Pine Bluffs Post - Serving all of Eastern Laramie County since 1908

By Charlene Smith
Reporter for Pine Bluffs Post 

Running on an unseen path

 

Charlene Smith

Imagine it is dark, and you see blurred images all around you. Then a gun goes off and loud cheering starts as you hear the sound of running shoes carrying athletes by you. Are you ready to run long distance with a vision impairment?

It can be done, and Jonathan Stewart is ready to encourage anyone to get out and experience life.

After Johnathan’s birth, he spent 10 weeks at University Hospital in Denver. When his parents brought him home, they noticed something wasn’t quite right with his eyes. The doctors diagnosed Jonathan at three months of age with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia, a medical condition arising from an underdeveloped optic nerve.

Lana Stewart, Jonathan’s mom, said it was a fluke. But for every injustice and rock thrown in the path, there is often a way around it to reach the goals.

“When you have a child with a disability, you as a parent mourn what is lost and what could have been,” said Lana. “You don’t know how it’s going to work out or how it will go.” She added there is a process parents go through and mourn the life they thought their child would have and what might have been.

The mourning didn’t last long and Johnathan began conquering things his parents never thought possible.

“He is a good role model and he is good at listening to people,” said Lana.

Johnathan enhanced his sense of hearing and listening to compensate for the loss of his sight.

Jonathan conquered every milestone that was put in front of him. He graduated from his individual education program this fall, and the Burns school system has helped him become more independent.

“People who don’t know him see him with his vision problem and wonder how he does it,” said Lana.

Jonathan is not scared to try anything despite what many consider a limitation and they would understand if he never attempted any sport.

“Jonathan tried karate for a while, even though I didn’t want him to,” said Lana.

But the entire family has an attitude to go ahead and try new things.

Lana was a member of the roller derby team in Wyoming. She traveled to Colorado, Montana and other surrounding states to compete.

“I would like to try roller skating,” said Jonathan after talking about his mom’s experiences.

Johnathan mentioned he would also like to try boxing, but after being reminded the only boxing that goes on in Burns junior high school is in the hallways, he showed he is just like any other student at Burns.

“I would get OSS (out of school suspension) for that,” laughed Johnathan.

“I think it’s the parents responsibility to provide opportunities for our children,” said Lana.

She encourages him to experience life like everyone else. But the encouragement would only get Johnathan so far without his ambition to accomplish his goals.

In elementary school, Jonathan never imagined he could do anything more than attend school and listen to the stories of his classmates athletic adventures or other extra-curricular outings school kids tend to have.

“In elementary I never expected to be running and on the cross country team or in wrestling,” said Johnathan. “And look at me now. So, you don’t know until you try.”

Johnathan’s explanation of the sports he likes could inspire anyone.

“I like track because it is all on you, if you don’t do something correct it is your own fault and if you do it right, it is all you,” said Johnathan. “I prefer long distance to sprints. I get farther and I can save up some energy for the end of the race. With sprints you might have one race back to back with another and it is a powerhouse.”

And his inspiration not only comes from his parents but also his brother, Sheldon Davis.

“My brother keeps me inspired. He is in the Marines, and he used to run cross country,” Johnathan said proudly. “I feel really happy to follow in his footsteps a little bit. When I am tired of running and it is hard for my spotter to help me, I imagine Sheldon rooting me on and I get my energy back a little bit.”

No one can expect the path they will have to run at the start of their life. Johnathan was given a disability that could have made his path disappear altogether. But with a strong family behind him and the will to try, Johnathan worked to clear his path and accomplish his goals.

“Finish what you start,” said Johnathan. “If you don’t like something, stick with it and then next time you can say, I don’t like this and don’t try it again. I think my motto is it doesn’t matter if you come in first or last place as long as you have tried and you finished is all that matters.”

 

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