[nfbwatlk] FW: A kid we should know
gabias at telus.net
Wed Jun 8 22:30:44 UTC 2011
From: Mary Ellen [mailto:gabias at telus.net]
Sent: June 8, 2011 8:21 AM
To: 'list at cfb.ca'
Subject: FW: A kid we should know
Thanks to Mark Riccobono forforwarding this.
Published On Sat Jun 04 2011
Blind mechanic's dream comes true in a Porsche
Lorraine Sommerfeld for Wheels
Aaron Prevost drives in a Porsche Boxster at Mosport.
<http://www.wheels.ca/columns/columnists/2688> Lorraine Sommerfeld
SPECIAL TO THE STAR
BRANTFORD-The morning sun streams through the raised garage door at Bruce
Kitchen Automotive. Dust particles dance in the air, and the lighting over
each workbench seems muted in the strength of the May sunshine.
Aaron Prevost, 20, stands under a '82 Porsche 924, having positioned the
hoist and raised it to working level. He can discern this sunlight, but only
as a contrast shadow. It takes a moment to realize he is blind.
He doesn't turn his head to place wheel nuts on the table next to him; he
deftly deposits them in a precise order so he can find them again later. A
quick count around the freed rim with his other hand, he then lifts the tire
from its mount. He drops a nut, freezes as he listens to where it lands,
then drops down quickly and grabs it.
Related: <http://wheels.ca/columns/article/797897> Blind mechanic offers an
example to live by
Everything about Prevost is ordinary, and yet nothing is. Being an auto
mechanic is a precise business, and potential hazards are everywhere.
Prevost, sightless since birth, walks freely and without a cane, finding
hoisted cars and the curled hoses of compressors.
At first glance his workbench looks like any other, but as he snaps through
drawers searching for a mallet, his hands skimming the contents, you realize
he knows exactly where everything is. A misplaced tool costs time, and time
costs money; Prevost insists on being treated as an equal to the sighted
This isn't a job of repetition. The garage specializes in imports, and each
car has unique issues. For a kid who started by ripping apart lawnmowers,
it's a story about the capacity of his memory and his ability to learn, but
most of all, about his determination.
At age 10, Prevost was pulling apart and rebuilding small engines with the
guidance of his older brother, Ben, now 26. Ben, too is blind, born with the
same damage to the optic nerve.
"Well, we mostly put back together the stuff we tore apart," says Aaron with
a smile. Soon, they were working on the family cars and there were no
concerns about their abilities.
The logistics of moving through a dark world does not concern a young man
who's known no different. The secret to his positive attitude is that Aaron
Prevost simply determines what he can do, rather than what he can't.
Frustration peeks out only in that he is passionate about cars, but can't
drive. Raised in rural Cornwall, Ont., he did what most country kids do:
hopped on anything with an engine and drove it anyway.
"We'd take out the 4-wheeler, and my sister would stand behind me and she'd
turn my shoulders," he explains. "It's pretty effective, though it can get a
little crazy when you have to keep the throttle on to make sure you don't
For the last 12 years, Prevost has been a student at W. Ross MacDonald
School for the Blind, a residential school in Brantford. His older brother
was already there, making a tough change a little easier. Prevost shrugs it
off, wearing his independence not so much as a badge but like a well worn
pair of jeans.
"I try to do it all," he says. And he does. He's lived off campus for two
years now, renting a house with a friend.
Outside the shop, a riding lawnmower sits on a trailer, the housing off.
Shop owner Bruce Kitchen told his neighbour to bring the broken machine in
because he has just the guy to fix it.
Prevost reaches into the machinery with one surgically-gloved hand, discerns
where a metal part is eroding a plastic one, and makes the diagnosis.
Kitchen vetoes the suggestion that having Prevost on board as a co-op
placement student might slow down the shop. "He has his specialties - brakes
and rotors - and unlike a standard garage, the turnaround times are a little
more flexible," he says.
His voice drops a bit. "Look. It's just right. He's earned his place here.
He's a fine mechanic. His first day here, he had the cylinder head off a
Triumph Spitfire and changed the head gasket. The only thing he couldn't do
was set the foot-pound numbers."
The shop is filled with exotics of every vintage. Prevost is loosening up
the rusted brake drums on the Porsche.
"If you had your sight for 10 minutes, what would you do?" I ask him.
He doesn't hesitate for a moment: "Drive!"
MOSPORT-A long line of Porsches wait their turn obediently at Mosport
International Raceway. It's a driving school day; owners will learn what
their cars can do.
Aaron Prevost, 20 and blind since birth, will find out what a racetrack
He can't see the rolling green countryside, but he can feel a light breeze
that steals the promising heat from the sun.
As a mechanic, he knows how the high-performance machines work. Today, he'll
learn how that translates into the thrust of a dropped accelerator, the
squeal of the tires in complex corners, and the exhilaration of a long
Maybe Prevost can't drive, but he can certainly be the passenger in a car
racing around one of the best tracks in North America. "My boss, Bruce,
warned me about G forces," he says. "I really want to experience that."
As if on cue, Rick Bye pulls up in a 2012 Porsche Boxster. Bye is in charge
of Porsche Canada's press fleet of cars, and he is also a long-time Porsche
racer. He knows Mosport like the back of his hand.
