COLFAX — When he leads the Ridgeview High School marching band in song, Zach Craig used to only experience part of the performance.
The vibrant color guard flags appear dull to the senior drum major. The bright blue sky looks washed out, nearly white.
“I realized I was colorblind in third grade art class when we were studying the color wheel,” said Craig. “I could just distinguish a few colors. I confused the reds and the greens.”
While on a recent family vacation to Colorado, Craig said he enjoyed the mountainous landscape, but couldn’t make out the unique shades of green in the trees or red in the rocks.
“Color just wasn’t a huge part of my life,” he said.
That has all changed.
His best friend and fellow drum major, Justin Givens, has known about Craig’s color vision deficiency since seventh grade. When Givens discovered Enchroma glasses, he decided his friend needed a pair.
Enchroma glasses, which run $270 to $430, alleviate red-green color blindness and enhance other hues.
“I wanted him to see the colors we all take for granted,” said Givens, a senior at Ridgeview.
Craig said he'd heard about the glasses, but was skeptical, calling the color-fixing technology "something out of a Sci-Fi."
Over the summer, Givens quietly collected $350 in donations from his bandmates with the help of band director Anthony Marchese.
They surprised Craig with a pair of Enchroma glasses last Friday on the final day of band camp.
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In a video of the gifting, which has racked up nearly 90,000 views on Facebook, Givens passes the glasses to Craig while they stand on the top of scaffolding overlooking the marching band.
Craig pops on the glasses and is immediately speechless in the video, grabbing the railing of the scaffolding for support. He pulls off the glasses to wipe away tears and turns to hug Givens and Marchese.
“For the first time in 17 years, I could see color. It was hard to speak. I was barely breathing,” said Craig.
To give Craig the full experience, each section in the 62-person marching band was wearing a different colored shirt that day. They stood on the field and cheered for Craig as he took it all in.
"The brass section wore red and I couldn't believe how it stood out against the green grass," he said.
Later that day, Craig asked Givens to join him in a trip to the hardware store to peruse the paint chips. He couldn't stop snapping pictures of bright flowers in the garden department.
Craig wore the glasses while visiting uptown Normal on Thursday where he examined the colorful outdoor murals. He said he has plans to explore all the new colors at his fingertips.
“This weekend, I’m going camping," said Craig. "I just want to walk around in the woods and see the different shades of green in the trees. And fire — fire looks so cool now."
Before the glasses, Craig admits his favorite color was black.
Now, it’s orange.
“It sounds cheesy, but my favorite part about this whole thing is the fact that all these people (in the band) wanted me to experience this,” said Craig. “It’s proof that we’re a family and we really care about each other.”
Marchese said that family environment in band is not forced or shaped by the director, it just happens.
"My job is to create a safe environment for these students where they can relax and have fun. To see it grow to this level is awesome. When I saw how they all came together for Zach, I felt a million feet tall," said Marchese.