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Sports and Recreation

Red Szell reflects on how the Holman Prize got him to the top of the rock

Each year, the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition, funded by LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco, provides three blind people up to $25,000 each to carry out an ambitious idea. On June 22, 2019, Holman Prize winner Red Szell successfully completed his extreme blind triathlon, which included a 10-mile off-road tandem bike ride, an open-water swim and a 213-foot climb up Am Buachaille, a vertical rock formation off the coast of Scotland. We interviewed Red shortly after his successful climb to get his reflections on training for his Holman Prize adventure.

Red’s triathlon training began in earnest last October. “I had a pretty high level of fitness from climbing and swimming,” Red, age 49, says, “but I had to ramp it up because I would be outside for twelve hours.” Red began incorporating running on a treadmill into his training regimen but injured his right Achilles tendon in January. With the help of twice-weekly physiotherapy sessions and some modifications to his training techniques, Red was able to continue preparing to climb Am Buachaille. Despite the ordeal, Red’s injury ultimately provided some benefits. “It actually helped my climbing because we worked on ankle stability and stretching,” he explained.

Besides the physical training required to successfully complete his Holman Prize goal, Red also had to navigate logistics, such as planning a practice climbing trip to Sardinia, finding a videographer to film the triathlon, getting the tandem bike from London to Scotland and more. “Being the CEO of my own project is something that I never really expected to do,” he admits. “That is a very difficult challenge but also immensely enjoyable and character-building. I feel a genuine sense of achievement and personal growth that has resulted from being awarded a Holman Prize.”

Red has always loved climbing, spending his teenage years climbing in the Welsh mountains in Wales. When he was 20, he was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a progressive condition that eventually causes blindness. As Red’s vision continued changing, he became depressed and stopped climbing. More than twenty years later, Red, now a father and journalist, had learned blindness skills. His passion for climbing was reignited at a birthday party for his daughter at a climbing gym. He decided it was time to learn to climb as a blind man.

In 2013, Red became the first blind man to climb the Old Man of Hoy, another sea stack in Scotland. Red declares that was “a personal achievement.” Successfully climbing Am Buachaille was different, however, because of the scope of the Holman Prize as a worldwide competition. Red remarks that the Holman Prize demonstrates to everyone “what blind people can achieve with the right support and determination.”

Red sitting on a rocky beach at Sandwood Bay, on the far north-west coast of mainland Scotland, with Am Buachaille towering behind him.
Red sitting on a rocky beach at Sandwood Bay, on the far north-west coast of mainland Scotland, with Am Buachaille towering behind him.

Going forward, Red will include his Holman Prize experience in the presentations he gives about being a blind climber, but more importantly, he will encourage other blind people to apply for the Holman Prize. From applying for the prize, to winning it, to carrying it out, Red views the Holman Prize as “a journey of self-discovery.” Listen to Red talk about his harrowing adventure here. Red’s experience will be documented in a forthcoming audio-described documentary of his “Extreme Triathlon” full of Red’s humor and outrageous Scottish scenery, called Shared Vision.

Do you have Holman Prize aspirations? Holman Prize submissions open in January 2020. For more information about the Holman Prize, visit HolmanPrize.org.

Yoga with Kimm: New Class Times

Photo: Kimm Ropicky sits in a yoga pose (photo by Karolina Zapolska).

Yoga helps promote physical, mental and spiritual balance and can provide you with a foundation of flexibility and centeredness. If you experience challenges with balance and mobility, yoga can assist you in increasing your strength and tone, providing you with the confidence you may be striving for in your daily life.

No experience with yoga is necessary – Instructor Kimm Ropicky will work with you no matter what level of experience you have. Class times are below and you must register prior to attending, or complete registration upon your first day of participation.

Who: Students ages 14 and up and their blind or sighted friends.
Where: the 11th Floor Fitness Studio at LightHouse Headquarters, 1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco, California 94103.
When: Mondays and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. Each class is 75 minutes. Yoga mats, blocks and belts will be provided.
Class fee: $10 per class. This class is open to the public, blind or sighted, so bring a friend!
Please note: Classes close 10 minutes after the start time.
Space is limited, so sign up now.

Special trial offer for LightHouse Students! If you are a LightHouse Student and want to try out a yoga class for free, please speak with our Information Concierge, Esmeralda Soto, for a complimentary yoga class pass. You may speak to Esmeralda when you visit the LightHouse or call her at 415-694-7323. (Passes must be picked up in person, are for LightHouse Students only and must be submitted to the yoga instructor.)

