Blind Triplets Reaching New Heights
But, it was not always this way. In fact, these Colombia-born boys, who came to the United States when they were just 3 years old, still faced an uncertain future as their
daily lives most typically consisted of staying at home and not having the same kinds of childhood experiences that all too many of us take for granted. Magnified by their biological father returning to Colombia during their preschool years and never ultimately seeing them again, the boys felt that they had a big void in their lives, one that they came to believe would never be filled. Going to the park, hanging out with friends, attending birthday parties of classmates, regularly heading outside to play, spending family time around the community on weekends, attending sporting events or playing integrated sports, trick-or-treating with buddies around the neighborhood, and doing other things that kids got to do. By and large, not only were these experiences sorely lacking in their lives but, more alarmingly, difficulties associated with being bullied at school, combined with the sheer absence of meaningful social interactions with peers, eventually took their toll quite significantly.
By the time the boys were in Fifth Grade, hope of ever seeing their biological father again had all but dissipated. Their mother had a hard time caring for them, and their maternal grandmother spent full time tending to their needs as best as she could. Difficult times were faced in those early years, and the absence of high expectations of them as blind kids resulted in the three not having gained age-appropriate skills. Other than going to school, participating in a monthly Braille Book Club, going to an annual summer day camp for blind children lasting for a week, and attending church services on Sundays, the treo hardly ever went outside for more than seven years. Tellingly, by one point, even at the tender age of 10, Nick even wanted to kill himself due to having no real hope left.
And then came into their lives Ollie Cantos, who himself is also blind. Since May 2010, his top priority has been to foster a new and exciting environment of high expectations, great opportunities for each of the boys to thrive in ways they never fathomed possible, and ever-expanding chances to give to the world and to serve others ably, faithfully, and well. To realize these worthy goals, Ollie is rallying together a cadre of stalwart supporters to continue to envelope and encircle the boys with an infusion of belief in their abilities and their inherent potential, Ollie not only mentored them but has since taken on the role of Dad.
The boys are now 18 years old, graduated from high school in June 2017, and are to take 9 months of independent skills training before going to four-year colleges. In spite of the devastating and sudden loss of their maternal grandmother, who passed away in August 2015, they carry forward, holding in their hearts the love she always gave them. By this point in the boys' young lives, they have spoken thus far to audiences totaling more than 2,000, serve in different youth leadership capacities in church, have raised money to help kids from low-income families get books and other school supplies, have helped collect canned goods for the homeless, have actively supported people with other types of disabilities including physical and intellectual disabilities, have been nvolved in athletics like Wrestling and Crew, are active with other extracurricular activities, and have earned the prestigious and coveted rank of Eagle Scout within Boy Scouts of America. Most importantly, they are outspoken proponents of adoption, believing wholeheartedly that the ties that truly bind families together need not necessarily be based on biology. (See http://www.npr.org/2014/02/21/280277459/the-lives-of-blind-brothers-changed-when-dad-came-knocking.)
As far as Leo, Nick, and Steven have come thus far, they each dream of so much more! Leo aspires to become fluent in Japanese and to dedicate his life as a attorney to facilitate technological innovations that result in greater accessibility for fellow persons with disabilities. Nick is eager to build upon his entrepreneurial spirit by becoming successful in business and supporting economic empowerment of disadvantaged populations. Steven wants to serve as an attorney in the arena of intellectual property. They also have a lot of dreams of what they would love to do for fun if ever they got the chance: Being among the first to utilize driverless cars; taking a cruise; flying in a helicopter; job shadowing a millionaire or billionaire; traveling on a private corporate jet; becoming friends with celebrities from their favorite movies and TV shows; taking a trip to Microsoft Corporation to see the latest technological innovations; embarking on an extended vacation to Walt Disney World in Orlando; and meeting Tony Robbins, Burt Goldman, Rhonda Byrne, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and the President.
