SNOHOMISH, Wash. -– Students at Glacier Peak High School know it takes more than sight to have a vision. It also takes heart.
It took plenty of heart to make one classmate’s seemingly impossible dream come true.
Ali Steenis, a senior at Glacier Peak, is legally blind after a rare eye disorder gradually erased her sight.
“This is an amazing girl who doesn’t think about her disability,” said classmate Brooklyn Dana.
Yet they were all caught off guard earlier this year when teacher John Bonner posed a question to students meeting over lunch: What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
Most kids said they would want to be a movie star or make millions of dollars.
“And then when it got to Ali, all she said was, 'I just wish I could drive a car,’” Dana said. “And we’re all just like, 'Oh.'”
That wish stuck with Dana until Homecoming coronation. Dana and Steenis were sitting together inside the gym, where the bright overhead lights were turned off, revealing rows of tiny tea lights illuminating the runway down below.
Steenis turned to Dana and said, “Oh my gosh, it looks so pretty.”
That caught Dana off guard. But Steenis quickly explained that “when main lights are out, I can see smaller ones.”
And with that, you could say a light bulb went off in Dana’s head. Following a conversation with classmate Adrian Caple, they started to formulate a bright idea -- string together thousands of Christmas lights and transform the school’s parking lot into a driving alley for Ali.
They surprised her this past Saturday, on Steenis’ 18th birthday.
Dozens of students, teachers, relatives and friends showed up in the cold December rain to set up the runway.
“I’m just speechless,” said Ken Steenis, Ali’s father.
When Ali pulled into the dark parking lot, all she could hear was students chanting her name. Then Dana reminded her about that lunch-time meeting.
“One of the questions was, ‘What would you do if you knew you could not fail?’” Dana said to Steenis with a large group watching on. “Do you remember what you said?”
“I’m gonna drive!” she screamed as classmates broke into applause.
To make it happen, the students rounded up a drivers’ education car and instructor to guide Steenis through the illuminated track.
It quickly became clear, as Steenis glided her way between the lights, that the plan worked. And in spots where light was lacking, classmates filled the gaps with handheld, battery-powered candles – Ali’s personal guiding lights.
“I’m speechless,” Steenis said while making her way around the track.
“Never thought I’d see this,” her father said.
When her 15-minute trip was over, Steenis crawled out of the car to thank her cheering classmates.
“You guys have done so much for me,” she told the group. “I appreciate all of you. I love you all.”
Steenis knows it took their heart to put her dreams within sight.
After the drive, Steenis and her friends grabbed dinner in Seattle, then hit the streets. In lieu of gifts, she asked all of her friends to donate money so they could buy hot chocolate and food for those in need.
“I’m very blessed,” Steenis said. “And I know that I’m blessed.”