Contact Serena Olsen at solsen@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7316.

Note: Yoga may require intense physical exertion. While it can be modified to meet your needs, we suggest that if you have any concerns prior to participating, please consult your doctor.

About Kimm Ropicky

Kimm’s yoga journey began in the Midwest during a college elective course. While the location of her practice has changed since then, her focus on body alignment, strength, and flexibility remains. Over the years, her practice has grown increasingly mindful, expanding to encompass more than just the physical poses. For Kimm, yoga has become a safe space to work through emotions and relieve stress. It is this focus that led her to become a teacher, deepen her personal practice, and begin to share this mindful space with everyone who enters her classes.

Kimm provides her students with a playful, core-focused yoga, designed to promote strength, flexibility and focus. Her creative sequencing encourages students of all levels to try something new. Hands-on assists and thorough explanations of body alignment create a safe and supportive environment to learn and explore. Kimm is certified with Pete Guinosso’s “Lighting the Path” Teacher Training and has achieved RYT-200 designation (successfully completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training program) with Yoga Alliance.

LightHouse Announces the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition

“The Holman Prize is not meant to save the world or congratulate someone for leaving the house. This prize will spark unanticipated accomplishments in the blindness community. You will see blind people doing things that surprise and perhaps even confuse you. These new LightHouse prizes will change perceptions about what blind people are capable of doing.”

— Bryan Bashin, CEO at LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Meet The Holman Prize for Blind Ambition – LightHouse’s new initiative to support the ambitions of blind and low vision people worldwide. Beginning in 2017, The Holman Prize will announce an annual set of awards funding projects in a range of amounts – up to $25,000 per project – that will finance and support blind adventurers worldwide in pursuing their most ambitious projects.

Chronicled in a 2006 novel by Jason Roberts, the explorer James Holman became the first blind person to circumnavigate the globe in 1832. In his spirit, The Holman Prize celebrates people who want to shape their own future instead of having it laid out for them.

The Holman Prize is specifically for legally blind individuals with a penchant for exploration of all types. LightHouse’s initial 2017 prizes will provide financial backing for a as many as three individuals to explore the world and push their limits through travel, connections, construction and communication. 

The ideal candidate is someone who is willing to probe their environment and eager to savor the richness of a world that is so often thought of as inaccessible to the blind. This exploration may involve travel, community organizing, scholarship, daring art or projects we haven’t even considered. We’re looking for intrepid travelers, creative problem solvers, effective communicators, natural ambassadors, passionate advocates, joyful builders, active boundary-pushers and experience seekers.

In January 2017, The Holman Prize application process kicks off with a challenge: blind applicants must submit a first-round pitch in the form of a 90-second YouTube video. The deadline for these phase one applications is February 28, 2017 at 12 noon PST. All pitch videos will be compiled into the LightHouse Media playlist below. As an extra incentive, the blind applicant who creates the most popular YouTube video, will secure themselves a spot as a coveted spot as a Holman Prize finalist, to be interviewed this spring by our esteemed committee. Learn more about the submissions process here, and watch our intro video below:

“We recognize that asking a blind person to upload a video may challenge some people’s ideas of what blind people are capable of — of what blind people can or should do,“ says LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin, “The video uploading and later public speaking will certainly require creativity, and these are the qualities we seek to encourage with the Holman Prize. These are the types of people we want to apply.” 

Semifinalists will be notified in March and go through a formal application process, after which finalists will be notified and a winner will be selected by a committee of leaders, thinkers and explorers from throughout the blind world. We expect the Holman Prizewinners to start their projects in Fall 2017 and they will be recognized at the Holman Prize Gala in 2018.

Follow the Holman Prize on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Visit holmanprize.org for more information on how to Buy Instagram followers.

We Welcome AmeriCorps Back to Enchanted Hills This Winter

Photo: Last year members of AmeriCorps made many improvements at Enchanted Hills, including finishing deck railings, working on fencing on the horse trail above the Art Barn, designing a new tech lab for the Kiva, building a storage container for the Kiva and renovating the Enchanted Hills Recycling Center.