You can be right alongside them as you personally become a recognized and important part of their ongoing transformation. They fervently imagine a world, rich with promise and possibility. They see themselves increasing their collective power to make a real and lasting difference in people's lives, especially among those who are going through what they have been through and who are still searching for hope that they can live lives of greatness!
Ollie, Leo, Nick, and Steven believe wholeheartedly in the kind of personal exceptionalism that lies within us all, waiting to shine through.
You can support the boys taking their lives to a whole new level by joining an army of well-wishers who see in them the very real ability to help change the world!
Present and pending needs include:
- Visits to possible four-year colleges and universities to identify where each boy may thrive as they prepare their way for a bright future.
- Travel to share messages of leadership with ever-broadening audiences.
- Blindness-related assistive technology hardware and software to optimize competitiveness and increase independence.
- Refinement of their skills through purchase of tools, training, and other materials to continue expediting personal growth as they gear their minds and attitudes to success at higher and higher levels.
- Covering other initiatives that will enable them to live life just as fully as other kids their age who do not have disabilities and to give them the kind of jump start to adulthood that will catapult them into the stratosphere of achievement in spite of their early years of great adversity.
- Creation of a book and/or audio or video series geared toward family life lessons and personal development.
All those who contribute to this fund will receive exclusive special updates on the boys' lives that are to be posted nowhere else. In addition, benefactors who envision nurturing the boys within specific areas or in creative ways will get to collaborate on new and exciting possibilities, seeing even more directly how their support has an impact on their lives.
Your generous heartfelt contributions of $60, $120, $480, or whatever amount at any level would be most gratefully appreciated. Like ripples in a pond following the casting of a single pebble, so will be the magnitude of your kind acts of support. Whether on a one-time, periodic, or ongoing basis, help build a lasting legacy that will endure. Make your difference today!
You and your incredible support have helped paved the way for the leadership development of the boys whose achievement of Eagle Scout rank has now gotten national news attention!
On Friday, December 1, 2017, the members of our family of four have been named by ABC News as its chosen Persons of the Week. This was revealed during the national evening news program, World News Tonight with David Muir.
Here, you may find the “teaser” at 0:52 at the top of the broadcast, and the feature story (which was the last segment of the broadcast) has more teaser text before the commercial break at 18:23, followed by the piece, narrated by David Muir himself and seen live by a viewing audience estimated to exceed 8.3 million people nationwide.
Never EVER doubt the fact that each of you, being a unique part of the boys’ lives and representing some of the most staunch individuals who is a part of a small core group of amazing angels in their lives, may indeed share in the triumph of spirit that Leo, Nick, and Steven represent ... DIRECTLY because of all that you have done.
We invite you to comment on and share this link that includes just the story segment for easy access:
Thank you; THANK you. A BILLION times, THANK you! :-)
With Warmth and Utmost Gratitude,
Especially now that the Holidays are in full swing with our having just celebrated Thanksgiving Day 2017, Leo, Nick, Steven, and I want to wish each of the 164 of you, along with each of your respective families, all the best during such a special time of year.
And oh, how time flies! Since the last update, the formal Eagle Court of Honor took place on Wednesday, October 25. More than 200 people were in attendance including high-ranking Federal Government officials, business and religious leaders, long-time friends and supporters, and the media. For further details, including photos and videos from the event and to watch the news stories that ended up being picked up across the country, see:
These past several months have also included our family highlighting attention on the importance of adoption. On September 27, the four of us stood before a jam-packed Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) Gala audience of more than 700 adoption proponents and champions that included members of the Bicameral Bipartisan Adoption Caucus, Angels in Adoption from across the country, captains of industry and other business leaders, non-profit organizations, and more. For highlights, including a video, see:
Also on the adoption front, six weeks later, we were privileged to have been invited by CCAI to attend a special reception that brought together some of the most stalwart supporters in the movement to strive for a loving home for each and every child. Among others who were on hand was Congressman Steve Scalise (R- Louisiana), the hero who survived a shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, during a baseball practice session this past June. Also pictured with our family is Becky Weichhand, CCAI’s energetic and visionary Executive Director.
