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Blind Arizonans planning Alcatraz swim to raise money for charity

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