By FEMI REDWOOD, WSMH
FLINT, Mich. (CIRCA via WSMH) — Inspiration comes from various places, including a pool hall, and one Mid-Michigan man is pushing beyond barriers and inspiring others one ball at a time.
Jason Ruggirello, 39, is deaf and legally blind, but that is not stopping him from playing in the Mid-Michigan American Pool Players Association.
He loves his team. “They’re awesome,” he said.
Ruggirello could see three years ago when he first began playing in the American Poolplayers Association (APA), but a genetic disease he was born with left him visually impaired.
He said one eye is totally blind, and the other one is blurry.
Julie Ruggirello, his mom, takes care of him.
“It’s tough to know that one day he might lose his sight completely,” Julie said.
Admittedly, Ruggirello does not win often, but other players, like league owner Lonnie Ward, said the inspiration they receive from him is the real win.
“People ... say, 'I'm not good enough. I cant play.' But if Jason can play, you can play and have fun,” Ward said.
“Don’t give up."
Mary Margaret Gleason, a cook at Jester's Bar, where Jason plays, agrees with Ward.
When she is not cooking, she is helping those with disabilities, and even helping communicate with Jason by use of sign language.
She said Flint needs better infrastructure for the blind.
“There’s cracked sidewalks. There’s no sidewalks. There’s beveled sidewalks,” Gleason said.
She said that may take money Flint does not have, but said there are things anyone can do to help those visually impaired.
“Shovel your sidewalk. Salt your sidewalk,” Gleason said.
And to those who are deaf, she said don’t be afraid to befriend them.
“We all know sign language. 'Hello.' 'Goodbye.' 'Happy happy.' 'Super super,'" she said.
And the lesson from Jason: “Don’t give up,” he said.
He is not giving up. Jason is hoping to attend a special school for blind and deaf people in New York City and said it would help him become more independent.
It may be his last season playing because of concerns from some of his other medical issues that could make it too hard to play, but everyone says he will always be a part of the league.