MASSILLON, Ohio — Every year in Cincinnati, the Clovernook Center hosts a competition for the blind and visually impaired. They're challenged in several categories of reading and writing braille.
One competitor, here at home, has been a champion at the Ohio Regional Braille Challenge three times. Her name is Cammie Gattuso, an 18-year-old senior at Tuslaw High School in Massillon.
She's been blind since birth.
“I can’t see colors or shapes, but I can see shadows, though. I’ve spent long stretches of time, sitting in front of the TV, looking at the lights and shadows because it was so cool," Cammie told us.
It's the only life she's ever known.
Born at 23 weeks, with underdeveloped retinas and other health complications, some doctors weren't sure if she would make it.
“We actually had a physician tell us we should plan a funeral," Cammie's grandmother, Sandy Gattuso told us.
There was no funeral; just an abundance of hope and love, thanks to Cammie's grandparents, who adopted her after she was born.
“I said yes in a heartbeat," Sandy said of her decision.
Cammie has a magnetic personality. But, sometimes, it's just tough to navigate life.
“Fitting in socially – there are some things that I think are funny, that other people don’t think is funny at all," Cammie said of making friends. “There have been some who haven’t gotten to know me, so they’re missing out.”
She's got support from her school. They've even made special modifications for her.
“They tried really hard to help me and, it worked. And I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the wonderful, wonderful school district," Cammie said.
She also found camps with others just like her, helpful. She mastered braille, and it shows.
“I utilize braille every day, and I read very often, and I write a lot. You should see how fast I write!” Cammie said confidently.
She's so fast, in fact, she's won the Ohio Regional Braille Challenge three times. The competition brings challenge camaraderie, and fun.
Being a champion has it's perks, but what Cammie really wants is friends.
”Although I’m soft spoken, I do have a lot of interesting things to say when I do decide come out of my shell. I’m also very good-natured and it doesn’t take very much to please me," Cammie said. “I would love to have a circle of friends, at least that I can, that I can rely on that will have my back, that will, come over to my house and hang out.”
Cammie has trouble seeing the world, but she somehow always manages to find the light.
“My family has supported me every single day. Every step of the way. Every single time I have a problem," Cammie said. They say, 'I love you so much. And I say, 'I love you so much, as well.'"
Cammie also wants to speak out for people who are challenged.
"I want to be able to advocate for people who are disabled. And who have gone through or who are facing challenges such as blindness or cerebral palsy or down syndrome or whatever. I just want to be able to advocate for them," Cammie said.
Sandy Gattuso says her pride for her granddaughter is endless.
“I am very proud of everything that she does. She’s a young lady in her own right, and she is certainly proving it … proving it to not just her teachers, but to everybody.”
And to no one's surprise, Cammie won the Ohio Regional Braille Challenge this year, for the fourth time.
She's waiting to find out if she advances to California for the national finals.