Sports enthusiast Jake Tessar graduated from the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB) on May 20, but his legacy will live on because of his dedication to making field days a part of the Blind Elementary School experience.
As a child, Tessar loved sports of all kinds. Football, baseball, soccer — you name it, Jake played it.
In the fall of 2005, Tessar began losing his eyesight and was hospitalized. Doctors identified his visual loss as Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON). LHON is a genetic mutation that precipitates rapid degeneration of retinal cells, ultimately leading to loss of central vision.
Tessar’s doctors gently broke the news that he might go blind. True to the disease’s rapid nature, within two weeks, he had lost all the vision in his right eye and 70 percent of the vision in his left eye. Jake is legally blind, and there is currently no cure for LHON.
Jake’s family decided to enroll him at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, a five-hour trip from his home in West Palm Beach, beginning in fourth grade.
Tessar flourished in the cozy setting. He even won a Character Counts award one year, a testament to his good nature.
Athletically, Tessar turned love of baseball and soccer into love for running. He also explored and excelled at nontraditional athletics like kayaking and skateboarding.
“When I lost my sight, sports helped to ground me and bring stability to my life,” Tessar said.
Over time, he developed “Jake’s vision” — that every child could find a love of sports if given the chance.
Tessar ran a 5K to secure funding for this vision, so his classmates could sample sports of all types and maybe find a new passion. He succeeded in raising funds and on the first Field Day in 2007 all the Blind Elementary School kids took home trophies.
But he didn’t stop there. Tessar set his sights on the Walt Disney Marathon with the intent to raise $10,000 to fund future field days for his FSDB peers. An anonymous donor and family friend pledged to double whatever Jake managed to raise through a Go Fund Me campaign.
Within five months, 121 people donated $10,100. Add in the generous donor match and the Blind Elementary School now has $20,000 to support future field days and carry out Jake’s vision of athletic opportunities on campus.
On Jan. 10, 2016 Tessar ran the Walt Disney marathon and clocked in at 6 hours, 21 minutes and 24 seconds.
“Jake is a self-motivated student,” said Mike Lege, Blind Department Physical Education Instructor. “With his give-back attitude, he will go far in life.”
This year, Field Day was May 13. Approximately 60 students participated in an array of stimulating and challenging events including the 50-Yard Dash, Kick-A-Ball Distance Competition; P.E. Motor Skills Challenge; Water-Saver Relay; and Underhanded Throw Shot Put.
Thanks to Jake Tessar’s vision and fundraising efforts, Blind Elementary School students will enjoy Field Days for many years to come.
“FSDB helped support my love for sports and also helped me grow as a person,” Tessar said. “Because of the school’s dedication to me I wanted to give back. If just one kid’s life could be made better by finding a love for sports, that would make all my efforts worthwhile.”
To learn more, go to gofundme.com/jakesvision.