How a blind triplet who had suicidal thoughts found hope after blind man adopted him and his brothers

Nick, Leo, and Steven were born with retinopathy of prematurity, a condition that results in blindness in premature babies. Before they met Ollie Cantos, their sponsor, through a church in 2010, their future appeared hopeless.

Cantos, who shares the same condition as the triplets, took them under his wing after hearing from a friend that they had never met another blind person.

Leo told StoryCorps in 2014 that, before Cantos took them in, he and his brothers’ daily routine included waking up, going to school, coming home, and “staying there for the rest of the day.” He recalled wanting to play outdoors in the snow with the other kids.

Nick added, “It was getting so bad that I wanted to die. But it was one of the decisions I’m glad I did not make because I would have missed out on everything.”

Steven told People in 2016, “If dad weren’t here, two things would happen: either I’d be in a gang or I’d be dead.”

Cantos sensed the boys—who are now 24—were destined to be his kids and started the formal adoption procedure as soon as he met them.

The triplets have found the ideal role model in their philanthropist, who was the first person with a visible impairment and blind person to be elected to the West Covina, California, council. The lawyer, who was formerly employed in Washington, D.C. with the U.S. Department of Education, dedicated his life to raising his boys to be self-sufficient and content.

Under his direction, the triplets fulfilled the same demanding standards as everyone else to become Eagle Scouts at the age of sixteen. According to local publication ARLNow, Steven gathered enough materials for 130 children as part of their volunteer initiatives for low-income students. Meanwhile, Nick gathered hygiene items for a group that assists abused women and families, and Leo coordinated a blood donation that “literally saved hundreds of lives,” according to Ollie.

Following these remarkable achievements, the triplets spent time at The Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, Massachusetts, where they worked on various skills such as cooking, cleaning, home chores, time management, technological skill upgrading, independent cane travel, and exploring.

Today, Leo is scheduled to graduate from the University of Virginia, while Nick and Steven will graduate from Southern Virginia University. Despite the distance, Ollie is proud of the young men for following their aspirations.

Cantos, 53, told People, “I can’t believe how far we have all come. Knowing the path that they were heading on and the path they’re on now, I just feel so grateful that we’re a family.”

“Having them as sons and seeing how they prosper and how they are making their own way in the world is really so heartwarming. It means I was able to help prepare them for adulthood and leadership,” he added.

Cantos expressed his excitement about his boys starting their own family in the years to come and even shared his desire to become a grandfather to their future children.

Additionally, he set up a GoFundMe page with the goal of supporting the triplets as they grow older. This includes paying off their outstanding college loans, helping them upgrade their technology as they start their careers, and helping them travel when they receive invitations to give speeches to nonprofit organizations.

All in all, Cantos anticipates obstacles along the way, but he also believes that these experiences should be welcomed as a family.

“Even when there are any setbacks, I say, ‘I’m here with you. We’ve got this together. We have always been together. We’ve got this.’” 

“I’m just so grateful to have them in my life as my sons because my life wouldn’t be as rich had it not been for having them. Nothing will break us apart,” he expressed. 

Dollita Okine

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