Athletes skating across Ontario to raise money for Blind Hockey Canada
KINGSTON, ONT. -- A group of visually impaired hockey players is on a cross-provincial journey to raise money and awareness about the para-sport of blind hockey.
The tour, called #Courage21 InLine Skate Fundraiser, is with Canadian Blind Hockey. Nine teammates are traveling from Windsor to Ottawa, and inline skating 1000 kilometres. The goal was to raise $100,000 for the sport, a goal that has already been surpassed.
The project is led by Mark DeMontis, a visually impaired athlete himself. He says he was 17 years old when he noticed his sight was quickly deteriorating.
“I was diagnosed with a rare optic condition called Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy,” explains DeMontis “My condition, I have no central sight. It’s like living in the world underwater.”
The hereditary condition took the majority of the aspiring pro-hockey players' sight in a matter of days.
“It was not easy for me to ultimately get through. But it wasn’t until I discovered the world of blind hockey that I realized I had this purpose and sense of renewed passion on this great game.”
DeMontis would go on to help found Canadian Blind Hockey, which has teams across the country.
Now, he’s lacing up a different kind of skate, inline skates, to raise money for the charity.
Over 11 days, he and the team are traveling from Windsor to Ottawa. Made up of five visually impaired skaters and four guides, they skate 100 kilometres in each city they visit.
Luca DeMontis is a guide on the team, and Mark’s brother. He says the trip will total 1,000 kilometres.
“A lot of blisters on this trip,” he jokes “So we’ve made a couple stops in at the local (pharmacies) but it’s great we’re creating memories that are going to last a lifetime.”
Canadian Blind Hockey says the game has quickly grown over the last few years, with hundreds of athletes on 14 teams across the country.
President Kelly Serbs says the funds would mean they could bring in more players in future years.
“We have young kids, three and four years old, first hitting the ice,” he explains. “(And) I think our oldest player is close to 80, believe it or not. So it’s truly a sport for life.”
Luca DeMontis, who is also the general manager of the Canadian National Blind Hockey Team, agrees.
“We’re trying to prove, not only to children and youth who are blind and partially sighted, but anyone who’s blind and partially sighted around the world, that you can really do anything you put your mind to,” he explains.
With stops in Brockville and Smiths Falls next, the team glides into Ottawa on Saturday.
DeMontis says he hopes the journey leads to a love of the game for a whole new generation.
“Whether your blind or partially sighted, whatever you may be, it’s a great game and we have to get you out there,” he says.