She’s run, climbed, biked, swum, broken a Guinness World Record and has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Norma Bastidas, long-time Operation Eyesight supporter and friend, is truly an inspiration to others. When asked who her inspiration is, Norma is quick to answer: “My kids.”
Norma, who lives in Delta, B.C., is a full-time mom of two boys. Her oldest son, Karl, was diagnosed with a blinding eye condition known as cone-rod dystrophy eight years ago. Unfortunately, his blindness is incurable – but he hasn’t let that get in the way of fulfilling his dreams!
Karl, now 19, is studying visual arts in college. While he’s still trying to discover his speciality, he hopes to be a sculptor or a painter someday.
“When he announced that he wanted to be a visual artist, people thought he was crazy,” says Norma. “But he was unshakable. He committed to doing it, and he never wavered.”
Karl has a guide dog to help him get around. He never gets frustrated or complains. Instead, his confidence and passion shine through.
Norma’s 16-year-old son, Hans, is also ambitious. He plans to go into architecture after he graduates from high school, and he recently started training for downhill bike racing.
“My kids understand that you can’t just jump into things,” explains Norma. “They see it takes a lot of preparation and they take things seriously. They pursue their dreams, and they pursue them hard.”
Norma herself has been training for ultra-marathons, triathlons and the like for eight years. Seeing her sons’ confidence and ambition makes it easy for her to continue.
“My kids are incredible,” she adds. “We’re lucky to have each other. We make a great team.”
Norma recognizes that, as a single parent, there are limitations; she’s had to work hard to provide for herself and her kids. Having overcome her own challenges, she is able to sympathize with others.
“When I hear of someone struggling, I can honestly understand what they’re going through,” she says. “I understand that at any given moment, every single comfort I have can all disappear if things were to take a turn for the worse.”
When she hears of situations that require immediate action, Norma’s the first one to jump in and help. It’s no surprise that all of her competitions and record-setting endeavors are done in support of her favourite charities.
In 2009, Norma completed the 777 Run for Sight, seven ultra-marathons on seven continents in seven months, which raised funds for Operation Eyesight and two other non-profits dedicated to vision issues.
Through her research, Norma had learned the startling stats about preventable blindness and the lack of eye care in developing countries.
“It bothered me as a mother,” explains Norma. “I was struggling – and I still struggle – waiting for a cure for my son’s blindness. I couldn’t imagine being in the position where my child could be cured, but I just didn’t have the money to take him to the doctor.”
The 777 Run for Sight was challenging and at times painful, but Norma remained focused on the plight of the people she was determined to help.
“I understand that there is pain and suffering, but pain stop; it’s a choice. What’s happening in places like India and Africa is suffering.”
Next up, Norma will race 135 miles (217 km) across Death Valley, the lowest, driest and hottest place in North America. Her goal is to place top three female, meaning she’ll have to complete the race in under 32 hours.
Despite her success and all the media attention she has received, Norma remains humble.
“It’s a privilege to be fit and have the ability to do these things,” she says. “A surgeon does what a surgeon does. This is a way that I can help.”
Thank you for your support, Norma! We are all inspired by your incredible determination and unwavering passion. We wish you the best of luck in your race across Death Valley!