St. Augustine — The Annual Run With A Vision 5k will be held on Saturday, January 8, at the Riverview Club St. Augustine Shores.
Blind runners will complete the 3.1 course tethered to sighted guides to raise awareness and funds for The Randolph Sheppard Vendors of Florida, a non profit organization that promotes business opportunities for the blind and visually impaired.
Randall Crosby, Program Director for Run With A Vision and Vice President of Randolph Sheppard Vendors of Florida (RSVF), organized the event to “give back to a community” that enabled him to become an entrepreneur when he became blind at age 26 from retinitis pigmentosa, a rare genetic disease that gradually destroys cells in the retina.
Randolph Sheppard Vendors of Florida is a non-profit organization that promotes business opportunities for the blind and visually impaired. The organization was established in 1936 in conjunction with The Randolph Sheppard Vending Act, a federal law that grants blind citizens, 18 years and older, eligibility to become food service business owners on federal and state property upon completion of training.
Crosby is among 115 blind and visually impaired Florida residents self-employed through RSVF who stock vending machines in post offices, courthouses, county buildings, municipalities, administrative state buildings, federal buildings, cafeteria’s, snack bars and all of Florida’s highway rest stops.
“Thanks to RSVF, I’m a contributing member of society rather than a burden,” he said. “There are over 2,500 people in the country who are blind and self-employed because of this important program. This organization is near to my heart and important to members of our community.”
Crosby’s inaugural run was ignited by his passion for running and desire to help those within his industry suffering from COVID 19 shutdowns. At the onset of the pandemic, he organized a “Run From My Driveway,” event to raise money for members of the RSVF devastated by the loss of income. The light bulb when“the gathering of six people” garnered $2000 through word of mouth and social media.
The blind runner tapped into his local sources - all friends - to coordinate the logistics giving birth to the first - soon to be annual - run along St. Augustine’s Shores.
Crosby began running with a sighted guide at age 45. At the end of his first race, “euphoric” and “proud of all the pats on the back from those who had never seen a blind man run before,” he dedicated himself to training with sighted partners. To date, he’s completed 120 athletic events including five marathons, a century bike ride and several triathlons.
“Running opened up a whole new world for me,” he said. “I - we, the Randolph Sheppard Vendors of Florida, support blind people in business and believe that blind people can do anything that they put their minds to - including running. My favorite quote comes from John Bingham, a marathon runner, ‘The miracle isn’t that I finished this race, the miracle is that I had the courage to start it.’
I believe in starting new things and amazing things,” concluded Crosby. “I am totally blind but it doesn’t stop me form doing what I want to do.”
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