STUDENT VISIONEER HUMOODY EMBRACES LIFE’S CHALLENGES
Blasted in the face at close range by a terrorist’s shotgun in Iraq when he was just two years-old, Humoody Smith’s life has been an ongoing chronicle of triumph over tragedy.
Blinded by the attack, and suffering horrific facial and sinus damage, Humoody’s early life was rotating pattern of reparative and restorative surgeries followed by periods of healing. Not to mention, learning a new language and culture.
Humoody was eight years-old when we started working with him and we’ve borne witness to the incredible young man he’s maturing into – much of that, the guiding result of his supportive and loving adoptive American family headed by Randy Smith and his wife Julie Robinett Smith, along with their children and grandchildren, and much of it also a phenomenal internal spirit. You can see below how far Humoody’s come over the course of the last eight years.
We’ve been teaching blind persons to see with sound since the year 2000 and are now seeing the experience and inspiration being paid forward from generation to generation by our former students who are now our instructors to students like Humoody, while his family has been paying it forward with a donation every year since 2013. That’s enabled us to provide instruction and advocacy for students with financial or special needs. You’ll meet one of them – Nava – as you explore this page and we hope these examples of “paying it forward” will inspire you to make a donation so that we can reach and teach more blind people like Brian, Jake, Humoody and Nava.
HUMOODY: LATEST UPDATE
HUMOODY SPRINTS TO THREE STATE TITLES
“Selfless guide helped blind sprinter become a champion”
Student Visioneer Humoody Smith has evolved into something of an athletic “phenom”. But as you learn more about him and his family as you navigate through this page, you’ll find that’s not surprising.
The subtitle above comes from a feature in the Everett Herald’s website, and is derived from the credit Humoody gives to his tandem guide Zeb Kumley. They’ve had to try various techniques to stay “connected” during the races, and the hard work has paid-off, as Humoody sprinted to three State titles in the ambulatory 100, 200 and 400 races at the State Track and Field Championships recently in Washington State.
Humoody first started running tandem marathons with his dad Randy (who, by the way, donated his March Madness group’s winnings to Visioneers/World Access For The Blind this Spring) which we’ve featured on social media and further down on this page. For competitive running, Humoody and Zeb needed to refine the tethering technique, as the Herald’s Zac Hereth chronicled: “At first, they used a short, thin rope to stay together. It simply wasn’t getting the job done.
Smith said the rope would come apart in practices and didn’t allow for Kumley to smoothly give Smith cues as they sprinted down the track. That’s when they switched to an elastic band that linked them at the wrist. They found the band far more effective. “All Zeb had to do is flex his wrist in either direction to let me know I need to move out a little bit or … need to pull it in a little bit towards him” Smith said.”
You can read more about their key to success in developing timing and rhythm with one another, and how Humoody mentions “It takes a certain breed of people to be that selfless and put themselves out there” in his appreciation of Zeb’s efforts, in the full article at Herald.Net
HUMOODY: VISIONEERING AND ‘PAYING IT FORWARD’
Humoody has truly been a living embodiment of our “No Limits” philosophy from the first day that Daniel Kish and Brian Bushway worked with him.
His mother Julie recently posted about how it made him stand-out at a blind Paralympic sports camp:
“I asked Humoody if any of the other kids play school sports like he does.
He said”, “Mom you don’t understand, none of these kids play school sports. You and Dad have never parented me like a ‘blind’ kid, you let me play club and school wrestling and school football”.
“As we were leaving, one of the counselors told Humoody and myself that he was happy that Humoody encouraged the other blind kids to not be afraid of sports. It made me happy that Humoody was encouraging others.”
No pity needed for this guy. He recently turned 16 and is going stronger than ever! You’ll learn just how strong in the videos and articles below.
PAYING IT FORWARD
Families with blind children, and blind teenagers and adults usually learn of our work from the media, and many times that coverage inspires them to want to learn to see with SonarVision, our specialized form of perceptual navigation echolocation combined with our pioneering Perception Cane training.
That’s why we have an ongoing campaign for donations from individuals like you, as well as businesses and grant foundations to try to keep up with the world-wide demand for our services. We need to train and hire more instructors, as well as support staff to handle global logistics. So that’s why we hope you’ll make a financial contribution after reading through this section of multi-generational inspiration.
