There were smiles all around the rink when Courage Canada Hockey for the Blind visited the Comox Valley on Dec. 5.
With the assistance of the Vanier Secondary Hockey Academy, Courage executive director Matt Morrow and founder Mark DeMontis led nine locally blind or partially sighted students on a fun skate at the Comox Valley Sports Centre.
"It was great," Morrow said. "With the weather we were worried some students might not show up. But almost everybody who signed up showed up. We had nine students and 10 helpers from the Vanier Hockey Academy."
"We had a full hour skate with the kids. Most lasted the entire hour. I actually had to shoo some of them off, which isn't always the case…sometimes they get tired. So it was great."
This season, 400 youth who are blind or partially sighted in more than 25 communities from coast to coast are participating in learn to skate and Blind Hockey programs thanks to Courage and their national non-profit presenting partner, Accessible Media Inc.
A couple of programs were held here last year, and Morrow said they will be back next year. Designed for students from K-12, Morrow notes that for kids who are interested in continuing to improve their skating Courage tries to assist them with local programs.
"We've had pretty good success with kids signing up for traditional skating lessons. If the coach wants to give me a call and ask for some pointers on working with a child who is blind or visually impaired, we're happy to do that."
Morrow said it is not unusual to see one or two students in wheelchairs at the sessions (there was one at the Courtenay stop last week).
"Often with vision impairment it is accompanied by other disabilities, so a child has multi disabilities. Just because they can't skate standing up doesn't mean they shouldn't have fun going around the ice."
Along with AMI, Courage partners with CNIB and the BC Blind Sports & Recreation Association.
Courage Canada Hockey for the Blind is a national registered charity. Established in 2008, Courage Canada has already successfully established an annual National Blind Hockey Tournament that is entering its third year, and has run more than 50 skating field trips for over 200 boys and girls in communities spanning the country from Halifax to Victoria.
Courage Canada relies 100 per cent on corporate sponsorships and donations to run their programs. To learn more, contact