Every year, those living in the Midwestern United States brace for several months of cold weather as winter approaches. For the blind and visually impaired living in these snowy climates, winter sports may seem out of reach.
The Lions Step In
Lions living in Northern Illinois wanted to make sure their visually impaired neighbors had the chance to experience the joys that winter can bring. Members from 13 clubs came together to create Ski for Sight, a weekend-long event that provides fellowship and outdoor activities for the blind each winter. Dave Striker of the Waterman Lions Club said, “It’s a joy to put together such a well-received event. We see the smiles on the faces of people that never skied before and it’s rewarding for us as well.”
For more than 25 years, blind and visually impaired skiers have taken to the great outdoors thanks to the Lions. Skier Darrell Washington said the event is a great time for everyone.“The number one rule is have a good time. That’s our motto. We don’t care if we fall … we’re just having fun,” Washington said.
Skiers get a chance to build self-confidence and bond with others who have shared life experiences. Visually impaired skier Dave Smolka met his wife, Terri, at Ski for Sight. Now they bring their daughter, who is also visually impaired, so she can learn valuable life lessons. “I try not to show the disability side. I try to show the ability side,” Smolka said. “You can do almost anything if you make an effort. If you fail, it’s okay. You made the effort to try.”
Through the years, at least a dozen of the Ski for Sight participants have joined Lions clubs. Each of the 13 participating Lions clubs in District 1J sponsors an activity throughout the weekend. Nearly 100 blind and visually impaired people participate each year.