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Nearly blind teenage boy who swam for charity will get Silver Award

Jack Weinstein, with his mother, Kathleen, right after he completed his swim from Alcatraz Island.
Jack Weinstein, with his mother, Kathleen, right after he completed his swim from Alcatraz Island.

 

Jack Weinstein, an almost-blind 15-year-old who raised almost $45,000 for charity by swimming from Alcatraz to San Francisco’s Dolphin Club, will receive a Silver Award.

It will be presented at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11 at a Town Council session in San Anselmo.

The Quality of Life Commission voted unanimously at a recent meeting to give Weinstein its award, which is presented regularly to “unsung heroes.”

Weinstein completed his frigid swim in 45 minutes (10 better than his 55-minute goal), raising the money for a Colorado nonprofit, No Barriers, whose motto is “What’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way.”

When his quest was over, the boy reported, “I was exhausted, but there were about 30 people there and I just sat there listening to them cheering me. It was surreal.”

He says he hopes by example to help empower those with disabilities “to rise above and beyond the obstacles put before them.”

Weinstein had trained for the mile and a half swim for months, both in the water and with weights.

He suffers from a rare retinal disease that, despite six operations before he was 4, has claimed all the sight in his right eye and half in the left.

But his mother, Kathleen, who’d made the same swim almost 20 years before and who accompanied his feat in a kayak; father, Paul, and sister, Hailey, have always found him to be an inspiration.

The teenager, who’s been swimming since “I was able to crawl, when my parents put me in the pool,” doesn’t limit his charity to No Barriers. At the San Anselmo family’s summer home on five acres in the hills above Sonoma, he helps cultivate food for senior residents at Vintage House.

He’d first become interested in the environment at 8, when “gas prices had risen significantly. My mom explained the elderly would be hurt the most because they’re on fixed incomes. I asked if I could plant food in our garden for them. We’d weed, plant, grow and deliver. Later, we went to friends and got food from them. We’ve donated four and a half tons of food.”

It’s clear that Weinstein, who takes “eye drops and eye pills every day” and sticks to a high-protein diet, doesn’t let his disability get into his way.

Even academically.

He’s overcome his sight problems by sitting in the front rows of his Branson classes.

His remaining eyesight is stable and should remain hat way unless he “sustains a head injury that would dislodge the optic nerve or tear my retina.”

But the amazingly articulate youth is quick to add: “My fear of losing my eyesight rarely affects how or why I do things. I try to be the absolute best I can be — I’m a tough critic of myself.”

Mostly, though, he’s optimistic.

And, in spite of being nearly blind, he seems to have more vision and insight than most.

Weinstein will become the 32nd Silver Award winner.

Previous recipients were Dorothy Walters, Joy Snyder, Joey Epstein, Shirley Paradiso, Bonnie Carson, Ted Freeman, Sue McDowell, Phyllis Ostrander, Carla Overberger, Judy Coy, Kathy Thornton, Dick Stutsman, Nancy Vernon, Barbara Dwyer, Peter Penhallow, the husband-and-wife team of Teri and Alex Rockas, Eli Welber and Steve Lee, Grace Komo, Ben Burtt, Royce Truex and Jo Gross, Michael Schwab, Deborah Cichocki, Kay Peacock, Frank Ortiz, Tom Boss, the husband-wife team of Patricia and Chuck Swensen, Bill Abright, Cynnie Barrows, Marilyn Girodo, Sophia Spencer hand Dollie Frauens.

The broad-based Silver Awards and the environmentally oriented Green Awards are presented in alternate months.

Nominations for either can be hand-delivered or mailed to: Quality of Life Commission, c/o Town of San Anselmo, 525 San Anselmo Ave., or e-mailed to voodee@sbcglobal.net or townnclerk@ci.san-anselmo.ca.us.

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