Lonnie Bedwell was raised in the small town of Dugger Indiana. It’s where he learned to hunt and fish with his brother, where he signed up for the Navy, where he raised his three daughters and where his life changed forever.
In 1997, Lonnie, a US Navy veteran, was shot in a brutal hunting accident. After the blast, the light drifted down through the trees, dimming as his friend ran through the woods to get help, leaving Lonnie alone. The friend returned and Lonnie survived, but his world would remain dark. After losing his sight, Lonnie’s faith in his most basic abilities was shaken and depression started to weigh heavy on his life.
One day at his home in Indiana his daughter offered to help him mow the lawn. They worked together to help him find his way and Lonnie started to see a future where he could take his life back. One job at a time Lonnie relearned carpentry, fishing, hunting, and occasionally, he even drove the car. Eventually, Lonnie came across a kayak and fell in love with the challenge of white water. Kayakers know that the threshold for kayaking the Grand Canyon is placed at a thousand rolls. In his backyard pond, Lonnie completed fifteen hundred rolls over a grueling few months. The rest is history as Lonnie set off for the west and became the first blind man to conquer the 226 miles of the Colorado River.
Lonnie has described his blindness as a wall that prevented him from moving forward, from living a full life. As he tells it, kayaking was the door in the wall that opened up to the whole world. After news of Lonnie’s Grand Canyon journey spread throughout the kayak and adaptive sports communities, Lonnie was encouraged to meet with other members of the blind community. After meeting with these people he quickly took on a mentorship role.
Today, Lonnie spends time engaging fellow blind paddlers in the spray and white foam of the Ohioplye and Yellowstone wilderness. He’s driven to lead more men and women to the doorway so that they can create their own vision of the life ahead.