Facebook fans, friends help New Zealand boy see American basketball team before he goes blind

Published: Monday, March 3 2014 7:07 p.m. MST

One of Louis' greatest dreams before losing his eyesight is to see the Boston Celtics.

Facebook

Bucket lists are fairly common, but not many people generate their must-see list knowing that in a few short years they won't be able to see at all. Louis Corbett, a 12-year-old New Zealand boy with a rare disease, has had to do exactly that.

Louis and two of his older brothers have retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disorder that causes blindness over time.

While all the boys know that one day they will be blind, Louis has an accelerated case.

“I just think of it as my eyes slowly going down,” he told CBS Boston. “But I don’t think of it that much.”

Because of his condition, Louis’ family decided to give him as many visual memories as possible in the time he has left. They had him list all the things he’d like to see before he lost his eyesight. According to a CNN article, the list included the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and even Google headquarters. The experience he wanted most, however, had roots in one of his passions: basketball.

On a website for Louis’ cause, his parents, Tim and Catherine Corbett, shared a conversation they had with Louis.

“ ‘If you could go anywhere and see anything in the world, what would it be? What would be your best holiday in the world?'

“ ‘I like the holidays we have,’ says Louis. 'I don't want to go anywhere. I like it here with my friends.'

“How to make this kid think bigger?!

“(Then) he said, 'Watching a basketball game in a huge stadium in America.’ ”

The first attempts at achieving Louis’ dream were a Facebook page and a fundraising page. The family hoped donations could supplement the cost of such a trip.

“This trip is to fill his 'visual database' with colours, textures, shapes, sights and sunsets,” it says on the Give a Little fundraising page. “We also want to equip him with the confidence and resilience to become a strong, confident young man who knows no limits.”

The page has raised more than $17,000, but the family has received even more help to make Louis’ dream come true.

Through a seeming coincidence, Warren Casey, CEO of a Boston-based software firm, gave the Corbetts a substantial donation. However, Casey wasn’t even aware of the connection he had to Louis’ favorite team.

"That was a random coincidence," he told CNN. "I did it because the Corbetts are my next-door neighbors."

Casey, who travels from New Zealand to Boston, was able to make arrangements with Air New Zealand to cover the cost of Louis’ flight, and he donated his air points to help cover the cost of Tim Corbett’s flight.

As the story began spreading through social media, it reached Corinne Grousbeck, the incoming chairman of the trustees at the Perkins School for the Blind. Her son had a condition similar to Louis'. Again coincidentally, Grousbeck is the wife of Wyc Grousbeck, the CEO and co-owner of the Boston Celtics. She knew she had to help.

"I completely understood where the Corbetts were coming from in wanting to build a visual memory bank for (Louis)," Grousbeck told CNN. "It's an incredibly difficult thing to have to go through.”

She is making arrangements for the March 5 game that Louis will attend.

Louis’ family has been sharing updates on their Facebook page as they begin their journey, including posts from Disneyland.

On a page thanking supporters, Catherine and Tim expressed their gratitude for all the help they’ve received.

“Having you all behind us is helping us let go of our enormous fear. It has been a lesson for us in humility and hope. We are sincere when we say you have all changed our world. We are humbled.”

Alison Moore is a writer for the Faith and Family sections at DeseretNews.com. She is studying journalism and editing at Brigham Young University. EMAIL: amoore@deseretdigital.com

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS