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by Karin L. Nauber

karin@inhnews.com

When you talk with Rocky Hart, it doesn’t feel like you are talking with a 15-year-old boy. It feels more like you are talking with a mature adult who has been through a lot.

Well, in a way that is true—Rocky has been through a lot in his 15 years.

His story is kind of reflected in his name—from a “rocky” start he has shown a lot of “heart” (Hart).

You see, Rocky isn’t like most 15-year-olds around here, Rocky was born blind. But being blind doesn’t stop him from going after what he wants in life.

Rocky is also on the autism spectrum, but that doesn’t hold him back, either.

Neither does his hearing loss.

In fact, nothing really holds him back at all.

One of the things that Rocky wanted to do recently was participate in the Fine Arts Festival through the Assemblies of God Church.

He chose two categories to participate in. One was creative  memoir and the other was short sermon.

Rocky felt very confident in the memoir he wrote called “My Mother’s Sacrifice,” which is a very heart-felt story of his mom’s life and his growing up years. Rocky doesn’t see much of his biological father.

One very profound statement in his memoir says, “I may have come from a broken home, but I do not have a broken life.”

But it was his five minute sermon at the festival that earned him top honors. There were 58 other participants in that category and he took the top scores.

“One judge came up to us after his sermon and said that he was giving Rocky a perfect score. However, because Rocky said a prayer after his sermon, they had to deduct two points because his five minute sermon went over by 13 seconds,” said his mom Kristy Brown who couldn’t be more pleased with her son and his accomplishments.

The title of Rocky’s sermon? “God Uses the Unqualified.”

“This is at the core of my Christian belief,” said Rocky. 

He said that during his sermon he referenced men like Moses and Gideon who were used greatly by God even though they had flaws that would have made them “unqualified.”

Because he did so well, he had the honor of giving his sermon a second time during the event to the entire audience of over 800 people!

“I found that I have a gift for ministry that I didn’t know about,” said Rocky.

He said he felt like he had found his purpose in life.

“The North Central University president requested Rocky to come and tour the campus and meet with him,” said Kristy. “He is getting noticed.”

Because he did so well in the Minnesota festival, he earned the opportunity to go to the National Fine Arts Festival which will be held in Houston, Texas in late July/early August where there will be upwards of 15,000 competitors nationwide.

The only thing that could possibly hold Rocky back from following his dream to go to this national event is money.

His step-dad, Jeff Brown, was very seriously injured and has not been able to work for several months, so the family has been living on very limited funds.

“We are going to have a garage sale with all the proceeds going toward the trip,” said Kristy. (Learn more about the garage sale toward the end of the article.)

They need about $3000 for transportation, food and lodging while they are in Houston.

Rocky’s grandparents, who have been his personal care attendants for much of his life, are also finding a way to go to Houston to support their grandson.

Rocky said that his grandparents—who are both ordained ministers—are part of the reason for his strong faith in God.

“Some people at the treatment facility that grandma frequents to visit my uncle in Moose Lake, told her that she needed to go to support Rocky, so they are raising the funds for them to be able to go. This is turning into a big family event,” said Kristy.

Rocky doesn’t take things for granted in his life.

“I truly believe that my life has been saved by divine intervention,” he said.

Rocky shared the struggle that they first encountered when his mom was 21 weeks pregnant.

That was when she  went in for a 3D level ultrasound and, although things looked healthy, she just felt that something else was going on.

Rocky was to be born much sooner than was planned. 

Kristy went in for surgery so that Rocky would continue to grow for a while, but he was still determined to come early and arrived December 21, 2002. He wasn’t due to be born until February 14.

“They kept me in the hospital for three and a half weeks,” said Rocky.

As he thinks back on this, he shared that his mom had been planning to go shopping before the ultrasound, but there was an earlier appointment that opened up so she took it.

“I might not be here if not for the change in the appointment,” said Rocky.

“I probably would have had him at 21 weeks in the shopping mall,” said Kristy.

Rocky finally was able to go home, but it wasn’t long before Kristy noticed a greenish look in his eyes.

At his four month checkup with the doctor, they were sent to the eye doctor. The eye doctor told them they needed to go to the University of Minnesota—tomorrow!

They found that Rocky had Norries Disease (Rocky helped me spell Norries!) which is extremely rare and has to do with a chromosome that is missing a part which can cause vision loss or other impairments or if all of this chromosome is missing, the person is a vegetable.

“Rocky is somewhere in the middle. His vision is entirely gone,” said Kristy.

Rocky’s hearing loss is a degenerative condition which means he could be completely deaf in the future. They are going to an appointment next week to look at the possibility of cochlear implants to see if they can save some of his hearing.

But again, Rocky won’t let this possibility stand in his way.

Besides the idea that ministry is in his future, Rocky also is intrigued by politics.

His grandparents always listened to Fox News and from very early on Rocky would listen to the news because he wanted to know what was going on.

“Politics became a recognized interest to me after the 2012 election. I was able to vote on a website for kids,” he said.

When he was between 12 and 13 he developed complex political views.

“I am intrigued by politics and religion. They make sense to me in ways that other things don’t,” he said.

Rocky has been to the Minnesota State Capitol three times to advocate for the needs of the blind. 

“Before I became a member of the National Federation for the Blind, I was invited to go to Washington, DC. There I met with Congressman Collin Peterson and the offices of representatives Tom Emmer and Betty McCollum,” shared Rocky.

This past February, through his involvement with the National Federation of the Blind, he was again visiting with legislators for the cause of those with blindness.

“We met with members of the house of representatives and made some progress on our issues,” said Rocky who has also called and written letters to legislators.

“The other two visits were both affiliated with the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind. One of them occurring in March of 2017 when I testified in favor of budgetary request for MSAB, and the other was in observance of White Cane Safety Awareness day, held on October 10, 2017,” said Rocky.

During the school year, Rocky attends the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind in Faribault. He has been very active there as vice president and last year as president of the student council. He has also served on numerous committees at school.

Rocky went to St. Paul on Saturday, June 16 to take part in an eight-week program that will teach him the skills he needs to survive as a blind person. It is called Post-Secondary Readiness Empowerment Program or PREP. He will take the week of July 29-August 4 to compete at the National Fine Arts Festival. He’ll come home to Rose City on August 12.

As part of that training, he will attend a convention in Orlando, Florida.

“He keeps his mom busy,” said Kristy.

The family is having a huge garage sale on June 21, 22 and 23 as a fundraiser. It will be at the Shari Peterson home near Browerville at: 21336 320th Street. There will be lots of signs up. So when you are not enjoying an activity at Browerville Days, head on over to this garage sale.

If you have items you would like to donate for the garage sale, please let Kristy know.

Also, to help Rocky meet his fundraising goals, from June 20-27, any in-house item purchase from Endless Ink or Jazz It Up will result in a donation of 10% of the profits to Rocky. (Check out the ad in this week’s newspaper!) 

Oh, and Rocky’s ultimate goal? To be elected President of the United States in 2040.

With his determination, he shouldn’t have much trouble reaching his goal.

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