We’ve been doing this long enough now that the inspiration and skill sets are cascading across subsequent generations, as successive students, and at times, their families, Pay It Forward, sometimes without even knowing.
The Inspiration of Jack And The Beanstalk
You can never tell what will inspire a blind child.
One of the earliest inspirations for Founder and Lead Visioneer Daniel Kish was hearing the story of Jack and the Beanstalk as a child. It sparked a curiosity about climbing trees because young Daniel wanted to climb high enough to touch the sky and unhook a cloud or star from whatever it was hanging from, because they had to be hanging from something.
As Daniel grew older and learned the celestial reality, he never lost his passion for tree climbing and has paid that inspiration forward to many of his students. Hear the story below or as part of Daniel’s Keynote at Aspire 2018.
PAYING IT FORWARD THREAD 1: Daniel Kish > Brian Bushway
In the case of the following students the thread works like this: Founder and Lead Visioneer Daniel Kish teaches a 14 year old Brian Bushway, who is losing his sight to optic nerve atrophy, to navigate using what he then called FlashSonar echolocation and Perception Cane training. Brian goes on to earn his Master’s Degree in Special Education and becomes an instructor with Daniel at -then – World Access For The Blind.
The video below is the official music video for X Ambassadors‘ song “Renegades” which uses footage of Daniel instructing Brian during the time he’s studying at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. The video has garnered over 28 million views.
PAYING IT FORWARD THREAD 2: Daniel Kish > Brian Bushway > Jake Olson
Jake Olson is unique in that Daniel and Brian started working with him before and after losing his second eye and complete sight due to retinoblastoma, the same cancer that took Daniel’s sight. They worked with Jake on SonarVision echolocation and Perception Cane mobility training so that he would be well-equipped to lead a fulfilling life without sight.
Jake eventually preferred to depend on human and dog guidance, thus limiting himself from the breadth and scope of independence that Humoody’s achieved. But Jake did embrace our “No Limits” philosophy to living life as a blind person.
A life-long University of Southern California football fan, Jake’s been attending USC on a scholarship and playing the sports he loves: golf and football. He is now a 6 foot 4 inch, 235 pounds and has been a member of the USC Trojans football team as their long snapper. For those who don’t follow football, Jake snaps the ball to the kicker during a field-goal attempt.. Former USC Trojan Head Coach Pete Carroll, now the Head Coach of the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League (NFL) had taken Jake under his wing when he learned his story, and Jake became the central source of inspiration for the Trojans.
Then, after years of perseverance and hard work, Jake achieved his dream and made it onto the team.
PAYING IT FORWARD THREAD 3: Daniel Kish > Brian Bushway > Jake Olson > Humoody Smith
Jake Olson followed his dream through high school and onto USC, and is also now a big Seattle Seahawks fan, all because of the mentorship of former USC Coach and now Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll, who calls Jake his inspiration.
Without being aware of it, Jake is “Paying It Forward” because he’s been the inspiration for another blind football ‘nut’ in-the- making: another of our students – Humoody Smith.
Humoody, like Jake, also didn’t have an easy childhood, as was outlined at the top of this page,.
And like Jake, he evolved a tremendous amount of resilience along the way. The photos above were taken during our training sessions and a hike with Humoody and his parents in California in 2012 and 2015, something Humoody took to with full gusto. In 2012, he met a pack mule for the first time as everyone ventured up to Daniel’s cabin in the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles. Humoody completed the entire hike without anyone guiding him while many in the group, including full grown, sighted adults, struggled to maintain his pace.
Through the intervening time, Humoody also endured more than 20 restorative operations as plastic surgeons make progressive improvements in rebuilding his face and sinus functions.
Humoody’s passion for football was additionally fueled by the inspiration he found in Jake Olson’s story, and as a result, Humoody got into football in middleschool, and is now the long snapper on his high school football team. He also excels at competitive wrestling and ice skating.
Not just a jock, Humoody also plays trumpet in the school band, plays Christmas songs on the piano at school, and inspirational songs at Church, including his own compositions, and is an incredible beatboxer. You can learn more about Humoody’s sports passions in the sections that follow.
