COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A teen shooting victim, who is formerly of Mount Airy, continues to change people’s views about being blind or disabled making a prosperous and fully functional life impossible. Alyssa Foster will be featured Jan. 28 on an upcoming episode of Nick News on the Nickelodeon channel.
Foster was accidentally shot in her Mount Airy Home on Oct. 6, 2009. She was left permanently blind by her injuries. At first, she spent one month at Brenner Children’s Hospital at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center followed by another month at the Levine Children’s Hospital at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte in rehabilitation.
She has persevered through more than 13 major and minor surgeries to reconstruct her face which followed the initial treatment. Foster was recently featured in The Mount Airy News in an article titled “The Spirit of a Champion” which outlined her reaching out to teach others about blindness which was so suddenly thrust on her.
According to Foster’s mother, Liz, the family did its research and found what it felt would be the best school for Alyssa, The Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind. The entire family including Alyssa’s brother, Xavier, and father, Charles, sold everything and moved to Colorado Springs.
“She’s overcome a lot of adversity and negative things said by a few persons who concentrated on the things she won’t have,” said Liz Foster. “Alyssa has proven if you have drive and are positive you can succeed.”
She explained several months ago scouts from the television network spotted the newspaper article about Alyssa teaching others at Pilot Mountain Middle School and felt she was what they needed for a news segment where they would feature a diversity of disabled teens.
“Nickelodeon wanted to really concentrate on producing a special on children with different forms of blindness,” explained Liz Foster. “Some of the children they will feature were born blind, some gradually lost their sight and some are like Alyssa, who lost her vision suddenly,”
Foster said the network tracked her down and was given their number after the school principal in Colorado got their permission.
“They called two days later and wanted to see if Alyssa would be interested in taping a segment they would come and film,” said Liz Foster. “I asked them how they found out and they said they had read about the sixth-graders and would it be possible to do an interview. They talked to her for two hours on the phone. Four days later, they called back and said they wanted her on the show and wanted to set it up over Christmas break.”
The team and the director filmed on her first day back from the holidays. Shooting began at 8:30 a.m. and continued until 7 p.m. and included the teen at home, school and at her favorite Sushi restaurant. They even filmed her cooking and walking her dog.
“I was really tired before it was over,” said Alyssa Foster. “It was really different for me. I’ve never been on T.V. before. It was new and scary at the same time. I felt that I would reach a bigger audience.”
Liz Foster said she felt part of the interest in Alyssa was she possessed “phantom vision,” which she is able to picture some things in her mind through a process referred to as mental memory. She said doctors explained that Alyssa had an idea of what some things looked like because she had sight before the accident. This memory was one of the ways the teen could navigate at home or in school.
“When they asked her if she liked watching T.V. she told them yes,” added Foster. “Alyssa knows what Spongebob Squarepants looks like so she can picture in her mind what it’s doing as she listens.”
When asked how she felt about going to a school for the deaf and blind, Foster told the film crew she loves the school because she’s not the only one anymore.
“She’s content with both worlds,” said Foster. “It’s amazing to see the changes in her life. Where she was a B student before the accident, now she is on the all-A honor roll. She can focus on what’s important because she is not distracted by her eyes.”
Foster listed honors recently earned by her daughter including the Stratton-Oerrerich Annual Performance Award at the school, an art award for tubular sculpture excellence, was sophomore homecoming princess, finished third in the school science fair and will advance to the regionals later this school year. She even ran the mile for the school’s track team.
“I was really excited to come to Colorado,” said Alyssa Foster. “It (school) has turned out better than I thought. It’s not all blind kids in school. There’s a good mix of people.”
Liz Foster said her daughter also has learned to use a loom. She said she makes hats for babies for spending money and donates a premature baby size hat for every regular size hat sold. She already wants the first lot of preemie hats to go to Brenner.
“She can make five hats a day,” said Liz Foster. “Brenner’s means a lot to us. To her she feels she’s giving back. Alyssa is an awesome kid. I’m speechless sometimes. The thought this child would run a mile is something. The school has been great.”
In spite of all these activities, Alyssa Foster likes to keep it simple on what to expect next.
“I’m going to prom,” said Alyssa Foster. “Basically the plan at the present is to graduate. I’m not sure about college or university yet, but ultimately I want to be involved in rehabilitating animals.”
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.