In yet another part of the boys’ lives, I am pleased to report that, within the past few weeks, their involvement in the organized blind movement began. In addition to having been mentioned in the annual report of the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia, Leo was elected Board Member of the Virginia Association of Blind Students, and Steven and Nick took on leadership roles to increase communuty engagement.
Since today is Giving Tuesday, we wish to thank each of you for what you have done to be so giving and caring. You have given of your time, talents, treasure, and insight. True to our family’s promise, as the boys continue to grow and prepare to tackle new challenges that are anticipated to begin this January as they get ready to leave the nest and to relocate to Massachusetts for seven months in preparation for starting college in Fall 2018, we wish to tell you from the bottom of our hearts, “Thank you.”
You have each played a direct role in empowering Leo, Nick, and Steven to increase their positive personal impact by working diligently to making a real difference in the world and enthusiastically urging others to do the same.
God bless each of you, and we will remain forever grateful for the blessings that you each represent through the kindness and generosity you have shown.
If ever you wondered about the degree to which your support has set into motion a series of events that are starting to change the world, wonder no longer!
To bring the 154 of you up to date, Leo, Nick, and Steven graduated from high school on Wednesday, June 24. Particularly for those of you who first came on board as many as 23 months ago when the dream of the boys and I becoming a family was still on the horizon, their big moment walking across stage is all the more meaningful as their names were called. Here is the special 2 minutes during which my sons were surprised over the intense warmth, love, and respect shown so boisterously toward them that Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, just erupted with wild enthusiasm, complete with an extended standing ovation by all those present. As a teacher recorded these memories on video, I still recall how excitedly I cheered and then (to be honest) how I was so overcome with emotion and pride that I started quietly to cry. None of us will ever forget what you are about to see.
... But wait! There's more! :-)
Since my last update, I have major developments to report on the Boy Scout front. For Nick's Eagle Project, he ended up bringing in almost $2,000 in supplies to support kids and adults receiving services from Doorways for Women and Families, helping those fleeing domestic violence, homelessness, and abuse. As for Leo, he went big on his Eagle Project too. He organized both a blood drive that collected 88 units of blood for Inova Blood Donor Services (immediately saving up to 352 people's lives) and by putting together a new fleece blanket drive which are to give comfort to 77 kids being cared for by Inova Children's Hospital. With Steven's Eagle Scout Project already done and all three boys completing other rigorous merit badge requirements, Nick's and Steven's respective Eagle Boards of Review unanimously voted to grant them rank advancement to Eagle Scout on Sunday, July 23; and, Leo's Board of Review did the same for him on Wednesday, July 26 (notably on the 27th anniversary of the signing of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act). Of significance tho us, all requirements were completed by the time the boys turned 18, resulting from our collective conscious decision early on not to seek time extensions based on disability. In our view, when blindness itself does not provide the basis for requesting exceptions to general rules, there was no need in their case to make such a request. As a result, the boys competed with themselves on terms of equality, and they won!
Here is the full home video that we plan on showing during their Eagle Court of Honor. . The video is just 8 minutes but encapsulates their final steps toward Eagle Scout rank:
As a sentimental aside, if any of you would like to send them congratulations, I invite you either to post comments on this page or to text me with a video message of no more than 90 seconds. If you wish to send a longer video, feel free to email me the link to your Dropbox account. If I have enough of a critical mass, I will compile a unique piece for them as a special surprise. If providing video, please state your name and where you are from. If we have enough material, I will separate videos into a "Benefactors" section as my way of thanking you further for the role you have already played in the boys' lives.
Of course, in sending congratulatory thoughts, do not feel the need to donate monetarily. If you do, though, for once, in light of this time of great celebration in their lives, if you so designate and authorize, every penny they receive between now and their Eagle Court of Honor in October will be dedicated toward just having some fun! (My hope is to take them on a surprise trip and, if that happens, you can darn well bet that we'll keep everyone posted on how it all goes!) In the alternative, if you wish to give them congratulatory gifts of a different nature, just email me through the direct way available to you via GoFundMe, and I will be glad to reply and share how you can get those gifts to them. We are on the verge of finalizing an exact date and, once set, will issue another update.
