John Brannon: Step aside world … here comes Sarah

March 4, 2010 

On those occasions when I visit the campus of Coast Union High School and it’s time for the students to move to their next classroom, I keep my eyes open in hope of seeing Sarah Wright skipping along a walkway to her next class. Quite often she is singing a song on her merry way. This is a young lady following the path of her dreams to become a talented, independent person.

This is her junior year at Coast, but she arranged to double up on her required senior classes. She will depart for a year in Spain this August and take her electives while a senior at school in Spain. Sarah has not completely decided on a career yet, but at present is heading toward something to do with journalism—perhaps in newspapers, magazines or radio. She is also interested in sound engineering for stage musicals.

Life has been challenging for Sarah and for her father as well. Her mother died when Sarah was 5; being a single parent was not easy for dad Scott, but certainly very rewarding.

The first time I met Sarah was in 2002, when she was preparing to perform at a musical recital presented by the Music Education Network in San Luis Obispo and I wanted to do a column about her. She met me at her front door, threw her arms around me and invited me into their home. We sat in the living room as she and Scott provided a background of the 9-year-old girl’s life.

After a few minutes, she asked, “John, may I see what you look like?” I was sitting on the couch; she was in a chair a few feet in front of me. I removed my glasses as she placed her hands on my face and began exploring the contours (and the skin that no longer fits). You see, Sarah was born blind—she “sees” with her hands. When she finished, she thanked me. I couldn’t speak at first; then I asked Scott if I may “see” Sarah’s face. Closing my eyes, my hands repeated her movements for a few minutes. It was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had.

Before ending my visit, I asked Sarah to smile while I took a photo. “Sarah doesn’t know how to smile,” Scott commented, “when you see her smile she is smiling from inside out—she doesn’t know how to form a smile.”

Perhaps you have seen Sarah in the company of a young man around town for the past 15 years. Kevin Vidal is an orientation and mobility specialist for the County Board of Education. Under his guidance, Sarah has learned how to maintain a safe and reliable technique to find her way about Cambria.

Two years ago, Miss Wright was approached by producers of a documentary, “Do you Dream in Color?” devoted to the lives of eight blind students in California. They will also include her experiences of living in Spain.

To help raise funds for her year abroad, Scott has created a demonstration disk of his daughter singing three songs. Under voice coach Ruth Fleming, Sarah has become a very talented singer. A fundraiser will be held from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 6, at the Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St., Cambria. There will be a supply of CDs, plenty of music, lots of food and a raffle.

I encourage fans of Sarah to purchase the CD. In time you will be able to say, “I remember her when ….”

Call 927-5311 for more information. To make a donation, mail to P.O. Box 819, Cambria CA 93428.

Skater Scott Hamilton had health problems as a child; as a result he never achieved full growth. His stature was limited to a little over 5-feet, 2-inches, and 108 pounds. At 13, he began ice skating lessons. He eventually became World and United States Champion four times (1981- 1984) and won the Olympic gold medal in 1984. He is noted for his quote: “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”

E-mail John Brannon at jrogb1433@yahoo.com

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