Braille Monitor               May 2023

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Pedaling for Those Who May Think They Are Alone

by Gary Wunder

Dan O’Rourke and Mark Riccobono smile and hold their NFB member coins.Dan O’Rourke is a man on a mission. As a veteran NHL hockey referee, he's used to skating on thin ice, making tough calls, and taking a few hits along the way. His latest challenge, Route 66 Ride for Literacy, is a bit different. Instead of donning his skates and whistle, he's hopping on a bicycle and setting out on a cross-country journey to support a cause that's near and dear to his heart.

Dan is riding down Route 66 to raise money for our organization. His father Tom is blind from RP (retinitis pigmentosa) and has been the inspiration for the ride. Dan wants blind children to know that they are not growing up alone and that they have adult role models who have faced challenges similar to theirs. As someone who has grown up with a blind parent, he knows firsthand the struggles and obstacles that blind people face, and he wants to do his part to make a difference.

Dan's father always thought that denying blindness was a sign of strength and the best way to cope with blindness. The positive side of this is that he did everything a father and provider was expected to do, never letting blindness define him. Dan has taken a slightly different tack on how to deal with blindness. He is convinced that working with other blind people can add strength to one’s character. By accepting a shared characteristic with others, he believes we can jointly develop and live out coping strategies that can determine whether blindness is an inconvenience or a tragedy. His reasons for choosing the National Federation of the Blind are clear. He believes that our goals are closely aligned with his own. They aim to help people live the lives they want, support those who may feel alone, and look for ways to avoid reinventing the wheel. All these goals are close to his heart, and he hopes that his ride will inspire others to follow in his footsteps.

Dan has been athletic all his life, and cycling has been a part of that. He's completed numerous charity events over the years, but this one is different. This time, he's cycling, and now for a cause that's personal. He's willing to push himself further than ever before to make a difference.

Dan met his wife and life partner, April, when he was just twenty years old, and they've been together ever since. She's his biggest supporter and is traveling with him on the journey. Their love story is one of mutual support, understanding, and acceptance, and they use their own experiences to help others who may be going through struggles.

Dan's parents, Tom and Janice, are both seventy-five years old, and they're incredibly proud of their son's efforts. They've been supportive of his career in his personal life, and they're thrilled that he's using his platform to make a difference in the lives of others.

His journey down Route 66 will begin around the 26th of July and is expected to end around September 7. These dates are deliberately vague because no one can predict the weather or the mechanical difficulties he may encounter. This 2,400-mile ride will take him through towns where we have chapters, and the hope is to let folks meet him, let the communities through which he passes know about his work, and to remind them that their city has a branch of the premier organization of blind people in the world.

What Dan is doing will be more than just a 2,400-mile bike ride. It's a testament to the power of hope, passion, and determination. By sharing his own story and raising money for a worthy cause, Dan is proving that even the smallest actions can make a big impact. He hopes his ride will inspire others to support causes that are important to them and to encourage them never to give up on their dreams and aspirations. As he pedals down the road, he expects to be reminded of the beauty of life, the importance of family, and the power of love. These are values he sees in the National Federation of the Blind, and together we will write another important page in the history of the blind as we continue the journey to living fulfilling lives in which blindness is but one of many characteristics.

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