Ski for Sight
Giving the Blind a Chance to Hit the Trails
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.
DeKalb, Illinois, USA
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.
Tips and Tools
Make It Happen: How to Coordinate an Event with Other Clubs
How did your clubs come together for this project? »
We knew an entire weekend of skiing, ice fishing and activities was just too much for one single club to handle. We thought that if we each contributed something to the weekend, the participants would get a better experience.
How do you coordinate the event? »
For about six months leading up to the weekend, we meet to discuss the different events and what needs to be done. It gives us time together to discuss plans so we all know what everyone is doing.
How do you advertise your event? »
This type of event has its own audience and much of the advertising is done through word of mouth. We have participants who travel to this event every year and tell their friends about it.
What kinds of resources does it take to keep the project going? »
We fundraise for the event, but we also have a number of sponsors. Now that the event has been going on for more than 20 years, businesses are happy to contribute to the weekend’s activities.
Any special words of advice? »
Cooperation is key – accept help from wherever you can get it. And remember that staying organized and keeping track of who is doing what will keep you sane later on.
"What I look forward to the most is exercising and fellowship and just being with people and seeing old friends."
"Usually about two-thirds are returnees but we’ve got quite a few new ones. So we get them all acclimated in the event and hopefully they’ll be back year after year."
Ski for Sight Committee Chairperson
"I keep coming back because I enjoy the opportunity to be around other fellow blind people. It’s an opportunity where my being a minority becomes a majority."