PAYING IT FORWARD THREAD 4: Daniel Kish > Brian Bushway > Jake Olson > Humoody Smith > Nava
Fast-forward to 2016 and a nine year-old boy named Nava. He is blind from birth and has faced many learning challenges.
Nava is a shining example of how a blind child can thrive when the right educational support systems are in place. Often the victims of budget cuts, many blind children face delayed language and mobility development if they’re not supported. Those delays can be even more detrimental if it’s a blind child who’s been diagnosed on the Autism spectrum, or with learning difficulties.
Nava’s world was full of chaos, devoid of focused development, and he was being left to fall through the cracks of the education system and society.
In the time since Daniel Kish began working with him and liaising between his family and the school district, as well as introducing him to SonarVision and full-length Perception cane navigation, Nava’s been coming into his own and starting to forge a pathway toward better sensory organization and integration.
He loves rock-wall climbing, swimming and therapy horse riding, as well as any kind of electronic gadget and music. Nava has a natural sense of rhythm and would make a great drummer.
This is all the result of experience and inspiration paid forward by a very generous donation to our Tuition Scholarship Fund last year by Humoody’s parents Randy and Julie Robinett Smith. It supported Daniel’s original work with Nava and convinced the local School District of its value, leading the District to bring additional funding to the table.
Nava and his family are very grateful to Humoody and his family for the inspiration, learning opportunity and financial support.
But now, in the new political climate, that funding has been cut, so as part of our general fundraising campaign, we’re asking for your support through donations so that blind children with financial need can access our educational services.
No doubt, Nava’s progress will be an inspiration to the parents of other blind children with learning challenges, and the experience and inspiration will then be paid forward once again, continuing to light-up opportunities for new generations of blind children.
HUMOODY: ALL AROUND ATHLETE
Inspired by what he learned about our work with Jake Olson, and Jake’s pursuit of his football dreams, Humoody started playing football in the 7th grade at Centennial Middle School in Snohomish, Washington.
At Centennial in both 7th and 8th grade, he started at center, and long snapper for “Punts and PATs” (Points After Touchdowns). At first, Humoody’s teammates would clap their hands to let him know where they were. Now, not so much, as Humoody refuses any special accommodations and considerations on the field.
As a Freshman at Snohomish High School, on the Freshman team, Humoody snapped for PATs and saw limited action at Defensive Tackle. As a Sophomore he played Running Back and Defensive Tackle, scoring a touchdown against Everett High, for the C Team (comprised of Freshman and Sophomores), as seen in the video below.
Humoody was the starting snapper for Point After Touchdowns on the Junior Varsity team. He suited up for all Varsity games, and snapped all PATs against Everett High in place of the injured starter. He also snapped PATs in a few other Varsity games (late in the game when it was out of hand in favor of Snohomish), however he played enough to earn a Varsity Letter in Football.
Humoody, above center, pictured with Centennial Middle School football Coach John Brandvold. Humoody was leading Rusher of the season, averaging about 10 yards per carry.
In the photos below, Humoody was invited to the Seattle Seahawks practice at the team’s 200,000 square foot Virginia Mason Athletic Center (VMAC) waterfront facility, the second-largest facility in the NFL,. to try some long snapping. In the photo for posterity (from left to right), Kicker Sebastian Janikowski, Punter and Holder Michael Dickson, Humoody, and Long Snapper Tyler Ott. You can see Humoody snapping in the “Humoody Smith Pays It Forward” video at the head of this section.
HUMOODY: OTHER ATHLETICS
BASEBALL, BASKETBALL, GOALBALL, HOCKEY, SOCCER, SNOWBOARDING, TRACK
Thanks to his parents Randy and Julie, Humoody has had the opportunity to explore and experience all kinds of athletic activities, and he puts our “No Limits” philosophy to the ultimate test.
In May, 2018, Humoody joined a Beep Baseball team and along with his fellow “Seattle South King Sluggers” beat the Seattle Police Department 4-3. All the players wear goggles whether sighted or not to make sure no one’s peeking.
The same applies to Goalball, a sport Humoody used to play until he got busy with other athletic pursuits.