This winter we will be hosting 14 members of AmeriCorps who will spend six weeks improving our camp property. AmeriCorps is a core program of the federal agency, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). Per their website, “AmeriCorps places thousands of young adults into intensive service positions where they learn valuable work skills, earn money for education, and develop an appreciation for citizenship. They are committed to seeing positive change in their country, and are devoting ten months of their lives to work towards this end.”

Some of the many projects AmeriCorps Volunteers are slated to tackle at Enchanted Hills are rebuilding the pool deck, updating fencing along the lake and trails, remodeling the interior of the Lodge and landscape improvements.

Enchanted Hills Camp Director Tony Fletcher told us, “Our budding relationship with AmeriCorps has become a highlight of my year. Watching these dedicated young men and woman working diligently to make a difference for our camp gives me and the rest of the Enchanted Hills Staff extra incentive to work just as hard. Under George Wurtzel’s supervision I have seen Corps members gain confidence and pride in building decks, laying flooring, constructing trails and learning about blindness that goes above and beyond a typical placement for AmeriCorps teams. We are proud to be a host sponsor for AmeriCorps.”

Saturday, November 5: Family Picnic and Hike at Lake Merritt

Join us for a gathering of LightHouse students and their families for a fun filled day at Lake Merritt. Meet at the Lake Merritt BART Station at 11:00 a.m. for a walk around the lake. During the walk the group will choose a picnic spot.

Who: Families (immediate family members or guardians) with at least one person that is blind or has low vision.
When: Saturday, November 5, 2016, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Where: Meet at Lake Merritt BART Station in Oakland
Cost: Free
What to bring: Picnic lunch for yourself and your family, water bottle, warm layers of clothing and any necessary mobility aids such as a cane or monocular.
Waiver: Each participant must complete a LightHouse Youth Program Application as well as all 2016 LightHouse release forms.

If you would like more information about this event or wish to sign your family up, please contact Jamey Gump, Youth Services Coordinator, at jgump@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7372 for more information.

Pie for the Season Workshop (two-day course)

Photo: Ingredients for apple pie are assembled on a counter.

Tired of those warehouse pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving? Make it yourself! Learn to make a holiday pie from scratch, yes, including the crust! Designed for the intermediate home cook, students will practice measuring skills, and learn the basics of pastry dough, including proper pastry mixing techniques, rolling and fitting to a pie dish.

When: Wednesday, November 16 and Thursday, November 17, 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (bring a bag lunch)
Where: the LightHouse Building, 1155 Market St., 10th floor, San Francisco, 94103
Fee:  $60 includes all food supplies
Space is limited to 5 students per class.

Prior baking experience is not required for this class, however, good basic cooking skills and comfort in the kitchen are required. Students must be able to participate on both days as dough will be made the first day and filling and baking will be done the second day.

Recipes planned are an Apple Double Crust and a Sweet Potato Pie, depending on ingredient availability. Please bring your own 9-inch pie tins or glass pie baking dishes so that you can bring your pies home.

If you are a current student at the LightHouse, register for this class with Sydney Ferrario at sferrario@lighthouse-sf.org. If you are new to the LightHouse, please contact Debbie Bacon at 415-694-7357 or dbacon@lighthouse-sf.org. Please let us know at the time of registration if you have special dietary needs or food allergies so that we may accommodate recipes as much as possible.

Our Popular Woodworking Workshop with George Wurtzel Returns in the New Year

Photo: Surrounded by woodworking tools and machinery, George Wurtzel works on a wooden bowl in the DeLong-Sweet Tactile Arts Barn at Enchanted Hills.

Join expert carpenter George Wurtzel at our popular workshop for both beginning and experienced woodworkers.

This class will cover wood turning, hand tool work and an introduction to power tools. We’ll learn how to measure accurately without sight, using click rules, gauge blocks, Vernier calipers and talking tape measures. We’ll talk about wood types and construction techniques and learn when to glue, when to nail and when to use screws. We’ll also touch on finishing techniques.

Who: Adults (ages 21 and older) who are blind or have low vision and are eager to learn woodworking
Where: Enchanted Hills Camp
When: Thursday, February 16 through Sunday, February 19, 2017
Cost: $300.00 plus $40.00 for transportation
Class is limited to six participants, so sign up now.

For questions and registration, please contact Taccarra Burrell at TBurrell@LightHouse-sf.org or call 415-694-7310.

