Dr. Travis Freeman says the idea about the upcoming “Lights Out Dinner in the Dark” March 14 is to give people a greater appreciation for the kinds of challenges people with disabilities face every day.
Freeman, an ordained minister and adjunct professor of religion at the University of the Cumberlands, lost his sight in middle school. 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.
“We are wanting to take people out of their comfort zone,” Freeman said about the dinner. “We want people to think about how they interact with people with disabilities. We think putting people in those situations will help raise awareness and think differently about those situations.”
Those who attend the dinner will be asked to eat spaghetti and meatballs while blindfolded. After the dinner, former University of Kentucky basketball player Jarrod Polson will be the keynote speaker.
Freeman said Polson plans to talk about how athletics gave him a platform to talk about the things important, something that is a big part of his own life experience. Freeman played football for Corbin, and even participated on the varsity football team at Corbin High School despite his blindness.
What he hopes people learn, more than anything, from the dinner is the proper way to direct their compassion toward those with disabilities that is not patronizing or inadvertently offensive.
“We want people to think about how they interact with people with disabilities,” Freeman said.
“I would say with anyone who has a disability, if you see them out and you think they need help … ask them,” Freeman added. “Don’t assume they need help, but ask them. If they say no, just trust that they know more about what they need than you do.”
Freeman said he’s had instances of people that have literally forced the issue in a well-meaning attempt to assist him.
“It’s just a matter of taking that compassion they want to display and displaying it properly.”
Freeman organized a similar awareness-raising event last year with the “Lights Out Blindfold 5k” race in Corbin. Runners had to navigate the course blindfolded. A similar race is planned to take place in Versailles in April.
Much of the proceeds raised from “Lights Out Dinner in the Dark” will go to benefit an orphanage in Haiti run by a man who was born with no hands. The kids in the orphanage get an extra meal each day for every $8,000 raised.
The dinner will take place at The Corbin Center. It starts at 6:30 p.m. Anyone interested in attending can register online at www.travisfreeman.org or get tickets from Mary Freeman during regular business hours at Central Baptist Church in Corbin.
Adult tickets are $15. Children 12-year-old and younger are $10.
Copies of Freeman’s autobiography and DVDs of “23 Blast” will be on sale at the event for anyone interested in purchasing them.