He is now on a team, also in south Seattle. Goalball is a sport that was developed in 1946 as a way for war veterans who were blinded or left visually-impaired to stay physically fit during rehab.
When he’s got spare time, Humoody also enjoys dunking some baskets, snowboarding, and occasionally lacing-up his ice skates to play some hockey.
Man, we’re out of breath just documenting everything he’s busy with!
In May, 2018, Humoody participated in the Washington State School for the Blind‘s Blind Olympics meet in Vancouver, Washington. He entered all 9 events, and won 1st place in all events in the category for boys 15 and over.
In the photos below, Humoody soars through the air to win the Long Jump in his age category.
With all of the time and attention Humoody Smith pays to his athletic pursuits it would be too easy to presume that he would have not time for, or interest in, music or the arts.
But he’s full of surprises and his thirst for knowledge and experience crosses many categories for a young man known for what can be his profound take on the world and life in general. Humoody truly comes across to many people as an old soul, and his music is full of soul.
Having access to a piano at an early age launched his curiosity, and he’s stuck with it over the years, expanding to playing trumpet in his school band, and becoming quite a beatboxer.
Humoody regularly played Christmas Carols at school and worship music at Church. In the video still below right, Humoody shares the piano at Church with his friend Jaden as they play their own renditions of “Reckless Love”, despite only having had about a half-hour to practise before the recital.
Humoody Smith, a young man of many athletic abilities, balanced with a deep artistic side as well. Just imagine his future possibilities.
HUMOODY: MEDIA COVERAGE
Finally, A New Face For Young Humoody
“What was destroyed by a gunshot in May 2005 when his family, who are Shiites, were ambushed by Sunni insurgents, was partially restored by the skilled hands of Drs. Joseph Gruss and Craig Birgfeld — who donated their time — at Children’s Hospital & Regional Medical Center.
It was a yearlong wait for the big day to arrive. The shooting left him blind, shattered an eye socket and his nose and displaced much of the soft tissue, leaving the boy disfigured.” Read more about the incredible challenges the doctors had to overcome.
Blind Iraqi Boy Granted Asylum
This 2008 article, part of great ongoing reporting by Nancy Bartley, documented the triumphant moment that was a little over two years in the making:
“I’m an American now! I’m an American now! Now I get to stay with my mother and father and my sisters,” Julie Smith recalled him saying. “And then he started naming all the pets he gets to stay with.
“I didn’t realize how worried he was about this asylum thing,” she said. Read more at The Seattle Times about the complicated asylum process.
The Boy With Incredible Will
“The blind are considered outcasts in Iraq. They are not educated. They are often turned out into the streets. It has been said that it’s better to die than to be blind in Iraq. So Humoody’s uncle sought a chance for the boy. He asked if Hamoody might be able to be adopted.
Our cameras first met Humoody that year.” He said, “I want to stay.” Reporter Marlee Ginter said, “Talk to me about why you want to stay.” Little Humoody, just 4 years old said, ” ‘Cause I don’t want to get hurt again.” Watch the video @ KOMO NEWS.
Working Toward Independence
In July, 2014, the Everett Herald did a print and video profile of Humoody and how he was progressing, as part of the coverage they had done over the years.
While they didn’t show any of our work with him from the age of 8, they did show Humoody utilizing the echolocation and full-length Perception Cane skills Lead Visioneer Daniel Kish, and Senior Visioneer Brian Bushway have been teaching him.
You can watch The Herald’s chronicle of Humoody “working toward independence” below.
A New Way To See
Writer Elizabeth Preston won a Children’s Science News Gold Award from the 2017 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards for her article about Humoody and echolocation that was published in the September 2016 issue of ASK Magazine (Arts & Sciences for Kids), published by Cricket Media.
Preston says “Even though the subjects of the article are blind, the story is really about the remarkable flexibility of every human brain, with or without a disability. That’s a message I was excited to bring to young readers.”
Freshman Wrestler Defies Odds
The photo by The Herald’s Ian Terry captures what the words of reporter Brian Adamowsky convey in this 2017 article: “Smith, 15, has embraced a sport that demands much of its participants in exchange for success with the same spirit and determination that has enabled him to continually face down and surmount the nearly unfathomable obstacles presented to him in his short life.”
