Southeast Bulloch High School junior Kai Owens is once again collecting donations to help comfort kids facing blindness.
The 17-year-old Owens has a rare, progressive eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa and was diagnosed while still in elementary school. Owens’ and other retinal diseases cause blindness, and night blindness is one of the first symptoms many children experience.
Soon after he was diagnosed, Owens realized that loss of vision could cause children to experience nighttime fears and anxiety, and he wanted to do something to help other children in similar situations. With the encouragement of his parents, Chris and Kim Owens, he founded “Kai’s Comforts” to collect highly textured soft pillows and blankets for donations to children experiencing vision loss.
“We made our first delivery in 2013, and this will be our fourth collection,” Kai Owens said.
Collecting more than 400 items thus far, Kai’s Comforts previously delivered items to schools for the blind in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina. The Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh, N.C., will be the recipient of donations collected in November.
Owens is passionate about helping children who experience vision issues.
“I’m at an age now that I’ve passed a lot of my major challenges related to vision loss,” he said. “So I think I can be a bit of an example for some of the younger kids, and maybe these soft items will help them through some hard times.”
Never one to let his vision loss slow him down, Owens meets challenges head-on and excels at whatever he encounters. He is an active skimboarder and surfer and is sponsored by Exile Skimboards.
“Exile Skimboards is a super cool company based in San Clemente, California,” Owens said. “They are super supportive of what I’m doing.”
He also plays drums for a few local bands, including one through Pladd Dot School of Rock.
“I have a passion for music, and I plan to attend college for some sort of music degree,” he said.
Next summer, Owens hopes to get his guide dog from Guiding Eyes in New York.
Owens has solid advice for those who have an issue, physical or otherwise, that some might view as a disability of hindrance.
“Don’t get caught up in trying to be ‘normal’ and do things like the general population,” he said. “Do things however they work for you, because that’s the only way you will be able to succeed.
“Don’t let stereotypes guide your actions. For example, some blind kids have said that they don’t want to use a cane because it makes them look blind, but frankly, you are blind and need to do everything in your power to succeed.”
Drop bins for pillows and blankets are located at Pladd Dot, Southeast Tire and Service and the front desk at Southeast Bulloch High School. Collections are ongoing throughout the month of November.