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Phoenix Group That Sends Blind Kids to the Top of Mt. Kilimanjaro Picks Up State's Budgetary Slack

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One of the many organizations to lose funding in the ongoing Arizona legislative budget battle sent 25 blind children to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro last month.

The Foundation for Blind Children, a Valley non-profit that (among other things) sponsors the "See Kili Our Way" program, lost 10 percent of its annual budget because of government cuts.

If you thought getting 25 blind kids to the top of one of the tallest mountains in the world was improbable, what the group's doing to replace the funding is an even bigger feat.

Instead of crying to legislators, or cutting programs, the group gone out and raised the money on its own.

"We've had to really step it up," says Marc Ashton, Foundation chief executive. "We went to the community, and the community has been great."

Ashton says fundraisers and tax credits for donors have helped make up for the almost $1 million lost from the state this year.

And while sending kids 15,000-plus feet above sea level is exciting, he says, the foundation offers programs -- particularly for blind infants -- that really need to survive the economic crunch.

Ashton says the Foundation is one of the only places in Maricopa County with such an infant program.

"From ages 0-3 is the most critical time for learning," Ashton says, "About 90 percent of that learning is visual. Think of it; a child learns to crawl because it sees something it wants. What happens if the child can't see anything?"

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