At the track's test pad, Bye puts the car through stop-start exercises,
describing carefully to Prevost all that he's doing. After a few tests, Bye
gets out. "Aaron's going to try it now," he says. Prevost grins as he pops
open the door.
With a reassuring hand on the wheel, Bye describes to his young student
everything the car will be doing, and how it will respond. Within minutes,
the kid who can't see has the accelerator to the floor of the sports car.
And quickly brings it to a full stop. They repeat the exercise several
times, Prevost learning the car, Bye learning his pupil.
Bye will say later that "Aaron was a perfect student." That's a direct
quote: Perfect. "He was keen, and he listened. He responded exactly to what
I was telling him. If we'd had more time we could have done more."
Back on pit row, the track clears for lunch. Bye stands waiting for the
all-clear, while Aaron stays in the passenger seat, his hands showing him
every stitch, every button, every lever. "Hey, you get a lot of stations on
this radio," he reports. It's not idle chatter. Aaron is absorbing this car.
With a wave from the official, Bye buckles in.
The Boxster roars and they're off, alone on the track. When the car hits the
back straightaway, the sweet crescendo hangs in the midday air. It returns
to zoom past the pits and you can see Prevost smiling broadly. After the
fifth lap, they cruise into the pits. "Tell her how many times you've done
this," says the kid. Considering this is his home track, Bye estimates he's
put in about 30,000 laps.
But it's the next ones that will be a first, even for this seasoned pro.
They switch seats.
Maintaining the same steady direction, Bye tells Prevost to position the
steering, to get comfortable. It's this reassuring voice that now leads the
sightless driver, with Bye's left hand lightly on the wheel.
By the second lap with Prevost behind the wheel, everyone is heading out to
watch. The sound of the engine registers its location on the track, and
there are only the same two questions in mind: how fast are they going to
hit the straight, and how on earth are they going to negotiate Turn 5? It's
actually two turns, one after another. It's difficult to do if you can see.
It's difficult to do if you're a pro. But a blind kid, with no licence?
Even with a professional hand shadowing his, Aaron is placing full trust in
a man he met an hour before. Maybe even more amazing, that man is doing the
It's not until later that Bye will reveal the only slip up of the day - on
the challenging Turn 5, Prevost carried too much speed. Bye simply repeated
"more brake, more brake" until his student corrected without hitting the
grass. Apparently, Rick Bye never once raised his voice that day.
It's a complicated, beautiful thing to process. The Boxter returns past the
stands and then sets off again, and again. When it eventually pulls in and
comes to a halt in the pits, Prevost finally takes his hand from the wheel
to shake the outstretched hands of the astonished pit crew.
In the crush, the quietest pair is Aaron Prevost and Rick Bye. In the midst
of the power and the speed and the ballet of a racetrack, a great gift has
been given - to both men.
Prevost completed five laps of Mosport International Raceway that day. He
hit a top speed of 205 km/h on that famed back straight, as fast as most
Bye said later that Prevost was so attentive and responsive that the
instructor actually took his own hand off the wheel several times. Prevost
said later he only got a little anxious when Bye did this.
The idea that he was in complete control of the vehicle, even for a few
seconds at a time, left him awestruck. The fact Bye never had to take over
the steering amazed everyone else.
The kid who wants to do it all finally got to drive.
When we leave for Brantford, I ask him what he's thinking.
"30,000 times," he says. "Rick has been able to do that 30,000 times."
For Bye, he recognized something far different. "We all only see the world
from our place on the grid," he said later.
"So many people only see the negative; that kid is so far up front, it's
Way to go Aaron, way to go Bruce!
I've known Bruce Kitchen for 3 or 4 years now, not only is he a solid
mechanic, but he obviously has a heart of gold as well. The last time I
spoke with him all he could talk about was how excited and proud he was of
Aaron's work in the shop. If you live in the Brantford area and don't have a
dependable mechanic, you might want to look Bruce up.
Submitted by Mark Bailey at 5:26 PM Tuesday, June 07 2011
This story reminds me of the a childhood friend's son, Bartek: he lost his
eye-sight at 3 and my friend, his mother, dedicated her life to making sure
he lives his life to its full potential. Today, Bartek is an IT network
administrator and a car mechanic who got to drive a race car a few years
ago. Both Aaron and Bartek are a true source of inspiration.
Submitted by frauschlau at 3:05 PM Sunday, June 05 2011
What a great good-news story!
Congratulations to Aaron Prevost for his determination and independence in
the face of an obstacle that others would find too daunting; kudos to both
Bruce Kitchen and Rick Bye for giving Aaron opportunities and experiences
that few others would have the courage to provide; and thank-you to Lorraine
Sommerfeld for giving us an eloquent story that brought a smile to my face
and a tear to my eye this morning.
Submitted by mikeca at 1:07 PM Saturday, June 04 2011
WHAT AN INSPIRATION
Aaron is an inspiration to all of us. What a fine young man with a great
promising career ahead of him. This is such a great story as it shows that
you can do anything if you want to. This world would be a much better place
is we had more people like Aaron in it. Aaron will be a success and I would
not hesitate for a second to bring my vehicle to him to have it serviced.
All the very best to this young man.
Submitted by Vegas at 10:22 AM Saturday, June 04 2011
Really amazing. The experience of a lifetime. Great column.
Submitted by Maggie2 at 9:44 AM Saturday, June 04 2011
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