Blindfolded 5k encourages runners to ‘think differently’

Originally published at Western Recorder –

Corbin—On Saturday, July 4th, 60 runners lined the streets of Corbin for a 5K race. Thirty of them wore blindfolds. Halfway through the race, they switched places with their guides.

“We were looking for ways to raise awareness, and began thinking about taking people out of their comfort zone and doing things that force people to think differently,” said Travis Freeman, a member of Central Baptist Church in Corbin and founder of the Freeman Foundation.

“One way that you do that is by immersing people in a situation that they’re not used to and uncomfortable with.” said Freeman, who also is a missions and ministry professor at University of the Cumberlands.

His autobiography, “Lights Out,” tells the story of how an illness at 12 years old left him sightless. However, drawing on strength from the Lord and his salvation, Freeman went on to play football in junior high and high school, get his bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky and his master’s and doctorate degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Freeman’s story has been featured on the Today Show and Dateline, and it was made into a movie that released last year, “23 Blast.”

The Freeman Foundation was established around the release of “23 Blast.” The organization’s mission is “to promote the truth that disability does not equal inability,” Freeman said.

“I came across this idea, and we did the blindfolded 5K this past Saturday. We’re looking at doing a dinner in the dark in late fall. That would be where people come and eat dinner blindfolded,” Freeman said.

He continued, “We just want people to really think about what it’s like to lose one of your senses or be disabled, so next time they encounter someone who has a disability, maybe it will make them think differently.”

“I heard several people talking about what they learned, and one individual said that when their partner put on the blindfold, they were really gripped by how that person’s life was really in their hands at that point, (and) how the person who was blindfolded was extremely dependent upon them for finishing that half of the race,” Freeman recounted.

“I think people are going to really think about it differently, and they’re going to have a lot more respect for people who navigate with a disability and live life with a disability,” he said.

“I had an interest especially in the 5K because I knew, having traveled with Travis, that when you walk with someone who is sight impaired, you have to become aware of your surroundings knowing that they are not, that they are adjusting to new areas, new pathways and have obstacles in their way,” Drew Mahan, a lifelong friend of Freeman and pastor of Forward Community Church, said.

“I was looking forward to this blindfolded 5K because many people in our community got a chance to see just what’s it’s like to be in an unfamiliar situation and not be able to see,” said Mahan, who is a Freeman Foundation board member.

“I think what it did was just show everybody that, ‘Yes, there are obstacles, but you just finished a 5K and half of it was blindfolded.’ So life is not only possible when you’re sight impaired, but it is just as exciting and fulfilling as it is for folks with vision,” Mahan explained.

“The 5K drove that one home, and I’m looking forward to future events,” he said.

“I’d just love for people to get ahold of me and continue spreading the mission of the foundation and the message of my life. I really want to point people to the hope of the gospel,” Freeman concluded. He can be reached at