Family Picnic and Hike at Lake Merritt

LightHouse students and their families will gather at the Lake Merritt BART Station for a fun filled day at Lake Merritt. Our walk will start at 11:00 a.m. and will take us around the lake. During the walk the group will choose a good location to stop and have a picnic.

Who: Families (immediate family members or guardians) with at least one person that is blind or has low vision.
When: Saturday, November 5, 2016, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Where:  Meet at Lake Merritt BART Station in Oakland
Cost: Free
What to bring: Picnic lunch for yourself and your family, water bottle, warm layers of clothing and any necessary mobility aids such as a cane or monocular.
Waiver: Each participant must complete a LightHouse Youth Program Application as well as all 2016 LightHouse release forms.

If you would like more information about this event or wish to sign your family up, please contact Jamey Gump, Youth Services Coordinator, at jgump@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7372 for more information.

Watershed Conservation Project Makes Enchanted Hills Camp Better for Fish and Other Creatures

Photo: Tractor and excavator machinery restoring Wing Canyon stream at Enchanted Hills Camp.

For over ten years, Enchanted Hills Camp has partnered with Napa Resource Conservation District to look at ways to provide better stewardship of our waterways and mitigate erosion problems at camp. After years of discussion, design and implementation, we are happy to report the completion of our project.

This summer Enchanted Hills and Napa Resource Conservation District worked to prevent sediment from our hillsides from running into creeks. Keeping sediment out of our creeks and streams is a critical measure that protects the habitat of fish such as the steelhead trout.

The project has also transformed two miles of dirt road – keeping 4,759 cubic yards of sediment – enough to fill more than 400 commercial dump trucks – out of local waterways over the next 20 years. “Road systems are perhaps the most significant and easily controlled sources of sediment production and delivery to stream channels,” said a 2004 Napa Resource Conservation District report on Wing Canyon Creek.

Bill Birmingham

Photo: Bill Birmingham, Conservation Project Manager, Napa County Resource Conservation District standing on the Wing Canyon Trail demonstrating the straw hay and grass seeding work to channel water into the stream from eroding hillside.

Some of the improvements were made at creek crossings. Workers replaced undersized culverts with bigger culverts. At the site where that bulldozer was recently at work, we are simply removing three culverts altogether to create a creek-level crossing.

Away from creek crossings, dirt roads can funnel water to certain runoff points. That high-intensity runoff erodes creek banks, according to the Napa County Resource Conservation District. To combat this, workers have created “rolling dips” along the dirt roads, like the gentlest of a children’s roller coaster. “Rolling dips” spread out the drainage points and will protect our roads and trails from slipping away and eliminating our ability to access our own property.

Explore Animals by Touch as LightHouse Youth, Their Families and Exploratorium go to the San Francisco Zoo

PHOTO: A large sign for the San Francisco Zoo, near its entrance.

On Sunday, October 16 LightHouse students and their families, aided by Exploratorium Staff and Youth staff, will have the chance to enjoy a hands-on experience at the San Francisco Zoo, in the Sculpture Learning Plaza.

The Sculpture Learning Plaza is an exciting, innovative and accessible addition to the Zoo. It has nearly 100 sculptures and reliefs that are meant to be explored by touch and illustrate the amazing array of adaptations from some of the world’s most unique species.

Who: Families with at least one person that is blind or has low vision. Immediate family members.
What: A day of interactive animal science and exploration at the San Francisco Zoo.
When: Sunday, October 16, 2016, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Where: The San Francisco Zoo, 1 Zoo Road, San Francisco, 94132
Cost: Free for LightHouse Youth. Additional family members may need to pay an entry fee.
Waiver: Each participant must complete a LightHouse Youth Program Application, if you have not done so already.
What to bring: good walking shoes, bag lunch or money for lunch, water bottle and warm layers of clothing. Please be sure to bring necessary adaptive equipment such as a cane or magnifier.

With our friends from the Exploratorium leading the way we will learn about the ecological threads that connect all living things.

The sculptures are made from a variety of construction materials providing realistic textures. Microscopic species, such as an amoeba, are enlarged to show detail, while other sculptures, like that of the salt water crocodile, are life-size to exhibit their impressive stature.

Read more about the Sculpture Learning Plaza.

If you would like more information or to RSVP for this event please contact Jamey Gump, Youth Services Coordinator, at 415-694-7372 or jgump@lighthouse-sf.org.