Living Life Team founder coaches on living your best life after losing sight

Delivers care packages to visually impaired members during COVID-19 shutdown

Living Life Team founder, Rita Harris, with her guide dog, Madden. Contributed photo

When Living Life Team founder Rita Harris first began losing her sight in 2002 to Retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a rare genetic disorder, she found she had to make some dramatic changes in her lifestyle. Prior to that, she had worked in the school system with children with learning disabilities, but she could no longer do that. Harris said she went through much of the same emotions that most people do when they realize they are losing their sight, but she learned to deal with it, then to embrace it, and now she’s back to living her best life – and then some.

“You go through the different stages it takes you. First, there’s denial, then you’re ashamed, you become isolated and then depressed. If you do not have a support system you feel completely alone,” Harris said. “Finally I did find a resource. I found a mobility trainer that came to my house three days a week. He gave me a white-tipped cane and that made such a difference. I’ve always been a go-getter and outgoing and I began to get excited again. Once I mastered it he would take me into downtown and I would practice going into the grocery store and what do at a traffic light. I did so well. The first time I flew solo was to Rochester Hills Michigan for an Accelerated Orientation and Mobility Training course. Once I completed that successful, I was asked if I was interested in a guide dog, so I did that too. I flew to Naples and trained two weeks to be a guide dog handler. When that was very successful I wanted to give back and provide a support system to others who are blind.”

That’s when Harris decided to start the foundation, Living Life Team, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides support for the blind and visually impaired. Founded in 2016, Living Life Team is headquartered in Madison, Ga. where Harris now lives. She was born and raised in Good Hope, Ga. and graduated from Monroe Area High school. Harris also is the president of the Madison Lions Club, an organization that is well-known for its work for the visually impaired.

Rita Harris, the founder of Living Life Team, delivers a care package to one of the members. Contributed photo

During this COVID-19 shutdown, Living Life Team is putting together care packages for its members and is asking the public to help if they can. Harris said the shutdown has really hurt some of the members.

“It is an ongoing program as long as we can get funding and food items,” she said. “It started this Saturday at Madison Lions Club building 1311 Fairgrounds Road, Madison, GA 30650 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. On Fridays, we will be putting these care packages together and they will be delivered on a Saturday while we’re on this shutdown and while we have items. We also are accepting monetary donations.”

That can be done through the website – checks can be made payable to Living Life Team and mailed to P O Box 1063 Madison, GA 30650 – also cash aps $livinglifeteam

Donations include any non-perishable food items, any disinfectants as well as toiletry items such as paper towels, tissues, etc.

Harris said while they are headquartered in Morgan County, they are reaching out to other areas for members in need of their resources, including Walton County.

Mobility instruction by Living Life Team. Contributed photo

“It can also be a case of someone who has been blind or vision impaired for quite a while and still has not gained their confidence or self-esteem. We pull them out of that dark place and gain their independence and show them how to live life to the fullest,” Harris said. “We provide resources through speaking activities, outings such as field training, inside the home such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, organization, even being able to handle your own medication. We also provide orientation in mobility. We have a certified vision resource agent who comes in to do cane training. Would love anyone in Walton County who desires service to enhance their living – come on board to Living Life Team.”

Independent Travel training by Living Life Team. Contributed photo
Independent shopping. Contributed photo

And Harris lives what she teaches when it comes to living your best life. In fact, she says she believes that coming to terms with her visual impairment has actually released her to really embrace life and has taken her to new heights, literally.

“I have been skydiving, kayaking, I go horseback riding, I’ve even been in a Nascar. You name it and I’ve done,” she said.

Harris also serves on the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) committee member for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and she and her guide dog, Madden, are featured on a wall in the international terminal at concourse F. She refers to Madden as the peanut butter to her jelly.

“We even went to Universal Studios together,” Harris said.

And what does her husband, Henry, say about all the things she gets up to?

“He’s always supported me, no matter what I conjure up. I love life and he knows that,” Harris said. However, he doesn’t always go along on some of her more outlandish antics. “He says somebody has to live to tell the tale.”

Anyone who is interested in finding out more about Living Life Team can do so by clicking on this link. It is audio assisted for anyone who is visually impaired.

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