blind rodeo 1 Through The Lens: Rodeo For The Blind

(credit: CBS 11 News/Photojournalist Mike Kinney)

“It’s boots and chaps, it’s cowboy hats.  It’s spurs and latigo” that’s how Garth Brooks describes the rodeo, but when you go to the rodeo what do you see?  There are lots of sights to take in, everything from the color of the horses, to what the cowboys riding them are wearing.

Most of us take all of the pageantry of the rodeo for granted, but not the AT&T Pioneers.  They’re a group of volunteers within AT&T that look for ways to serve their community.

It’s all those sights and sound that this group of volunteers wants to share with blind and visually impaired children.

Each year they show up early in the morning at Will Rogers Coliseum and wire up a large section of the stands with headphones for each of the children.  When the children show up they treat them to a walk through the petting zoo to pet goats, rabbits and chickens and then a pony ride.  Most of these children are experiencing these things for the very first time at the stock show.  I followed a few of the kids around as they explored a world of animals and you can see them making a mental image of the animal they are petting.

In the rodeo they don the headphones to listen to their narrator, Paula Reed Tollett, describe all the action in the arena.  She paints them a picture of what is going on including what the riders are wearing and how funny the rodeo clowns look on their stick horses.

The kids seem to love every minute of the fun they have at the rodeo and I think they walk a way with a good picture in their mind of what happened in front of them.

blind rodeo 2 Through The Lens: Rodeo For The Blind

(credit: CBS 11 News/Photojournalist Mike Kinney)

AT&T Pioneers, with the help of the Lighthouse For The Blind, has been putting this on for over 30years and they tell me they walk a way with the image of all those smiling faces, and in the words of Garth Brooks, “It’s the broncs and the blood, it’s the steers and the mud. And they call the thing rodeo!”

Mike Kinney