Mary Free Bed clinic helps blind and visually impaired people walk or run

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Mary Free Bed clinic is helping people who are blind and visually impaired go running or walking.

“I’m totally blind, first off,” said Robert Parsons. “I have been blind for almost eight years.”

A horrific incident in 2013 left him blind. 

“A home invasion in which two men broke into my home and shot me in the face,” said Parsons. 

Despite this, Parsons, who is a graduate student at Western Michigan University, found a way to persevere, by helping others. 

“I discovered rehabilitation counseling to work with people with disabilities on how they can pick themselves back up and continue to push forward and live productive lives,” said the WMU student. 

Parsons takes part in the walking and running clinic for blind and visually impaired people offered by Mary Free Bed Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports and the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. 

Parsons, who is an intern at ABVI, helps lead the three-week clinic. 

Participants who are blind or visually impaired are paired up with a volunteer who helps them walk or run. It’s an exercise that requires trust from both sets of participants.    

“I was super nervous the first day, especially watching the videos on how to do this,” said Christi Boze, a medical student at Michigan State University who volunteers as a guide. “You’re helping them not run into things.”

Once they begin to build a relationship, they can progress to quicker movement. 

“We were walking last week,” said Boze. “Today, power walking and it was pretty fast.”

This is the first time Mary Free Bed offers the clinic. There are plans to host another clinic later this year.   

More information can be found on their website.

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