Blind woman to walk 30 miles alone as fundraiser to help blind friends repair home

A screenshot of the Prak family taken from their Holman Prize entrance video, date and location not specified | Photo courtesy of Shawn Prak, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A St. George woman who is blind is embarking on a three-day walkathon to raise money to help a blind couple repair their family’s home.

Myrna Bell will be starting her 30-mile walkathon on the corner of St. George Boulevard and 700 East street Saturday at 6 a.m. She will be walking 10 miles a day, alone, for three days with a goal of raising $35,000 for the family.

The walkathon is especially challenging for Bell because she has never walked the route she is taking and isn’t familiar with the obstacles she may encounter. She anticipates that the walk will take her around five hours to complete each day.

“I wanted to challenge myself to do this, I didn’t know what else to do,” Bell said.

She created the “Myrna’s Home Sweet Home 30 mile 3 Day Walkathon” fundraising event on Facebook, and so far has raised $390 of her $35,000 goal since beginning it on May 17.

“I didn’t expect her to do this at all,” homeowner Shawn Prak said. “I’m just touched by it. All of us are.”

Bell met Shawn and Saphon Prak, who are both blind, five years ago through an online gaming site for the blind. Since then they’ve become close friends and she has even become godmother to their five children. She plans to present them with the money she raises when she goes to visit them in June.

“We’ve become very close. They’re just like family to me now. They’re just a sweet, sweet family,” Bell said.

Bell decided to hold the fundraiser after she learned that the family was struggling to afford the $1,400 bills to heat their home in Palmer ,Massachusetts, which was built in the early 1900s. Shawn Prak has been working to renovate the home, but the expenses to do so are costly.

“If it (the fundraiser) does work, gosh, I could do a lot with building this house,” he said. “I could have the kids warm for winter that’s for sure. … We’d appreciate it a lot.”

Shawn Prak working on home renovations, date not specified, Palmer Massachusetts | Photo courtesy of Shawn Prak, St. George News

The Praks submitted their story in hopes of winning the $25,000 Holman Prize, a competition held by the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired to support and spread awareness of the ambitions and capabilities of blind people.

Applicants are asked to submit a 90-second video about a project that they are working on in order to win funding for the project. Shawn Praks’ video made it to the semifinals, but was not one of the winning projects this year.

During the competition, some people accused Shawn Prak of creating a fake entry video, saying that it was impossible for a person to renovate their own home without sight.

“A lot of people were viewing that video saying ‘there’s no way a blind man, or any blind person, could do what he’s doing in that house,’” Bell said. “So that’s another reason why I did this. It’s not a scam, it’s real.”

The Praks first bought their home in 2016 after a friend asked them if they would be interested in purchasing a “fixer-upper” home. Since the family of seven had been living in a three-bedroom apartment, they jumped at the opportunity.

While the house is in poor condition, it has a fenced yard for the kids to play in, and they have enjoyed living in a house of their own. Since purchasing it, Shawn Prak has been working to fix up the house for his family and is in the process of tearing out the floors and replacing them.

“At first I was hiring contractors to come and fix stuff but the price they gave us was just astronomical,” he said. “And then I went and looked at the supplies and thought, ‘Wow, I could do this myself, you know, it’s not that hard.’”

The couple has two teenage sons who help their father with some of the work, but he does most of it himself, and doesn’t view his blindness as a hindrance to his capabilities.

“Honestly, I don’t view it as a blindness. To me it’s normal, I go through challenges like a sighted person would,” Prak said. “Maybe there is no such thing as blindness, it’s just a different way of seeing things.”

Email: mshoup@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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