An amazing act of friendship helps blind girl drive
With so much darkness in the news lately, it’s amazing how one simple idea could bring so much light to so many lives. That’s what happened last weekend in Snohomish, when over 100 people came together to make a dream reality for their blind friend.
Glacier Peak High School seniors Brooklyn Dana and Ali Steenis joined the Ross and Burbank Show Thursday to share their inspirational story.
It all started at a club meeting, when their teachers asked what they would do if they knew they couldn’t fail. Most wanted to be a millionaire or start a business. But the legally-blind Ali had a much simpler wish. She wanted to drive a car.
“I just remember the room going silent and everyone was kind of taken aback by it,” Brooklyn says.
Brooklyn says it hit home something so simple could mean so much. But she didn’t give it much more thought.
Weeks later, the pair were sitting at a school assembly. The lights were dimmed and a row of smaller tea lights illuminated a path for the homecoming court like a runway in the darkened gym. Suddenly, Ali told Brooklyn it looked pretty.
Until then, Brooklyn had no idea Ali could see anything. But she explained she can see lights when the surrounding area is dark. It would prove to be a revelation one week later. That’s when one of their other friends suggested a group of students go to a local go-cart track after the homecoming dance.
“He was like ‘I think it would be fun because it would be at night, it would be all lit up, we could be in our tuxes, our dresses and everything. It would be cool’,” Brooklyn says. “And we just kind of looked at each other like ‘oh my gosh!'”
Suddenly, it all came together. Ali’s desire to drive, and a way to make it happen.
Brooklyn and her friend Adrian ran upstairs and told one of their favorite teachers they had a crazy idea: they wanted to help Ali’s dream come true.
The teacher not only went for it, another teacher overheard them and helped hatch the plan.
“She told us we had a drivers ed car that had a brake on the right side.”
The adults gave them their blessings, but told Brooklyn and her friends it was up to them to pull it off.
The idea was simple. Lay out a track lined with lights in the school parking lot Ali could drive in. And do it on Ali’s 18th birthday.
The execution took a lot of helping hands. When Brooklyn shared the idea with the assistant manager of the South Everett Home Depot, he jumped on board. The company donated strings of Christmas lights, generators and extension cords along with other supplies.
A handful of volunteers from the Home Depot came out Saturday to string up the track despite the pouring rain and near freezing temperatures.
“I had absolutely no idea. I’m really surprised they could keep it a secret. I knew nothing,” Ali says.
Her family drove her to the school. Ali thought they were just picking up some friends before heading to Seattle to celebrate her birthday.
“We drove into the parking lot and my dad said ‘Oh there’s a bunch of cones in the way. I’ll go move them.’ And he went to go move the cones and I’m sitting in the back of the car, I’m like ‘How long does it take you to move the cones?’ It was taking forever.”
After what seemed like forever, Ali started hearing her friends shouting her name.
“There were just so many people and that’s when I knew something was up. But even then I still didn’t know exactly what was happening,” she says.
Then they sprung the surprise. Ali would be getting behind the wheel for the first time in her life. With the help of her drivers ed teacher, they got into the special car and slowly headed down the illuminated track.
“I don’t remember being nervous or scared at all. I was just really excited, more overwhelmed than anything else, because there were so many people there and I was completely caught off guard.”
Ali says she could make out the lines of the lights on the initial straightaway, but the first curve was a little tough. Still, like much of her life, she managed to make her way around the makeshift track. And when there weren’t enough Christmas lights to complete the circuit, dozens of students stepped in.
“We had the single tea lights that we had used in the assembly, and we handed those out to students so that they could hold it in the places we didn’t have it. So they got to be part of the drive too,” Brooklyn says.
Ali drove three laps. She admits while a part of her would have loved to keep going, she couldn’t wait to “love on” all of her friends who turned out to make her dream come true.
“It was a really humbling experience,” Ali says. “This might have been for me but wasn’t about me. This was about a class and a community coming together to fulfill a dream and come together and create this amazing thing to happen.”
It’s an amazing testament to friendship and tenacity. And a life lesson that should inspire us all.
“I feel our generation kind of has like a bad rep,” Brooklyn says. “I feel like there’s so many people who have ideas like this and there’s so much you can do with it and going out and doing the impossible.”
Ali will be featured in a special report on KING 5 News Thursday night at 5:45 p.m.
Cover image courtesy KING 5