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Boy Losing His Sight Travels From New Zealand To See Celtics Game

BOSTON — If you knew you were going blind, what would you go to see while you still could? A 12-year-old boy from New Zealand suffering from a degenerative eye condition traveled to Boston Wednesday to check an item off his visual bucket list at TD Garden.

The Bucket List

Louie Corbett and two of his brothers have a disease called retinitis pigmentosa, which will eventually rob them of their sight. Louie’s condition is advancing more rapidly — he has already lost some of his peripheral vision. That’s why his family decided to help him build up his bank of visual memories. Louie knew what he wanted to do most: see a Boston Celtics game.

“This was at the top of the list, and there wasn’t that much on the list,” he said during Wednesday night’s game.

Louie first fell in love with the green back in his hometown of Auckland, New Zealand, by watching online videos of a Celtics legend who retired a decade before Louie was born.

“Well, I like Larry Bird,” Corbett said. “I just heard about him and searched him up and he was [on the] Celtics.”

Common Bonds

As word of Louie’s story got out, some generous donors stepped forward to help fund his trip to the U.S. Then Corinne Grousbeck heard about it. Grousbeck’s husband, Wyc, owns the Celtics. The couple arranged for Louie to meet the team, take some pregame warm-up shots on the court at the Garden, and they set him up with courtside seats. But Louie and the Grousbecks share more than a love of the Celtics. The Grousbecks have a son who is blind and Corinne is a trustee at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown.

The Perkins School for the Blind Chorus performed the national anthem before the Celtics game Wednesday. (Courtest Anna Miller/Perkins School)

The Perkins School for the Blind Chorus performed the national anthem before the Celtics game Wednesday. (Courtesy Anna Miller/Perkins School)

And Louie witnessed a special performance of the national anthem last night. Standing at center court, the Perkins School for the Blind Chorus did the honors. They had already been scheduled to perform before the Celtics arranged for Louie to be at the game. Fourteen-year-old Canton resident Isabella Scott was one of the singers.

“It’s kind of like a dream. You don’t feel like you’re really there. This isn’t going to really set in probably ’til tomorrow, when I wake up and be like, ‘Did I really just sing at the Celtics game?’ It’s amazing.”

Scott, who began losing her sight when she was about 6 years old, likes Louie’s bucket-list selection. And she says knowing that he was in the audience made the night even more special.

“I think that it was a really good choice, and I feel honored singing for him. I think it’s an honor,” Scott said.

After the performance, Louie was impressed.

“I think it was really great of them to [have] the courage to sing in front of the whole stadium. It’s just great,” he said.

Other Stops On The Trip

Louie is traveling with his dad and one of his brothers. They visited the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Clinic in Boston to learn about research into future treatments for retinitis pigmentosa. They’ve also been to Disneyland and the Google headquarters in California. And they’ll visit Niagara Falls and Las Vegas before heading home to New Zealand. One thing Louie won’t get to see is a Celtics win. The Golden State Warriors blew out the Celtics by 20 points Wednesday. Boston head coach Brad Stevens says Louie gave his team a reason to smile anyway.

“I’m really disappointed in how we played for a lot of reasons, but certainly would have liked to have played better for he and his family,” Stevens said. “I had a chance to spend time with him in my office before the game. Stories like that are uplifting for all of us. And I hope that he had a great night although we didn’t play well.”

Louie says he doesn’t think about the fact that he’s losing his sight, but tries to focus on the present. His father, Tim, says when the Corbett family does think about the future, they think about opportunities, not losses.

“We’ve always looked at not limiting them. What is it that you can do — not what you can’t do. And if you trip and stumble once, just get up and do it again,” Tim said.

It’s a father’s advice to his sons who are losing their sight, but it’s good advice for everyone.

Doug Tribou covers sports for WBUR and NPR’s Only A Game.

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