Concord Univ. Student Organizes Awareness Event for the Visually Impaired

BECKLEY, W.Va (WOAY) – Cole Sweeney, a 19-year-old Concord University student who is visually impaired organized an event to raise awareness about blindness and the tools the visually impaired use to make their lives easier.

One of the activities at the event included an obstacle course for everyone to go through with a white cane while blindfolded.

“It’s definitely been a challenge for everyone and they’ve all commented and said they didn’t realize how hard it would be, so I think I’m getting my point across,” Sweeney laughed. 

Sweeney was born with retinopathy of prematurity and after five surgeries he was left  without peripheral vision and with blind spots, which he why he uses his white cane. This is also why he reached out to Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold to see if Sweeney would be able to put on an awareness event in Uptown Beckley. 

“I was so pleased to receive the email from Cole making this suggestion,” Rappold said. “I immediately turned it over to Kelly at the Center for Independent Living and she took the ball from there. She and Cole planned the event and as you can see it’s a great turnout.”

Mayor Rappold also read a proclamation officially recognizing October 15th as White Cane Safety Day in Beckley, an already-nationally recognized day. This, on top of live entertainment, an information tent and the obstacle course were all designed to educate. However just being around Sweeney’s independent and uplifting spirit was a lesson in itself. 

“It’s not easy but when life hands you a situation you really only have one choice and that’s to adapt and you know, every body should just keep continuing on and never give up,” Sweeney said.  

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Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.