As always, I invite each of you to drop us a line so that we may be in one another's lives far beyond these updates alone. We are gratefully finding that, over time, this is evolving into an incredible community. I am so very grateful to each of you for what you have done to be right there for the boys the way you have been. My sons have grown pricelessly as a result, and all the good they continue to do has been due in no small part to your personal examples of caring and your own dedication to continuing to make a real and positive difference.
God bless each and every one of you!
Dear GoFundMe Benefactors,
From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank each of the 147 of you who have come to constitute the army of supporters, who has given of your resources to make possible the incredible blessings of good that continue to enable Leo, Nick, and Steven to become who they are today. You have each had a special hand in what has come to pass, and the priceless value that you have manifested in their lives has empowered them to shine as magnificent examples of what it truly means to appreciate life and all that it has to offer! You have not only been generous with wanting to enable the boys to be the best that they can be, but you have also enthusiastically enlisted others to do the same!
To bring you up to date, all three boys are on track to finalizing qualification to earning the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout as part of Boy Scouts of America. Each has been steadily working on this since first joining Scouts at the age of 12. It is hard to believe that, after all these years of working so hard while having fun, they are soon to attain a rank that is only reached by no more than 2 to 4 percent of all Boy Scouts. Steven just completed his Eagle Scout Leadership Development Project by successfully collecting and procuring $1,000 in school supplies that are to benefit 130 kids, located at three separate sites, from low-income families. These supplies were gathered from three collection points and involved efforts by fellow high school students and families from six church congregations. Meanwhile, Nick is slated to begin leading an initiative to support those who are homeless, and Leo is to organize an effort to give comfort to kids who are hospitalized at the pediatric ward where he spent a total of two months within the past few years. Last week, the National Capital Area Council informed us that the boys will be spotlighted at its gala event to take place in September. In addition, on a different front, a major new profile piece is in the works, which will be announced within the next few months. Spoiler alert: Its reach will be in the millions!
There is yet more. At the time of this writing, less than two months remain as the boys eagerly count down the number of days before graduating from high school. They are also to turn 18 not long thereafter and are to enter adulthood, ready to take on the world by storm!
Like ripples in a pond, every victory they win, every life they touch, every person they help, every milestone they achieve, and every degree of good they initiate or to which they contribute is due in no small part to each of you. Some of you know the boys directly, but many of you have become a core part of their support base whom they have not yet had the honor of meeting. It is simply breathtaking to us that well-wishers, whose numbers continue to grow, have stemmed both from people to whom they are directly tied and from a whole cadre of well-wishers who just heard or read about them somewhere and then proactively decided out of love to do something special by joining in to be of support.
For these reasons and more, as the boys' Dad, I simply cannot thank each of you profusely enough. It touches my heart personally to see how folks from across the nation have united to empower Leo, Nick, and Steven to attain their greatest potential! You are each just so wonderful, so we do mean it when we invite you to reach out to us individually so that we can get to know you even better and so that we may be in one another's lives even more!
God bless each and every one of you for literally being such angels in the lives of my sons. To you, I will remain forever grateful.
Steve, Nick and Leo, You truly are an example to all of us. Your determination in accomplishing your goals and your hard work is paying off. I think all of this is possible for the Christ like attribute of your wonderful father Ollie. In this life very few people have the courage to serve and love and conquer life the way all of you are doing it. Love, Ruth Wise
I appreciate how you have broadened my awareness of blind folks. That they are as able as the rest of us, lacking one of the senses but still have 4 senses left to be super capable. I can now see blind folks and have opened my world to include them.
Ionic (aka 'colloidal') zinc (a liquid) can be used as eyedrops and will repair your DNA, potentially leading to healing/restoration of vision. It kind of stings, though in a good way. It would probably be good for anyone with glasses.