A Kentucky Marine who lost his sight, and both of his legs, while deployed in Iraq in 2007 will be the featured speaker this year at “Lights Out Dinner in the Dark” — a fundraising event designed to provide a greater appreciation for the challenges people with disabilities face on a daily basis.
Dr. Travis Freeman, an ordained minister and adjunct professor of religion at the University of the Cumberlands, is organizer of the dinner, and said Cpl. Matt Bradford’s story is a striking example of how people can overcome and even thrive despite difficult disabilities.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Freeman said. “We are going to have a dialogue right there at the dinner. His story is pretty amazing.”
The dinner will be held March 21, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at The Corbin Center.
Bradford, a native of Nicholasville, was injured near Haditha, Iraq on Jan. 18, 2007 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device. Shrapnel pierced both his eyes, blinding him, and his left leg was blown off. His right leg was later amputated at the hospital.
After multiple surgeries, and rehabilitation, Bradford reenlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in April 2010. He was stationed with the Wounded Warrior Battalion East before he retired in 2012.
Bradford is married and the couple has three children.
At “Lights Out Dinner in the Dark,” those who attend are asked to eat their meal blindfolded.
“The idea is to raise awareness and break down some of the barriers that exist between people who have disabilities and those who don’t,” Freeman said. “Last year we had spaghetti and meatballs. This year, I think we will do chicken breast or grilled chicken and potatoes … make things a little more challenging.”
Freeman lost his in the summer of 1993 as a middle school student. His fight to overcome the hurdles that naturally came with sudden blindness were the subject of the feature-length film “23 Blast” and his autobiography “Lights Out: Living in a Sightless World.” He is also president and CEO of The Freeman Foundation — an organization he created to promote the needs and potential of people with disabilities.
“There are always challenges, but I have accepted the fact that this is the life the God has laid out before me and that He has a plan and continues to use me in my blindness,” Freeman said. “That’s really the message of my life and the message of the foundation. We all have disabilities and pain of some sort, blindness is just the issue that I have to deal with.”
Freeman organized a similar awareness-raising event called the “Lights Out Blindfold 5k” which has taken place in Corbin the last two years. Runners are asked to navigate the course blindfolded with the help of a partner. A similar race was also run in Versailles last year.
Anyone is invited to attend “Lights Out Dinner in the Dark.” Tickets for the event are $15 for adults, and $10 for children 12 and under. They can be purchased online at www.travisfreeman.org or from Mary Freeman at Central Baptist Church in Corbin.
Proceeds from the event are used, in part, to feed disabled orphans in an orphanage in Haiti.