Being able to see is something most of us take for granted, but one man is taking his loss of vision as a challenge to be overcome and a source of inspiration to others.
Kyle Coon has been climbing personal obstacles since before kindergarten.
“I went from being able to see quite a bit. When I was 5, I lost my left eye, but I still had half my field of vision and so when I lost my right eye, I'd wake up and there's just nothing there,” Coon explained.
A rare cancer of the eyes claimed his sight.
“I went into this period where I was just feeling sorry for myself. I didn't think I could do anything at all. I'd just sit in my room and cry. I wouldn't go outside to play anymore.”
But he plays hard today as evidenced by a rock climb at the University of Central Florida Campus Recreation and Wellness Center where the recent grad also works.
While he beat the cancer, he owes his mental recovery to his parents and a chance link to blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind person to scale Mount Everest. They met and connected.
“Before I left, Eric just pretty much told me, 'hey, don't let your blindness hold you back.”
Coon followed in the path of his mentor and began rock climbing with his family.
That later grew into mountain conquering, including Mount Kilimanjaro -- the highest peak in Africa.
Now, he is channeling his experiences to inspire and motivate others, especially children with challenges, to reach their full potential.
“When I go into the outdoors, I don't see anything. I touch, I smell, I taste and we want tp show the world that 360 degree experience,” said Coon.
“And we feel by doing that at an early age and getting families involves and helping the families through that tough time, and then helping the kids along their path through their early school years.”
To achieve his goal, Coon joined with fellow blind adventurers to create Team Sight Unseen.
He may have been blind since age 6, but Coon has more vision than most.
“I still want to continue climbing and adventuring. I want to continue to push my body and my mind to the limit. Rock climbing, hiking, skiing.”
At 21, most new grads are climbing the career ladder. Coon is planning to help others climb to new heights and maybe squeeze in scaling the tallest mountain in South America.
Coon will return to UCF in the fall to pursue a graduate certificate in non-profit management to help him lead Sight Unseen, Inc.