By Michael Ahearne ’14
Many students would be thrilled at the opportunity to hike the Grand Canyon or travel to Washington D.C.
But most students aren’t like Max Ashton ’14, who has Leber’s Congenital Amaruosis (also known as LCA), a rare genetic eye disorder that often affects infants at birth or within the first few years of their lives.
In 2010, after hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro with the Foundation for Blind Children, Ashton and the group he went with on that mountain hike decided to take another trip, this time hiking across the Grand Canyon.
About 50 hikers, comprised mostly of guides, the rest being blind or visually impaired, started a hike from the North Rim to the South Rim.
The hike started in the dark and lasted more than 12 hours before they finally made it to the other end of the canyon.
“There are two sighted guides to every blind hiker. My guiding technique is that I hold onto a guides pack and use a trekking poll to feel in front of me,” Ashton said.
In 2011, Ashton got another amazing opportunity: the chance to meet President Barack Obama.
“2011 was the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities act, and the White House invited some people with the Foundation for Blind Children to come,” Ashton said.
While in D.C., Ashton attended a ceremony and heard a small speech from Obama. He later got the opportunity to present to Obama with a plaque with his family’s names in brail.
“It’s incredible that Max can do all these things especially since someone like me, I’m probably never going to be able to do those things,” said Thomas Salanski ’14. “I’m probably never going to meet the president in my life and Max already has. And so far in his life Max has accomplished a lot more than I probably would have been able to accomplish at all.”
This September, Ashton will be going on another big trip to San Francisco and will be going with another group to swim from Alcatraz to the mainland.