Annalee Bielas is 10 years old. Diagnosed with a rare degenerative eye disease when she was in Kindergarten, Annalee’s eyesight has been fading ever since – she has only about five percent of it left.
Annalee starts off soft-spoken and a bit shy, but when you hear her story, you start to understand why.
Almost immediately after her vision started to go, the bullying started. Classmates teased her and called her names. Some might have tried to disappear, but Annalee realized she wasn’t like that.
At Pleasant Glade Elementary’s end-of-year track meet, you might expect Annalee to sit out. Instead, she isn’t letting her eyes get in her way – she’s training for the 800 meter race.
“Her effort, her spirit, her focus – it’s an inspiration. It really is.” said her coach.
Annalee’s coach is also her school principal, and he knows just how impressive it is for her to do what she’s doing. She doesn’t expect to win – or set any records – but this is one situation where a participation trophy means more than a gold medal. Just by running the race, Annalee is showing everyone her fighting spirit.
Annalee now sees the bullies that once hurt her feelings as motivators. She says when she’s training, she tunes out the doubters.
“Everybody says I can’t do challenges. But I want to. That’s what freedom’s about.”