• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

'Lights Out' 5K fundraiser set for this Saturday

TRAVIS FREEMAN, who has been blind since he was 12 years old, shared his story with educators during Woodford County Public Schools' Opening Day Celebration last August. His story inspired special education teacher Candy Rollins to organize a Lights Out Blindfold 5K. "We just wanted to support Travis and his mission," said Rollins. (File photo by Bob Vlach)

Travis Freeman, who has been blind since he was 12 years old, wants to raise awareness about the needs of people with disabilities. The Freeman Foundation "Lights Out Blindfold 5K" in Versailles, set for this Saturday morning, April 23, will allow runners to experience what it's like to accomplish an everyday task without something they may take for granted. Every runner will complete half of the 5K while blindfolded and being led by a partner. "We want to break down the barriers that exist between people who have disabilities and people who do not," said Freeman during a telephone interview on Monday afternoon. "And those barriers don't exist just for people with vision loss, but for people who are paralyzed and people who are deaf," he said. ". I want to see those barriers come down really across the board." The Lights Out Blindfold 5K in Versailles is being organized by Candy Rollins, a special education teacher at Safe Harbor Academy. She's being helped by Woodford County High School senior Sarah Souers, 18. "It's always encouraging when people come alongside you and believe in what you're doing and want to help - and help promote your cause," said Freeman. After listening to Freeman share his story with educators at the Woodford County Public Schools' opening day celebration last August, Rollins was inspired to organize a 5K here to support his foundation and its message of hope. "That's the whole point is to raise awareness for people with disabilities - and how having a disability doesn't mean inability," she said. Rollins had never heard of anyone running a 5K blindfolded until she made the decision to organize this upcoming event, and now she's excited about this unique format of runners partnering up with someone they trust. Sarah will run with her boyfriend "so hopefully we make it out alive," she joked. Freeman said dollars raised during the Lights Out event in Versailles will support his foundation's efforts to feed disabled orphans in Haiti as well as organizing future "Lights Out Blindfold 5K" and "Dinners in the Dark" events to raise public awareness. "While the blindfolded events focus primarily on vision loss," said Freeman, "I think it can have implications beyond that." And regardless of the disability faced by a person, he said, "you can always find a way to adapt and to overcome that obstacle." The Lights Out Blindfold 5K begins at 9 o'clock on Saturday morning at Simmons Elementary School, 830 Tyrone Pike. For additional information about the Freeman Foundation or to register online for Saturday's "Lights Out Blindfold 5K" visit www.travisfreeman.org. Runners may also register prior to the event, from 8 to 9 a.m. on Saturday, in the Simmons parking lot. The registration fee is $25. "So far we have 37 people registered (to participate in the 5K)," said Rollins on Tuesday morning. "My goal was 50. So it would be cool to have a few more people register." In addition to receiving a t-shirt (while supplies last) for their participation, runners may also win door prizes, including an iPad2 donated by the school system and a gift basket from Buffalo Trace. Anyone interested in donating additional door prizes may contact Rollins at candy.rollins@woodford.kyschool.us. With support from local businesses, including Jack Kain Ford and Napa Prime, and fundraisers, the upcoming 5K has raised around $1,300.

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