Visually impaired children have a river adventure

August 2010 News

"I don't know whose idea this was, putting a bunch of blind people on a boat," Preston Davis III said as he stepped aboard. "We're all afraid of water."

The 16-year-old Davis is quick with a wisecrack, but there was no sign of fear when he took his turn steering the pontoon boat upriver on the Cape Fear on Wednesday afternoon. Like most of the teens from the Vision Resource Center who took a turn at the controls, he just grinned widely.

Davis was one of 14 blind and visually impaired teenagers and younger children who, along with 12 volunteers, were out for a ride.

Terri Thomas came up with the idea. The resource center's executive director had taken the kids all over during their summer camp - bowling, climbing and fishing. She had already thought about taking the center's year-round adult clients on a boat.

"I said, why not do it with the kids?" said Thomas, who's short, loud and friendly.

Freddie Mims, pontoon owner and river guide, provided the two boats for the trip. He takes river-tour bookings for all manner of occasions, from anniversaries to birthdays and church groups to graduations.

"Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal," Thomas George sang aloud as he waited to board. The 15-year-old asked Terri Thomas if he was allowed to dive in.

"No, honey, I don't want your mama coming after me," she said.

"This is the most exciting thing we've done," said Valari Rios, 16, as the boats left the dock at Campbellton Landing, heading upriver. "This is new. I've never been on a boat before."

Mims stopped here and there as the second boat, captained by Danny Gleaton, pulled alongside. Mims told the group about the Person Street bridge - there have been four bridges in that spot, the first burned during the Civil War - and the World War II era patrol ship half submerged on the west bank. It was used as a floating party dock at Breece's Landing.

From there, Mims turned the boats around for a leisurely cruise downstream.


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