Katie Cuppy was born very premature at 29 weeks gestation, weighing only 2 pounds at birth. Her parents spent many days wondering if their first child would survive.
Katie spent eight weeks in the Phoenix Children’s Hospital nursery and was diagnosed with albinism at five weeks old. Among the symptoms of albinism are problems with the function and development of the eyes.
Fortunately, Katie’s health improved and she had enough vision that she was able to read large print and she attended a private school from kindergarten until she entered high school. During this time, Katie also attended the Sports, Habilitation, Arts and Recreation Program (SHARP) at the Foundation for Blind Children on the weekends.
SHARP is a year-round program that provides training for blind and visually impaired children in daily living skills, adaptive sports, assistive technology, computers, social skills and career exploration. There are weekend programs during the school year and a four-week program each summer.
Katie says that attending SHARP increased her confidence, her independence and her willingness to give back to the community that inspired her. She enjoyed the activities that SHARP provided and gained the skills needed to become an independent young woman.
Katie graduated from high school last June with a 3.5 GPA and now attends Northern Arizona University through a program at FBC called Supported Education. She is studying special education with a goal of becoming a teacher of the visually impaired.
In September, Katie was one of three blind swimmers to successfully complete the Alcatraz Invitational Swim along with sighted guides from the Foundation for Blind Children. FBC’s three blind swimmers were the first in the event’s 18-year history to participate in the challenge.
“We are so proud of Katie’s accomplishments,” said Marc Ashton, FBC’s CEO. “We hope that someday she will return to FBC as a teacher of the visually impaired and inspire our students to follow in her footsteps.”
Foundation for Blind Children has three centers in the Valley, including one in Chandler, and is one of 28 agencies that receive financial support from Mesa United Way.
To read more “Faces of Need — and Hope” stories and to help, visit www.mesaunitedway.org. To learn more about FBC, visit www.seeitourway.org.