A city in Jackson County, Mississippi will soon announce the opening of its own recreation center thanks to the effort and initiative of Eleanor Blackwell.
Eleanor Blackwell, a local of Gautier, wanted the kids in her city to have a place to enjoy the sports they love. It was her idea to raise funds in order to build a recreation center for Gautier’s residents. However, the idea originated from a devastating tragedy – the death of Jeremiah Blackwell, her beloved son.
According to Eleanor, her son loved basketball very much. He even wanted to play for the NBA right after finishing college. Since Gautier has no basketball court, the city does not sponsor or hold a basketball tournament so her son would travel to other places to play the game.
Eleanor vividly recalled that it was in July 9, 2006 when everything changed. Jeremiah, 23, agreed to play in a basketball tournament in New York after being invited by a coach he knew. Eleanor said that she could still imagine her son’s excitement and picture him smiling after bidding her goodbye, not knowing it will be the last time she will see him.
Jeremiah was sitting at the passenger’s seat when the car collided with a couple of vehicles on Bronx River Parkway. Five people were declared dead on the spot. Jeremiah was rushed to Jacobi Medical Center but passed away a week later.
Eleanor was devastated and kept telling herself that Jeremiah should not have traveled far. She knew she could not do anything to bring him back, but she wanted to change something. Because it was the lack of a basketball court in Gautier that led Jeremiah to go to other places in order to play, Eleanor thought that it would be great to build a recreation center in the city so that kids would no longer have to travel far just to play the sports they love.
Eleanor initiated the fund raising for the center. She started a non-profit group known as the Community in Action or CIA to help her with the activities. The group hosts basketball tournaments to help raise money. And Eleanor was doing all these despite being blind and wheelchair-bound.
Carol Black, a friend and a former colleague of Eleanor at a dental hygiene clinic, stated that Eleanor went blind five years ago. The loss of her vision was a result of a disorder she has been battling for quite some time.
The condition, known as Devic’s Syndrome or Neuromyelitis Optica, consists of a simultaneous and recurrent demyelination and inflammation of the optic nerve as well as the spinal cord. Because there is a loss in the spinal cord function, Eleanor uses a wheelchair.
Carol, proud of her friend, said that Eleanor’s blindness and her physical needs did not stop her friend from dedicating her life and putting all her efforts into achieving her dream. Despite the tragedy, Eleanor is all the more motivated to accomplish what she has started. Carol also said that she will do what she can to help her friend.
Eleanor and the group are planning to create and offer a scholarship to help the aspiring athletes of Gautier go to college. They are researching how to apply for grants and raise more money to get their project started.
Despite all her trials and tragedies, Eleanor did not give up on life. Instead she vowed to live her life helping the people in her community and doing everything she can to make a difference.