Charity Stripe: Blind woman helps track athletes see

David Somers

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Senior distance runner Chris Romo was one of several Sacramento State student athletes who volunteered in December to serve as guides to blind runners attempting to complete the California International Marathon. 

What Romo didn’t realize at the time was it would  be the blind who would end up helping he and his fellow athletes to see. 

“At first it was more of a personal thing,” Romo said. “I was like, ‘I’ll run and I’ll get in my miles.’ You know, that kind of attitude. But once I actually did it, I realized a lot of things.” 

Senior Kyle Lackner, junior Benny Willers and Romo said they learned some valuable lessons when they each took turns running a leg with Amy McDonaugh in the marathon. McDonaugh, who has been legally blind since the age of 12, served as a tremendous inspiration. 

“The motivation and the dedication that she had was really what got to me,” Lackner said. “(One thing) we took away from it was that every time we’re running and we feel a little pain or a little ache, and we just want to stop, there’s no reason something that small should stop you. This woman is out here running and she can only see shadows.” 

Willers said he was amazed by how quickly McDonaugh finished her marathon despite her severe physical limitations.

“I was really impressed because she was booking,” Willers said. “You really don’t know how awesome it is until you experience it. It made me realize what I have, the privileges I have.” 

McDonaugh set a new personal record during the marathon even though she developed a lot of pain in her hamstrings toward the end of the race. Romo said she remained unswervingly upbeat in the face of adversity. 

“The whole run she was just really joyful and positive,” Romo said. “I could tell she was in pain, but she never really expressed that (during) the whole race. That really opened my eyes.” 

Romo said her inspiring example constantly left him on the verge of tears. 

“We kept going faster and faster and faster,” Romo said. “Every time I’d pick up the pace she was on my heels. She really tested her limits and to do that takes a lot of character.”

Romo also said helping McDonaugh run helped them remember what running is all about.

“As a student athlete, sometimes you forget why you do this,” Romo said. “When you first got into the sport, you did it because you love the sport. But soon enough you get caught up in the competition; you get stressed out about your performances. Helping Amy out and being a part of this experience with her took some of that weight off my shoulders.” 

Willers said these life-changing experiences are a reason Sac State students should consider volunteering to help others. 

“Unless your schedule is extremely stacked or there is something really important to do, I think it would be really good to go out and help,” Willers said. “Helping somebody else is not only doing good for them, but it’s also doing good for yourself. It really has a positive impact on you.”

David Somers can be reached at

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