Blinded as an Adult, Man Regains Independence

Posted on December 13, 2016 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

The Story Behind this New York Times Neediest Cases Story

Leroy Bracey at St. Anthony's Shelter for Renewal

For more than a century The New York Times has spotlighted “Neediest Cases,” folks facing extreme hardships, and welcomed help for them from readers. And for more than a decade as liaison between Catholic Charities NY and The New York Times I’ve had the honor to meet some of these brave folks and the dedicated case managers that help them. So this year, I’d like to share with you the stories behind The New York Times Neediest Cases stories, the courage of the people we are honored to serve and the caseworkers who plow through roadblocks to get them the services they need.

After Leroy Bracey’s mother threatened, he says, to kill him on Easter Eve, this blind man bolted his bedroom door in the apartment they share and waited for Easter Day.  He needed the morning light to see well enough to stumble down the street in search of St. Anthony’s Shelter for Renewal, a Catholic Charities affiliate that provides shelter, food, support and prayers for homeless men.

His story provides a glimpse into the vital interaction between Catholic Charities, our affiliated agencies such as St. Anthony’s Shelter and supporters like you.

Mr. Bracey, 48, has myopic degeneration, a congenital retinal disease compounded by glaucoma that causes his vision to drop a full line on the eye chart when he has his annual checkups.  He can no longer see cars when crossing streets or faces until they are breathing distance away. 

Fortunately, when, on Easter morning, Mr. Bracey found his way to St. Anthony’s, grey robed Franciscan friars who run the shelter immediately gave Mr. Bracey sustenance and safety.  And they turned to Catholic Charities to help him regain his independence. 

Our Catholic Guild for the Blind specialized programs remove barriers, create solutions and expand possibilities so people with vision loss can achieve their full potential.

Our staff teamed with St. Anthony’s Shelter, The New York Times Neediest Cases campaign and supportive readers to help Mr. Bracey rebuild his life. Catholic Guild for the Blind staff help Mr. Bracey adjust to his progress blindness, function more independently and build his confidence to secure employment. They also taught him how to navigate with a cane (and gave him one) provided him with a caseworker and enrolled him in our employment training classes. And, with his agreement, we shared his story The New York Times, the original “crowd-funding” source before crowd-funding became a hyphenated word. 

Before going outside, Leroy Bracey recites Psalms 121, a daily reassurance that God is ever-present, protecting him wherever he goes, writes New York Times reporter John Otis.

As a way to preserve his freedom, Mr. Bracey carries around three tools: a small telescope worn around his neck, used to spot street signs and locate bus stops; a magnifying glass kept in his pocket for reading; and in his hand, a folding cane (that Catholic Charities gave him)

His steadfast companion is his Bible, a large-print edition he keeps in his knapsack. The Gospel is his source of boundless solace and solutions.

Already readers have offered Mr. Bracey a talking bible, metrocards to enhance his mobility and more.

Readers reached out after reading this powerful profile. Already he has been offered a talking bible, metro cards to improve his mobility and more.

Suddenly surrounded by support, he is gaining the confidence he needs to become independent once again.

“God blessed the second part of Job’s life more than the first and I think he’ll do the same for me,” he says. “First I need stable housing. Then I want to get a job.”

Read Mr. Bracey’s full story in The New York Times, "Stepping Out on Faith, a Blind Man Counts His Blessings," by John Otis


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