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Audible crosswalk goes up after Ames third grader writes letter to city wanting help for his dad

Ben Smith and his father, Brad, often walk the busy intersection of South Dakota Avenue and Mortensen Road in Ames.

AMES, Iowa — A person can never be too young to make a difference. That’s what one nine-year-old in Ames found out when he wrote a letter to ask for some help for his dad.

Little did he know, the letter sparked a big change.

Ben Smith and his father, Brad, often walk the busy intersection of South Dakota Avenue and Mortensen Road in Ames.

“We walk it a fair amount,” Brad told Local 5.

They do it on a daily basis walking Ben to and from school, and to his appointments at Kinetic Edge Physical Therapy. But when Brad’s doing it alone, Ben gets worried.

“About you crossing a super busy intersection,” Ben tells his father.

Ben and Brad are a team. Nine-year-old Ben helps Brad all the time because Brad lives with a genetic disease that has left him visually impaired.

“With the limited vision that I have, I am able to read the traffic to some degree but a lot of that is assuming that drivers are going to behave a certain way,” Brad explained.

So, when Ben’s occupational therapist, Rachael Barnette, was thinking of ways to motivate Ben to work on his handwriting skills, she knew exactly what to ask him.

“That’s actually a great way to motivate. This is obviously really important and meaningful so how can we incorporate that into something we’re already doing,” Barnette recalled.

Ben ended up writing a letter in February and it ended up in the hands of Brad Becker, the traffic supervisor for the city of Ames.

“It’s not very often, in fact this is the first time for me, getting a letter like that,” Becker said. “Definitely could see and feel the love and compassion he has for his father and the inherent concern that comes along with that.”

Ben’s letter got to the city at the perfect time, according to Becker. The city had the supplies and funding in hand to get an audio crosswalk put up.

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The audio crosswalk counts down and also helps audibly guide Brad, which Ben is so grateful for.

“I’m excited for him because now he can cross the street without any worries,” said Ben.

“The audio crosswalk has relieved a lot of my anxiety,” Brad added.

For Brad, this makes the back and forth at the intersection safer every day. It’s a thought that crosses his mind often, how his son never stops looking out for him.

“He’s always helpful. He’s always very helpful when we go out and helping me navigate. He’s very protective.”

Brad said he’s proud of Ben because this will also help other visually-impaired people cross the intersection safely.

He hopes Ben continues to have compassion for people and never stop making a difference.

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