The annual "Walk for Vision," which helps support the work of North Dakota Association of the Blind, is scheduled for Saturday, May 1, at 9 a.m. at the Bison Sports Arena.
Allan Peterson, a familiar and active figure on the NDSU campus, is the group's legislative liaison and has served as one of the organization's presidents. He says the walk-a-thon is a method of creating awareness among the general public about the capabilities and the needs of people with sight loss. "We'd love to have as much participation as possible," he explained. "Our association doesn't have the resources that many other organizations enjoy; all of our work is done by volunteers. So, the money we raise goes directly to what we do to help people with sight loss."
Educated at the University of Minnesota, Peterson came to NDSU in 1977 as a veterinary diagnostician and researcher. But, he soon was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that causes progressive deterioration of the retina. His peripheral vision progressively narrowed and he was determined to be "legally blind" by 1982.
Blindness has not slowed down Peterson. He has an office in the Main Library, and has completed much of the course work needed for a graduate degree in statistics. His many activities include chairing the North Dakota Disabilities Advocacy Consortium and serving as president of Handi-Wheels Transportation Services in Fargo. He is active in the American Council of the Blind, and hopes to eventually serve on that organization's board of directors. In addition, he has run as a candidate for the North Dakota State Legislature, served a number of terms on the church council for St. John Lutheran Church of Fargo, was board president for the Horace Lions Club and a board member and chair for the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition.
"I do a lot of work for people with disabilities. That's where many of my efforts are directed. I like to help people - it's the nature of how I was brought up and my outlook on life," said Peterson, who was raised on a dairy farm near Alexandria, Minn. "I know the value of work. I have the ability and the obligation to be a leader."
The Walk-a-Thon project is near to his heart. The event raises funds so adults who have experienced sight loss can go to a week-long summer camp at Camp Grassick on Lake Isabelle near Dawson, N.D. "We offer classes on the adjustment to blindness, as well as information classes that are beneficial to people who are new to blindness. It's our signature event, and about half of the money we raise goes to offset camp expenses," Peterson said, noting that the funding also supports seminars, the association's annual convention and training people who have lost their sight to use new technology.
NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor is honorary chair of the Walk-a-Thon. "It's been my pleasure to work with Allen and his volunteers for this very important cause," he said. "Allan's goal is to grow this walk in numbers of participants so more people can understand the challenges those with sight loss face. I would like to encourage as many people as possible to remember this date, and participate to support individuals like Allan, who have lost their sight or are losing their sight."
If you'd like more information on the Walk-a-Thon, contact Peterson at (701) 231-6040.