When A Canyon Speaks, A Blind Teen Sees Again
By Brian Smith
When cancer robbed Tim of his strength and sight, a trip through the Grand Canyon and a moment at the river’s edge helped him get them back.
Now, the No Barriers mindset keeps him pushing forward.
When Tim was 15, T Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia nearly ended his life. Per doctors’ warnings, his family was by his side, ready to say their goodbyes.
But he fought back.
On the mend, the Make-A-Wish Foundation helped him connect with Erik Weihenmayer, a blind adventurer and co-founder of No Barriers. Weihenmayer helped show Tim what’s possible for a visually impaired teenager.
“I could have picked anything with Make-A-Wish, but I wanted to pick something that would impact me for the rest of my life,” he said. “I wanted to make a friend, especially one who is the coolest blind one ever.”
The summer after Erik and Tim’s adventure, Tim went to the No Barriers Summit where he was further exposed to the mindset Erik helped pioneer. While staff from No Barriers urged him to attend a Leading the Way trip to Peru that summer, Tim didn’t feel he had the physical strength.
The next summer, however, he ventured to the Grand Canyon on a Leading the Way Sound Academy expedition. It would be one of the most challenging and rewarding things he’s done.
Sitting beside the river listening to the amazing sounds around him, Tim was overwhelmed.
“I have a hard time putting into words what that experience was,” he said. “But it was an experience, a journey, amazement. It was just a moment where I felt so vulnerable because I was at such peace. … I’m here right now at this amazing place and I’m listening. Because it was all so clear and peaceful and everything I wouldn’t have thought I couldn’t see anything.”
“I could tell you to close your eyes and picture your happy place. Imagine closing your eyes and you’re in the happy place. If I could have sat there every day for the rest of my life I probably would have.”
Now a student at Ithaca College in New York, Tim said there are some days when he feels overwhelmed — that everything that happened was too much. But more often than not, he’s glad he’s on the path he’s on.
“Because of all the opportunities, chances and things I’ve been able to do that I know was not my original path of life,” he said. “… I wouldn’t have been going on these adventures. It just wasn’t my path. In a lot of ways it’s a double-edged sword, a blessing and a curse at the same time.”
Going on the No Barriers’ journey changed his life.
He says he’s a stronger advocate now and doesn’t easily back down when he finds himself in a place where it’d be easy to.
“I think it gave me the strength in myself, the strength for others and the strength to defend what I feel is worth defending,” he said.
Listen to the full, 20-minute No Barriers podcast with Tim below.
The Leading the Way program is partially funded through donor generosity. To help No Barriers Youth transform lives, visit our give portal or click below.