“His blindness was not an excuse: It helped him see more clearly than most.”
– Bob Dodson, NBC News
Blind adventurer, white-water kayaker, climber, skier, educator, and philanthropist, Lonnie Bedwell has spent the past 4 years traveling in some of the most difficult and rugged places on earth. In 2013, Lonnie completed the first ever white-water kayaking expedition down the Grand Canyon by a blind person. During this journey, he travelled 226 miles, over 16 days, on some of the roughest water in America. Lonnie got into adventure travel in 2011 while attending a blind rehabilitation center. He started with skiing, and by the fifth day he was taking on Black Diamond runs. Since then, there has been no looking back.
In 2012, Lonnie became one of only a few blind veterans to bicycle across the Colorado Rockies. After returning home from Colorado, Lonnie then got into kayaking and mountaineering. His mountain expeditions have included numerous climbs in North America, with his latest being the San Juan Mountain Range, with two other blind veterans, being led by 3 disabled Marine veterans. This climb was preceded by another expedition down the Colorado River with fellow blind adventurer, Erik Weihenmayer. Lonnie’s second Grand Canyon expedition lasted 20 days, and covered more than 275 miles. On his first journey down the river he was honored with the Check-6 Heroism Award. But with this expedition, Lonnie was honored with the Lewis Braille Award, as well as being nominated with Weihenmayer for 2015 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year.
Lonnie’s other adventures consist of volunteering with non-profit groups such as the the Ability Experience, and Team River Runner, where he often spends time teaching other disabled veterans essential kayaking skills.
Lonnie is dedicating his time teaching the world to live without reservation and fear, and more importantly, to never quit. Which is why Lonnie takes great pride in his daily life with his three daughters. At home he continues to bow hunt, mow the lawn, cut firewood, and has even taught his daughters how to drive. In recognition of these efforts, his daughters honored Lonnie on the Steve Harvey Show in September of 2014. In his free time, he volunteers for a local construction company and assists in everything from sawing lumber to roofing projects. Lonnie also travels extensively, giving motivational and educational lectures to schools, universities, non-profit organizations and corporate groups. He lives in Dugger, Indiana with his daughters.
Lonnie is continuing his travels into 2015, where his expeditions will take him to new heights. He will also continue teaching adaptive sports to others in need, and furthermore teaching that they are not “disabled,” but “differently abled.”
National Geographic: “What’s next?
Lonnie: “…what do you want to do? You can see it, let's do it!”