Ashton meets Obama after record climb
By Mason Smith ’11
Imagine a world where the only thing you can see is a blurry vision of the object you are looking at.
How would your life change if that’s what you could see?
Maxwell Ashton ’14 has been living like this since birth. He has Leber’s Congenital Amaruosis (also known as LCA), a rare genetic eye disorder that often affects infants at birth or within a few years of living.
According to WebMD.com, the symptoms of Leber’s Congenital Amaruosis include cross eyes, unusual sensitivity to light and clouding the lenses of the eyes.
In Ashton’s case, he can only see obscured blurs.
The biggest challenge he faces each day is getting around campus.
“I have memorized most of the school, but not all areas,” Ashton said. “I came here with a mobility instructor from my old school district and we just walked around and walked through all the buildings.”
Ashton’s father, Marc Ashton ’84, is the CEO of the Foundation for Blind Children, which helps those with visual loss and “creates opportunities for anyone with vision loss to achieve,” according to their website, www.seeitourway.org.
Max Ashton doesn’t let his condition slow him down. In the summer of 2009 he hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro with his father and Ryan Stelzer ’12, setting a world record as the youngest blind climber to summit the 19,340 foot mountain at age 13.
“I have seen Max ride a bike, play drums, rock climb, play sports and summit mountains. He’s fearless,” said Pam Stelzer, Ryan Stelzer’s mom.
The hike took eight days to complete. The climbers scaled the mountain on the seventh day and Ashton became the youngest blind person to summit the mountain.
The inspiration to climb the mountain came from nine blind Tibetan children who were hiking around Mt. Everest.
“That inspired us,” Ashton said. “The Base Commander, who was the first blind man to summit Mt. Everest, is friends with my dad. We hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro in June of 2009.”
After his climb, one of the climbers in his group sent the information to the White House that explained the trip, according to Pam Stelzer.
Ashton and three other students from the FBC were invited to attend the 20th anniversary of the approval of the Americans with Disabilities Act last summer.
The act is designed to protect people with disabilities from discrimination in vocational and educational areas.
Ashton presented President Barack Obama with a plaque onto which was engraved the name of the president and his family, written in Braille.