Helen Keller inspired generations of Americans by overcoming adversity and drawing attention to the deaf-blind community. Now, 48 years after her passing that legacy lives on. Saturday morning King Central Park hosted the first annual Helen Keller Southeast Run/Walk 5K benefitting the National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults (HKNC) and North Carolina Deaf-Blind Associates (NCDBA) Run/Walk programs.
“We are so excited to be here. The people have been so friendly and welcoming. This is a phenomenal town,” said Southeast Regional Representative, Marilyn Trader. “This is our first event here so we really weren’t sure how many to expect. We had 101 people come out and we’re pleased with that. We had a lot come in and register this morning.”
Participants traveled from all across the state including Asheville, Wilmington, Wilson, and Lumberton.
Trader said events like these provide a refuge for the deaf-blind community.
“There’s one person here today that’s deaf and told me they’ve never been part of anything like this and they didn’t know people who were deaf and blind. This allows them to get to know others in their situation. One of our goals today is to provide mentors. To let people see that you can be deaf and blind, but still successful. We can show them what steps to take and give them support for anything they want to accomplish. It starts by putting one step forward.”
According to the HKNC representative, an estimated 2.4 million people in the United States live with combined vision and hearing loss including 30,000 in North Carolina. An event like the 5K/3.1 mile Helen’s Run/Walk is a way for people of all ages and abilities to come together to raise funds to expand and enhance services within the deaf-blind community.
Volunteers played an important role at Saturday’s 5K and each one was paired with a participant to help guide them through the 5K course that weaved around the amphitheater and paved trails inside of Central Park.
“Many of our volunteers picked up someone and brought them here this morning, so their commitment to make this day successful is really special,” Trader said.
Volunteers, also known as SSP’s help the deaf-blind community facilitate communication, socialize, guide, and foster a sense of independence.
“We’re hoping to build up a fund that would provide more SSP services so if someone contacts us and needs a SSP to take to a family reunion for example, we can fulfill that,” Trader said. “We want to fill that major gap for them to provide services when they’re needed. It would be wonderful to have SSP’s accessible throughout the state.”
“This is our first big fundraiser and our goal is to continue having them and watch it grow every year. We’re really appreciative to this community for letting us host this today.”
Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426 or on Twitter at AmandaTDodson.