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Today Show American Story: Roughing the Rapids with Lonnie Bedwell

“On Me” Documentary by Team River Runner featuring Lonnie Bedwell

Off the Beaten Path: More than just blind ambition

by Ross Rowling
Published: November 9, 2015

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WTHI) – Two years ago we told you quite an inspirational story. A man from right here in the Wabash Valley was the first blind man to kayak the length of the Grand Canyon.

This time our story takes place in southern Indiana where Bedwell’s outdoor adventures literally elevated at Cedar Bluff’s Nature Preserve in Bloomington.

Lonnie Bedwell is not only a veteran, but he is an author and legally blind.

“I tell people all the time, I don’t have eyesight but I have vision, you guys have vision, dream out of the box,” Bedwell described.

Since becoming the first blind man to kayak the Grand Canyon in 2013, Bedwell’s outdoor adventures have taken him all over the world.

On this particular crisp, fall day the leaves crunch beneath his feet on the trails just an hour from home. Another outdoor activity that’s become common since he lost his eyesight.

“I don’t have eyesight but I have vision…”

“When you thought the world come to an end you take a step, it’s still there so what do you do with it you just keep stepping and you keep stepping and you enjoy every step you make,” he described. “Sometimes you’re going to get knocked backwards sometimes you’re going to get knocked sideways you just try to get back up dust it off and take another step.”

As impressive as it is to blindly scale the trails at Cedar Bluffs, that’s nothing compared to another feat Lonnie recently checked off the to-do list.

“We started out knowing we had about 13,000 feet of elevation gain we had to do and we just went on…”

That 13,000 foot elevation is none other than Mt. Kilimanjaro. Surrounded by guides and other disabled veterans, Bedwell ascended to the top.

“We did it. It was such a cool feeling to know that we are standing on top of Africa right now. It’s not an ‘I thing’ it’s a ‘we thing’ you know you’re part of a team again, you know a team of like-minded people trying to accomplish a mission.”

While that was, without a doubt, a powerful moment, that moment pales in comparison to the process.

“You don’t always just look for the pinnacle because if you just always look for the pinnacle you’ve missed so much on the way to get there. It’s the journey. Everybody…needs to feel like they have a purpose…that they can…”

A message to encourage all of us to realize our potential.

“I just want people to live life and enjoy it, you know, don’t exist it live it. When your feet hit the floor it’s up to you whether it’s going to be a good day and that’s so true. If you think you can or you think you can’t you’re right, so what’s it going to be? If you think you can then you probably can.”

A simple thought can make a profound difference.

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