“One of the things that is a big motivator for me is when somebody tells me I can’t do something. I’m going to go out and prove you wrong,” Smith said.
CAUSES: Iraqi Children Foundation
In the past few years, Humoody has participated in the annual “In Their Shoes” 5K event in Alexandria, Virginia for the Iraqi Children Foundation. An estimated 800k children have been orphaned over ten years of war and more than 1 million have been displaced by ISIS. As you’ve learned, Humoody himself was an early victim of the conflict.
When Humoody’s Mom, Julie Robinett Smith posted the photo at the left on Facebook, she used it to pay tribute to Humoody and her husband Randy: “Randy and Humoody tethered together running the 5K for the Iraqi Children Foundation. I am really proud of Randy for all he does for Humoody. He taught him how to ice skate, snap the football so he could play on his middle school team, ride their tandem bike.
He has taken him to wrestling practice since first grade and he is at every football practice. If there is a blind paralympic event they are there.
And trips to the Washington State School for The Blind in Vancouver for track meets. And last week he told me he would be going to Snohomish High everyday next year to enable Humoody to take industrial arts. What more can I say, he is a good dad. And by the way I was about 20 minutes behind them at the 5K.”
Humoody, above left, pictured tethered to his Dad Randy during the 2018 “In Their Shoes” 5K fundraiser for the Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF). Above center, ICF Chairman Mo Khudairi embraces his Youth Ambassadors Humoody (who was shot in the face with a shotgun as a child in Iraq), Teeba, (who was badly burned by a roadside bomb in Iraq and treated in the U.S.), and Ala’a (who was abandoned as a young boy with Cerebral Palsy in Iraq).
Above right, the Youth Ambassadors at the 2017 event.
Pictured below, from left to right, Julie Robinett Smith, ICF Youth Ambassador Humoody Smith, Randy Smith, Dr. Fareed Yasseen, Iraq Ambassador to the United States, ICF Youth Ambassador Teeba, ICF Youth Ambassador Ala’a, and Iraq War veteran Scott.
CAUSES: Visioneers.Org | World Access For The Blind
Over the past eight years, it has been our privilege and pleasure to teach what we now call our SonarVision methodology to Humoody Smith.
Over that time, it has also been a pleasure to observe and experience the remarkable young man he is becoming thanks to the steady support and guidance of his parents, Randy Smith and Julie Robinett Smith who were his Guardian Angels at the worst time of his young life.
A terrorist’s shotgun blast may have taken Humoody’s eyesight, damaged his face, and filled his young mind with Post-Traumatic Stress nightmares that no one of any age should have to experience, but the goodness, decency and selflessness of the Smith family became an impenetrable safe-zone, a fortress of love, faith, healing, and nurturing.
Had Humoody been left in Iraq, he would have become an outcast, in a country where blind people are regarded as such. And that’s even if he would have survived the original trauma and primitive surgery.
As you may have learned as you explored this page, Humoody is a gracious old soul . . . well-mannered, caring about others, full of positive energy and inspiring compassion with a laser-sharp wit, a philosopher’s heart and an integrity that inspires hope in a world full of noise and darkness.
We’re very proud of the progress Humoody has made with our navigation instruction, and we’re humbled by the ongoing generous support he and his parents contribute towards our work.
As our 2018 Donors Of The Year, Randy and Julie Smith are once again our Guardian Angels who “Pay It Forward” for other blind children. And for that we say a hugely heartfelt THANK YOU!
PLEASE GIVE OTHER BLIND CHILDREN LIKE HUMOODY A CHANCE TO SEE WITH SONARVISION!
Every child deserves the right and the freedom to follow their dreams. But blind children are often denied that right and kept dependent on sighted guidance because of outdated or uninformed thinking, instruction or fear.
Humoody Smith is a wonderful example of how a blind child can thrive and truly follow their dreams with “NO LIMITS” thanks to a supportive family who’ve never raised him as a “blind” child, and the life-changing process of learning to see with SonarVision.
Please give other blind children the same opportunity to learn to train their brain to rewire to see with sound by making a secure online donation using any of the three choices below that best suits your preferences.