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Updated Sep 16, 2013 - 3:55 pm

Blind Arizonans planning Alcatraz swim to raise money for charity

Max Ashton (left) and Katie Cuppy plan to swim from Alcatraz Island to the San Francisco shore to raise money for the Foundation for Blind Children. (KTAR Photo/Bob McClay)

PHOENIX -- You've heard of jail breaks. Now, a group of blind Valley swimmers are headed to California to do a "Braille Break from Alcatraz."

The group is planning to swim from Alcatraz Island to the San Francisco shore on Sept. 29. Its goal is to raise at least $25,000 dollars for the Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix.

Katie Cuppy is one of them. She said she had a tough start to life.

"I was born three months premature, and weighed only two pounds," she said. "Because I was born early, my optic nerves aren't fully developed, I don't have any peripheral vision. I can see shapes and colors. I can see some print if it's really large and up close."

Despite her condition, the 19-year-old Northern Arizona University freshman said she is living life to the fullest and is looking forward to the Alcatraz swim.

"It's about a mile and a half," said Cuppy. "Me and two other blind swimmers are going to attempt to swim that whole thing."

Joining her on the swim is 17-year-old Brophy Prep senior Max Ashton. He's also blind, but not afraid of adventure.

"On June 29, 2009, we had 8 blind climbers climb Mount Kilimanjaro," Ashton said. That peak is over 19,000 feet high.

"The next year, we did a rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon in a single day. Again, that was with a group of blind people."

Cuppy said one reason she's doing the Alcatraz swim is to be an example to others.

"I want to go work with children with visual impairments and blindness," said Cuppy. "My whole goal is to teach them that (blindness) is not a negative thing. It's a part of my life that I embrace very much, and anybody can do the same.

"I want to teach them not to let it get in the way of anything that you want to do. If you feel you can't do something, try it anyway just for the sake of trying. If you never try, you don't know what your limits are, and there shouldn't be any limits, especially when it comes to blindness."

You can find out more about the "Braille Break from Alcatraz" at

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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