Rio Rancho resident Ron Neldon used his own tragedy to help change the lives of  City of Vision students who are color vision deficient Monday at the Rio Rancho Public Schools training center.

Neldon donated 10 EnChroma glasses for color blind middle and high school students to overcome the obstacles color blindness poses to learning. The EnChroma glasses help the color-blind students better understand color-coded information on tests, projects or assignments for which correctly interpreting color plays a role.

Neldon is motivated by both tragedy and a unique inspiration.

On June 25, 1996, terrorists backed by Iran detonated a truck bomb outside of the Khobar Towers housing complex in Saudi Arabia, where Neldon was stationed with the U..S. Air Force. The blast killed 19 U.S. service members and injured hundreds. On behalf of the victims, the U.S. government successfully sued Iran for its role. With some of the money he received from the settlement, Neldon has sought ways to help others.

One of Neldon’s colleagues injured in the blast eventually had a son who was born deaf and received cochlear implants so he could hear. Neldon said that led him to watching videos of people hearing for the first time, which then led down a rabbit hole of videos of people seeing color for the first time with EnChroma glasses. This is the second year that Neldon has bought the glasses for color-blind students in Rio Rancho Public Schools.

“I’m not sharing what I went through to glorify anything because it’s not glorious,” Neldon said. “But I’m willing to do that so others can see that out of something tragic you can benefit other people’s lives. I should be dead, but this way I can make an impact on these kids’ lives.”

Kevin Hendricks/Observer
Ron Neldon, right, addresses the crowd as middle school students try out glasses that help with colorblindness.

Neldon capped a countdown with “change your life” as the cue for the students to put on the glasses, and their faces lit up as their world did the same.

“It feels cool and weird,” Andres Reyes, a sixth grade student at Rio Rancho Middle School, said. “It’s a lot brighter.”

The students then took in artwork from the RRPS Senior Art Show display in the training center with looks of amazement on their faces and the faces of loved ones.

“Some things that I thought were gray weren’t as gray as I thought they were,” Seth McLaughlin, a junior at Cleveland High School, said.

As the students happily viewed the artwork, Neldon was beaming as he took it all in.

“I’m actually ecstatic; watching the kids smile has made every penny worthwhile,” Neldon said. “This is huge to be able to change their lives and enhance their lives.”