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The Birthday invite we will never forget.

Mith in front of the goalb all gym atOlympic Training Center

The 16th birthday. The Holy Grail for teens – am I right or am I right?

For teens across the country, the 16th birthday means cool vibes and all the feels as they get to finally (in their minds anyway) have independence, freedom, etc etc etc because…. drum roll… they get to earn the highly coveted driver’s license (cymbal crash!). Facebook feeds are loaded with tons of Moms of 16 year olds that post the obligatory picture of the teen proudly holding the driver’s license, likely giving the only smile for Mom’s picture in years.

It’s an exciting time for sure in many homes. But not in my house. Nope. I have a nineteen year old and (as of today) a sixteen year old… but I have never taken that obligatory picture at the DMV. My boys are blind. Driving is not an option (yet, thank you Tesla.)

Stay with me here… it gets better… like, a lot better….

Years ago when my oldest blind son, Michael, was turning sixteen I found out that he was struggling with the whole driving thing. Until that point we had figured out ways for him to do pretty much everything he wanted to do. And that realization of him struggling with the impact of blindness nearly sent me back to crying on the couch where I was after each diagnosis.

However, I learned over the years with my guys that I just need to shift my perception of stuff with them. You can read how I did that for Michael’s 16th birthday and the ah-maaaaaazingness that change of mindset created here. (If you are a music fan, seriously, go read it now and come back – it was an epic birthday weekend!)

I am a rockstar Mom, right? I conquered that perception thing for my son like a Boss! Not so fast…. What about my second blind son, Mitchell? He could not be more different from Michael and a weekend traveling to multiple cities to see the best bands ever is not his idea of an epic birthday. I needed to find something meaningful for Mitchell.

On my journey, it never fails that the Good Man Upstairs sends along some super cool stuff just when I need it most. There is no other way to explain this:

[bctt tweet=”On my journey, it  never fails that the Good Man Upstairs sends along some super cool stuff just when I need it most. There is no other way to explain this: #ThrivingBlind”]

I won’t go into the whole back story here (follow my email list and you’ll get the details there) but the short version is…. Mitchell is an incredible athlete. As you can imagine, his options for sports have dwindled considerably as he has gotten older and his vision faded. Luckily, we have been involved with blind sports programs like Camp Abilities Pennsylvania for years.

A few months ago, the United States Association of Blind Athletes put out a call for the best young blind athletes in the country to apply to attend a specialized “Emerging Stars” camp to identify the stellar up and comers for specific sports in the Paralympic program.

I’ll cut to the main point: Mitchell was invited to attend the specialized program!

Mitchellinfront of the  Oympic Training Center  Logo and TEAM USA  onthe wall b ehind him.

But that’s not even the best part. The best part is that Mitchell’s 16th birthday happens to be today…. while he is at the Olympic Training Center. AND today happens to be the day that the entire day is devoted to his most favorite sport ever and the one he hopes to represent Team USA in one day: goalball! (Learn more about goalball here)

The birthday I dreaded, again, turned out to be the best birthday ever… again. God is good.

[bctt tweet=”The birthday I dreaded, again, turned out to be the best birthday ever… again. God is good. #ThrivingBlind”]

If your teen is able to drive please ask them to read this and be grateful for the blessing. If they are not able to drive and struggling with that fact, please ask them to read this and then help them brainstorm ways to have extraordianry experiences that are meaningful to them. 🙂

PS – Ever since Mitch fond out he’d be at the Olympic Training Center playing goalball on his 16th birthday, I haven’t heard a word about driving.

Kristin Smedley is an author, non profit leader and TEDx speaker.  She originally planned to be a third grade teacher… and then two of her three children were diagnosed as blind.  Kristin now shares her journey of raising her kids to not just survive challenges, but to thrive!  She speaks around the globe regarding blindness and resilience,  and she just launched her new series teaching people to SEE: Set Extraordinary Expectations!  Watch her TEDx talk here and get info regarding her new book here.  If you  are interested to have Kristin speak at your upcoming event,  email her at or contact herhere!

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the book thriving blind

Find out how Kristin went from crying on the couch over her two son’s diagnosis of blindness, to raising them to thrive! Download the Introduction chapter of Kristin’s Best Selling Book Thriving Blind: Stories of Real People Succeeding Without Sight. Click the button below!

Cover of What I Can Be IS Up To Me children's book

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Kristin Smiling a huge smile with autumn trees behind her
About Kristin Smedley

Kristin Smedley is the Best Selling author of Thriving Blind: Stories of Real People Succeeding Without Sight and Brilliantly Resilient: Reset, Rise and Reveal Your Brilliance. A recognized expert in the blindness and rare disease communities, Kristin won the highly regarded Champion of Hope Award and was named an Ambassador for the National Organization of Rare Disorders. Kristin is a popular, in demand speaker who has been invited to share her message internationally.


As CEO of a global patient organization, she coordinated legislation (H.R. #625) that became the first in US history to be submitted in Braille. Kristin spoke at the FDA to help achieve the first ever FDA approved gene therapy to treat an inherited retinal disease in the United States. Her TEDx Talk, book and international summit change perceptions of blindness, and sparked a global movement, Thriving Blind Academy, that is solving the unemployment, literacy, and financial crisis in the blind the community.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kristin co-founded Brilliantly Resilient to help people come through life’s challenges and setbacks brilliant, not broken.