Making strides: National group teaches blind youth to skate

Courage Canada gives blind and visually impaired children the opportunity to learn to skate and eventually learn to play hockey.

Five-year-old Tayla goes for a skate with BC Blind Sports’ Susan Flanagan.

Five-year-old Tayla goes for a skate with BC Blind Sports’ Susan Flanagan.

Last Friday was a day of firsts for a group of Abbotsford and Mission children. Blind and visually impaired youth from the Abbotsford school district were given the chance to learn how to skate last week, many having never laced up before.

Courage Canada, a national registered charity founded in 2008 by blind hockey player Mark DeMontis, aims to provide Canadians of all ages with opportunities to skate and eventually learn to play hockey.

DeMontis founded Courage Canada at the age of 21, four years after his ambitions to play hockey were derailed by a diagnosis of Leber’s Optic Neuropathy – a rare condition that affected the central sight of both his eyes, leaving him legally blind.

The organization raises funds to help blind and visually impaired youth realize their potential in collaboration with district school board programs, and support blind hockey teams for adults across the country.

More than 250 children will benefit this year from the Courage Canada programs, and the organization plans to double that number in 2013.

According to Courage Canada, a tax-deductible donation of $20.12 helps to make the ice accessible for one blind or visually impaired child that season. Funds go directly toward the cost of ice rental, skates, equipment, transportation and instructors.

To learn more about their programs, go online to couragecanada.ca.

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