New Zealand Boy Losing His Sight Adds NBA Game To Visual Memory Bank

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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.

[sidebar title="Drag Racing's Blind Crew Chief" width="330" align="right"]Jay Blake lost his sight, but that hasn't stopped him from becoming a drag racing crew chief. [/sidebar]"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 Celtics back in his hometown of Auckland, New Zealand by watching online videos of an NBA 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."

Basketball And Other 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. Her husband, Wyc, owns the Celtics. The couple arranged for Louie to meet the team and take some pregame warm-up shots on the Celtics' parquet floor and also 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, Mass.

As part of his visit, Louie witnessed a special performance of the national anthem Wednesday 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. The singers included 16-year-old Cullen Gallagher, who has very limited sight, and 15-year-old Jonah Le Duc. Jonah and his twin brother, Jamie, both sing and have been blind since birth.

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

"It was just amazing singing in front of so many people," Gallagher said.

"I didn't know they were gonna cheer the way they did, but I loved it," Jonah Le Duc added.

Fellow chorus member Isabella Scott agreed.

"It's kind of like a dream," she said. "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 is 14-years-old and began losing her sight when she was about 6. She likes Louie's bucket-list selection and 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.

More Sights To See

Louie is traveling with his dad and one of his brothers. They visited the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary 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 look up to kids like that even though [Louie's] a lot younger than me. He inspires me to continue to get better each day."

Celtics forward Jeff Green

Boston forward Jeff Green — who missed an entire season a couple of years ago after undergoing heart surgery — gave Louie his sneakers after the game. Green says Louie's upbeat attitude is inspiring.

"I look up to kids like that even though he's a lot younger than me. He inspires me to continue to get better each day," Green said after the game. "I just wish the best for him and pray for him every day."

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.

This segment aired on March 8, 2014.

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Doug Tribou Reporter/Producer
Doug Tribou was formerly a reporter and producer at WBUR and for WBUR's Only A Game.



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