By David Fong
Regional Sports Content Manager
TROY — What Dawn Bilpuch can’t see is no comparison to what she can see.
Blind since birth, the Troy High School sophomore doesn’t have the abilty to see things around her in the physical world — but it has allowed her an insight into the world around her, using her mind and heart, that few can ever hope to have.
“I know this is going to sound funny to sighted people, but in some ways, I consider being blind an advantage,” Bilpuch said. “The biggest thing for me is I don’t have to see all the ugliness in the world. If you ever read the paper or listen to the news, you know there’s a lot of bad things that happen out there. Sometimes, I consider myself fortuante I don’t have to see all these things.
“Also, being blind has given me the opportunity to appreciate things in ways sighted people never would. They may take things for granted because they see them every day. I have never done that.”
Bilpuch was born with Septo Optic Dysplasia — one of her optic nerves never fully developed and she has been blind since birth. She has never let that stop her, however. She reads and writes all of her schoolwork in Braille. She gets around with the aid of a cane.
And she does so with a spirit that has impressed students and staff alike.
“She an amazing young lady,” said Troy High School English teacher Chris Davis, who has given Bilpuch a column in the school newspaper, The Trojan Tempo. “It’s really just remarkable what she’s able to do. I think she’s definitely an inspiration to those around her.”
Bilpuch said her peers sometimes marvel at what she is able to accomplish.
“Sometimes people are surprised I am able to get around the (school) building,” she said. “I can do the same things as people with sight, I just do them a little different than everyone else. I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but I’m pretty intelligent. A lot of times when my friends are talking about things, I’ll say something and they’ll say, ‘How do you know about that?’
“A lot of times, I’m able to show people how to do things because I have to think differently than most. The way I see it, there’s a method to my madness. I always have to have things placed a certain way. For example, my mom and I have a system where we borrow each other’s CDs. A lot of times she’ll be like, ‘Where is my Celine Dion CD?’ When I am able to find it for her, she’ll say, ‘I walked right past it.’ I have to be able to do a lot of things different than most people.”
Which doesn’t mean Bilpuch hasn’t had her fair share of hardships she has to deal with. She said she learned that the hard way the first time her mother decided to rearrange the furniture. Last April, Bilpuch celebrated her 16th birthday. She knows she’ll never be able to obtain a driver’s license, a normal rite of passage for her peers.
“That was a challenge for me,” she said. “It was kind of a rough one. I did not want a birthday party when I turned 16. When people would ask me why, I’d tell them I’m not like any other 16 year old. I had to hear all my peers talking about getting there driver’s license. That was really hard.”
Because she’s unable to see, Bilpuch said her other four senses are heightened — particularly her hearing. Loud, sudden noises upset her. She has to listen to music and watch television at a different volume than most others. She has to go to bed early on the Fourth of July to avoid the noise fireworks give off.
Still, though, she doesn’t want — or ask for — any sympathy.
“I never want people to feel sorry for me,” she said.
Bilpuch said she hopes that after she graduates from Troy High School, she hopes to go on and become and English teacher.
“I love English and would love to teach English to older kids,” she said. “I love the written word. And I’d love to be a paranormal investigator on the side.”
Contact David Fong at (937) 440-5228 or firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong