Blind family inspires community, overcomes challenges - New York News

Blind family inspires community, overcomes challenges

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PHOENIX (KSAZ) -

A blind family is inspiring an entire community, but they admit it's not easy overcoming challenges.

"Runs, plays, does everything like everyone else," said Adelina Zepeda.

At just 5-years-old, Adelina's daughter, Sayuri Zepeda, has overcome a lifetime of challenges.  At 4-months-old, she was diagnosed with an eye cancer called retinoblastoma.

"She had six rounds of chemo and 18 treatments of radiation at a year and a half," said Adelina.

Doctors say her prognosis is good.

"She's been doing really well, so she's got 21/15 in her left and she's legally blind in her right," said Adelina.

Sayuri is now flourishing in kindergarten at Westland Charter School near 67th Avenue and Indian School Road.

"Very grateful that we saved as much vision as she has," said Adelina.

To her parents, saving Sayuri's vision was important.  That's because they know what it's like not to have it.  Both of her parents are blind.

"We met playing goalball," said Adelina.  "Goalball is actually a blind sport for the visually impaired."

Born with congenital cataracts, Adelina gradually lost her eyesight.  She was blind by age 7.

"I remember colors and numbers and things like that.  I'm used to it.. not being able to see.. it's just normal."

At 2-years-old, Sayuri's father lost both of his eyes to cancer.

"We live our life normally as possible," said Adelina.

They can't drive, so the family walks everywhere.  Marco has a service dog while his wife prefers a cane to a K-9 dog.

"Everything's around us.  Everything you would do in your daily life -- church, store, doctor's office," said Adelina.

The grocery store is about a mile from their home.  With no car, they can only buy what they can hold or fit in a stroller.

"They help us to go around and we tell them what we need," she said.

When they're not on foot, the family relies on bus service.

"We don't want to rely on people, so we take public transportation, like the bus.. we're always on the buses."

But for them, the most important tool is their phone.

"The iPhone is our eyes," said Adelina.  "We use our GPS when we're going to go to a new place, we get our address in, it takes us there most of the time."

One app even helps them read money.

"Finance Wells Fargo Money Reader."

On top of all the walking, Marco likes to go to the gym.

"No matter how much walking he does, he still runs," said Adelina.

He says he's run half and full marathons.

Marco didn't realize the cancer he had at age 2 was also Retinoblastoma and the couple didn't initially know it was hereditary -- that they could pass it on to their children.

"I mean it's a 50/50 chance," said Adelina.

Sayuri isn't their only child.  The Zepedas have three children.

"So the other two thankfully.. didn't get it," said Adelina.

3-year-old Ameyalli and 8-year-old Rivaldo can see just fine.

Rivaldo's 3rd grade teacher says the family inspires her and others.

"They are an incredible family, they do so much with their kids," said Susie Templeton.  "In spite of their disability, I don't see that it's slowing them down at all."

Every day, the Zepedas walk their children to and from school -- a mile each direction.

"...she holds on to my shirt, that's how I keep them all together," said Adelina.

A full day of walking can be exhausting, especially for a 3-year-old.

"They get tired too," said Adelina.

While their 8-year-old helps guide them sometimes, the Zepedas have made it clear that their children are not a crutch.  They've fought for them.

'Hours after their first son Rivaldo was born in California, Zepeda says Child Protective Services tried to take the baby away as it investigated the family's fitness as parents.  It was only after disability advocates intervened that CPS closed the case, saying the baby's referral to foster care was unfounded.

"We're not here to have kids for our eyes, we want to be normal like everyone else, be parents, have children raise them and see them grow, do well in school," said Adelina.

For the Zepedas, it's important their children learn responsibility and respect.

"Basically, I want them to know there's all kinds of people in this world, not everyone's the same.  There are all kinds of disabilities," said Adelina.

They don't look at being blind as a disability, but rather an ability to appreciate their surroundings.

"To be blind, you can notice more things than being able to see," said Marco.

"We can still move on in life. Nothing stops us," said Adelina.

Adelina used to work in a Tempe call center.  At night, Marco goes to massage school -- a common career for the visually impaired.

The Zepedas say one of their biggest challenges is reading their mail.

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