DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Born with congenital glaucoma, the only thing Donnie Best can now see at 61, is light. On Saturday, it's the spotlight he'll see when he steps on stage for the National Blind Idol Semi-Finals at Carolina Theatre in Durham.
"Actually, it's been kind of a ball," Best said of his life spent blind. "I mean it has its inconveniences but I can't do a whole lot of complaining."
Retired from the Onslow County School System, Best will tell you he's lived a full life thanks in large part to his family who encouraged him to use his gift, his voice.
Belting out a jazz number or some classic Al Green, the nerves Best admitted to having before using his cane and a friend's arm to climb the stairs onto the stage are now nowhere to be seen. His voice, strong, bouncing through the seats of an empty theatre sure to be packed come Saturday night.
Nine contestants from across the country will compete for five spots in the Blind Idol finals to be held August 11th in Winston-Salem.
"The whole blind community just touches me so much because I'm newly blind and it's a whole new world for me," said Carolyn Marshall Covington, founder of Insightful Visionaries.
Covington's non-profit is hosting the semi-final round of Blind Idol for the second year in a row. It wasn't until recent years that Covington started losing her eyesight. Forced to walk away from her beauty and wellness business, she started Insightful Visionaries to help those who've been such a motivation to her.
"Just to see how people are so confident in their maneuvering and navigating in a world that's built for sight, but yet they're still able to conquer and do the things that they want to do with their lives, it's just encouraging for me," she said.
As a way to give back to the blind community, Insightful Visionaries is hosting a free Visions Resource Lounge in the theatre lobby before the ticketed singing competition gets underway.
From 4-6 p.m. this Saturday, June 16, the public is invited to visit 15 vendors that will be filling the lobby of Carolina Theatre, ready to help the blind community.
Steve Murphy, Program Manager for Insightful Visionaries, said booths will include independent living and vocational services, the latest technology for assisting the blind, and an ophthalmologist.
"After losing vision, it forced me to re-educate myself and now, even with blindness, my life has improved over what it was when I had vision and it's because of these resources," he said.
For Best, his first competition on Saturday and any chance he gets to sing is one more chance to use his voice to break barriers.
"People will see you in a different context if they see you doing something very well," he said. "It opens up a door for them to look a little closer to find out well, maybe if he sings maybe there's some other things that he does."
For more information and how to get tickets for Saturday's show, visit: http://insightfulvisionaries.org/