to my boys. I was a little scared imagining them navigating the busy streets in NYC without us, and it was also liberating to realize that Kai could do it — without me! (My hubs never doubted their ability and we had a good laugh at how relieved they looked the moment they were on their own — apparently, we were slowing them down in the Atlanta airport.) The No Barriers Summit was the right next step in Kai’s journey toward independence and I’m so happy that he and Cash were able to have this memorable experience together.
Since their return, I have noticed a big shift in Kai. He now knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that he is not alone in his pursuit of a full, adventurous life as a blind man. He met so many people like himself, who are out there every single day breaking barriers.
I’d like to thank the No Barrier’s staff, Cabinets-to-go and all of the sponsors for this amazing opportunity and for their tireless pursuit in spreading the message:
What’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way. — No Barriers
ID: A photo collage of 3 images. The 1st image is Cash & Kai standing with Erik Weihenmayer. 2nd image is of 4 members of their Questival team striking yoga poses on a NYC sidewalk. Kai is mid-handstand. The 3rd image is of their full Questival team of 5 posing next to a monument.