Cristian Rodriguez is an independent teenager, who is overcoming challenges he never expected. The 17 year old is nearly blind. Four years ago, doctors diagnosed Cristian with a syndrome that affects major organs in his body - like his eyes. Since then he has lost most of his sight.
With the help of technology, Cristian can still read in bright light, but he is already preparing for when everything goes dark. "S... T... I..." he reads by running his finger across a series of raised dots on a piece of paper. Cristian is learning braille with his mobility coach, who is also teaching him how to walk with a cane. It has been a hard few years regaining his independence. "Sometimes it feels frustrating because it's so difficult," shares Cristian. His eyes watered as he described what it is like working through the new challenges. However, he is not letting his inability to see keep him from looking ahead and focusing on his passion - which might surprise you.
We met up with Cristian at the National Bowling Center in downtown Reno. Cristian is a bowler. While he can only really see the light reflecting off the pins, he knows when he has bowled a good frame. "Yeah, that's it! Cool!" he burst out after bowling a spare. Cristian not only feels it, "I can also hear the pins or hear other things like when the pins go down." There is no greater thrill for him than knocking them all down. Cristian typically gets help lining up his shot. He takes the same amount of steps towards the foul line every time and he has a wind-up routine before he releases the ball down the lane.
Cristian's mom, Belinda, is his biggest cheerleader. She admits, however, she was apprehensive when Cristian told her he wanted to try out for the Damonte Ranch High School bowling team. "I'm like ooh, I don't know. We'll see. Okay, I'll take you. And I came here and I met all the great people who help him." People like Coach Rick Belzman, who's played this sport for 50-plus years. He says it has been a joy working with Cristian and the payoff came when he rolled his first strike! "It was great. It was really loud. You could hear everybody cheering and watching. He attracts such a good crowd because everybody is pulling for him."
With encouragement from Cristian's family, coach and teammates, he lives every day inspiring others by giving it his all and leaving nothing to spare. "It may be tough or difficult to do things with a disability, but you can do it."
Written by Kristen Remington