At the age of 18 and only a freshmen in college, Clark Roberts was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa. By the age of 24, Roberts lost his sight leaving him with the ability to only see light, dark shadows, outlines, and some bright colors.
“In the beginning I did not look at it as a gift,” the long-time Bellevue resident said about losing his sight. “I was frustrated, mad, angry, depressed, and probably even scared.”
Roberts said he didn’t know what life would look like, or if he could really move forward. He said it was difficult to accept being blind but through his faith and friends, Roberts realized that just because he couldn’t see, it didn’t mean life was over.
“I’m so grateful, so appreciative that I didn’t check out,” he said. “I would’ve missed out on many incredible [and] wonderful blessings.”
It was around 30 years ago that Roberts first began his tandem cycling journey. He recalls the children’s pastor from his church asking for his help. The pastor talked about the activities, and Roberts said the pastor told him he wasn’t sure he would be able to help with a specific activity, bike riding.
“What about a tandem bike?,” Roberts said he suggested to the pastor. “I had never be on a [tandem bike], or on a bike for years.”
But they got the tandem bike, and Roberts said he was hooked after that. It was something fun that he truly enjoyed, he said.
Since then, Roberts has participated in various bicycle rides including the Chelan Century, Face of America, Ride for the Roses, and Seattle to Portland (STP) bicycle ride.
To celebrate STP’s 40th anniversary and his 65th birthday in October, Roberts will complete the 206-mile bicycle ride for the 10th time.
“It’s a challenge,” he said about the STP. “It’s the fact of realizing it’s a major accomplishment to be able to ride that far. It’s an adrenaline rush, it’s invigorating… it’s just awesome to be out there with [about 900] other friends.”
Cascade Bicycle Club, the nation’s largest statewide bicycle nonprofit, serves bike riders of all ages and abilities throughout the state of Washington. Its signature programs include STP, Free Group Rides, Let’s Go and the Major Taylor Project.
Diana Bryant, the content marketing manager for Cascade Bicycle Club, said she loves hearing stories like Roberts’.
“Clark is amazing, ” she said. “We love hearing stories like Clark’s because it reminds us that the STP is firmly rooted in community, and it’s clear that Clark has very strong support from his community. Stories like Clark’s are what make this ride so special, and they make all of the hours planning the ride well worth it. To finish the STP once is a lesson in goal setting, perseverance and self discovery. For those who ride it multiple times, they learn something new every year. There is no better feeling for us than to greet riders at the finish line, and we can’t wait to cheer Clark across it for his 10th time.”
Aside from tandem cycling, Roberts enjoys the outdoors and is the executive director and founder of Ultimate Vision, a nonprofit that teaches people of all ages that life does not stop when challenges occur. Through Ultimate Vision, Roberts visits schools and communities with the mission to inspire measurable acts of compassion, kindness, and confidence. Through his book, “A Guide Dog Named Arby” and the program Kids EDGE, Roberts teaches young children the gift of compassion, kindness and confidence. Roberts is also the author to “Wags to You: Short & Long Dog Tails,” that he calls stories of hope, encouragement, inspiration and humor.
Roberts said we’re all given gifts and it’s up to us whether we will receive it, unwrap it, cherish it and share it.
“Hopefully and prayerfully after you’ve unwrapped it you’re going to cherish whatever that gift is in life,” he said. “As you cherish it, you’re going to share it.”
To learn more about Cascade Bicycle Club and/or STP, go online to www.cascade.org.
To learn more about Roberts or Ultimate Vision, go online to www.clarkroberts.org.