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Visually impaired wrestler from Missouri chosen to travel to Peru with blind ex-wrestler Erik Weihen



Kyle Bradley, a freshman at Francis Howell Central High School in St. Charles, Missouri, was selected to join a national team of visually-impaired and sighted high school students as they travel the Inca Trail and climb to the top of Machu Picchu, Peru in June of 2006.

Kyle has a visual disability that requires the use of visual aides, such as, large print books, magnifiers, and specialized computer equipment for reading and school work. He is an honor student, a member of the freshman football team, and an accomplished wrestler that is looking forward to the upcoming season.

The current talented team consists of students from Kansas, Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma, Virginia, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin and Illinois!

World-renown blind climber and former wrestler, Erik Weihenmayer, and a nonprofit organization called Global Explorers (www.globalexplorers.org) are coordinating this learning adventure.

Erik and Kyle instantly bonded when they met during a climbing exhibition and book signing in 2002 held in St. Louis, Missouri. At that time, Kyle became the first person that Erik had met with the same degenerative retinal disease x-linked retinoschisis. They soon found out that they not only suffered from the same retinal disease, but also shared a passion for the sport of wrestling. Erik is a former wrestler and High School Coach. Erik credits wrestling for giving him the confidence to accomplish many of the things he has done to date. Kyle has earned All-American honors eight times from USA Wrestling during his youth wrestling career in Folkstyle, Freestyle, and Greco-Roman wrestling, and is looking forward to the High School season.

Erik has become one of the most celebrated and accomplished athletes in the world despite losing his vision at the age of 13. Redefining what it means to be blind, Erik has transformed the image of blindness and opened up the minds of people around the world. On May 25, 2001, Erik became the first blind climber in history to reach the summit of the world's highest mountain, Mt. Everest. Erik has appeared on the cover of Time, Outside, and other Climbing magazines. He has won the ESPY award, National Medal of Courage from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, and has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, NBC's Today, and the Tonight Show.

This is the first time that Erik will be leading an expedition in which he takes both blind and sighted students to learn from and guide each other. During this 12-day exodus, the roughly 20 students coming from all parts of the United States will learn about the natural beauty of Peru, study the rich Inca culture, and perform a service project for a local community. But perhaps most importantly, these students will learn how to work together with their fellow travelers to overcome obstacles as they push themselves to new heights.

The program focuses on four educational goals: leadership, service to others, the study of past and present civilizations, and conservation biology. In addition to the trip itself, students take part in a spring training retreat in Colorado and complete a variety of assignments to help them prepare for their Peru experience. Extensive fundraising will also be required for student participation. Following the trip, students are required to conduct a culminating service project in their home communities that builds on what they learned through their experience.

Global Explorers: Global Explorers is a nonprofit organization that brings educational immersion experiences to middle and high school students and their teachers. Emphasizing science, culture, service and leadership Global Explorers programs educate young leaders to respect and appreciate the diversity of the world in which we live.

KYLE BRADLEY BIO ON GLOBALEXPLORERS.ORG

My name is Kyle Bradley. I am currently a freshman honor student at Francis Howell Central High School in St. Charles, Missouri. I am a member of the freshman football team where I am a starter at defensive corner back. My favorite sport is wrestling. I am excited about my first high school season and what I might be able to accomplish. I was an 8 time USA Wrestling All-American while competing on the youth level. I am currently listed 2nd in folkstyle wrestling, and 3rd in freestyle in the Schoolboy division for USA Wrestling Youth National teams. I live in St. Peters, Missouri with my parents, Randy and Annette, and my older sister Bethany. I enjoy being involved with the youth group at the church I attend. By the way, I forgot to mention that I am also visually impaired. I was diagnosed with the degenerative retinal disease, x-linked retinoschisis, when I was 7 years old after months of testing. My visual acuity is currently 20/100 in both eyes, and has been relatively stable over the past few years.

I am very excited about this opportunity to travel to Peru with this group of people and look forward to us coming together as a team. It will be a chance of a life time to study a different culture and the people of the region. I know that this adventure will challenge me in ways that I have never experienced. This trip will give me the confidence to know that I can do anything I set my mind to in the future. I also will be able to face some of the fears that I have about my future if I were to lose my vision completely. I also know that our group will have the chance to influence those that we come in contact with and hopefully can change the impression that some have about blindness. Erik Weihenmeyer has already been a positive influence on the person I am and will become.
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