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Home The Lions Blog Fueling the Dreams of Becoming a Paralympic Athlete
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Fueling the Dreams of Becoming a Paralympic Athlete

Jamie Weber January 19, 2021
The players defend their net by blocking the ball with their bodies.

You feel your heart beating in your chest, you hear it in your ears. A bead of sweat rolls down your face. You hear the whoosh of a ball being hurled in your direction, then come the bells. You cannot see the ball, but you hear it coming. You have a second to react, to block the ball from crossing the goal line you are defending. Your teammates cheer. One step closer to a gold medal.

The athletes in USABA’s residency program are training for the ultimate goal…to represent Team USA at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo next summer.

Everyone deserves the chance to feel this way, regardless of their ability. Thanks to a partnership between Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) and the Anthem Foundation, athletes who are blind or visually impaired have more opportunity to train for a spot playing goalball in the Paralympics.

Creating More Opportunity Through Community Partnership
Through the Lions-Anthem Foundation Healthy Heroes initiative, Lion- and community-led humanitarian projects improve the health of communities across the United States. The Anthem Foundation provides grant support to LCIF, which in turn, awards grants to Lions clubs and districts with a goal to improve local health and wellness. In addition, the annual Lions-Anthem Volunteer Days take place across the United States each fall. Since 2015, the Lions-Anthem Volunteer Days have resulted in nearly 20,000 hours of community service, positively impacting more than 1.6 million people.

As part of the Healthy Heroes initiative, two resident homes near Turnstone Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA are undergoing expansion, widening the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA)’s goalball residency program. The new expanded areas mean the long-term residency training program can house more athletes. The added space also allows for more privacy for residents and more common space. In addition, the new in-house workout equipment means the athletes do not need to leave their homes to work out, providing easier access for training.

Team USA goalball athlete Amanda Dennis throws the ball at the opponents’ net.

Team USA goalball athlete Amanda Dennis throws the ball at the opponents’ net.

Excitement. Strength. Consuming. Challenging.
These are the words goalball athletes use to describe their sport. Goalball, created exclusively for people who are blind or visually impaired, is the first Paralympic sport that hasn’t been adapted from another sport. During a game, two teams of three players each compete on a court equivalent to the size of a volleyball court. The basketball-sized ball has bells inside, which help alert the player to its location. Each team tries to roll the ball over the opponent’s goal line while the opponents listen for the oncoming ball and attempt to block it with their bodies. All athletes wear eye shades, which completely block out any vision; this creates a level playing field for athletes with varying degrees of visual impairment.

The athletes in USABA’s residency program are training for the ultimate goal…to represent Team USA at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo next summer. Prior to that, Fort Wayne is gearing up to host the USA International Goalball Classic in March, which will classify athletes for the upcoming Paralympic Games.

USABA’s residency program in Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA gives athletes who are blind or visually impaired the opportunity to train for the Paralympics.

USABA’s residency program in Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA gives athletes who are blind or visually impaired the opportunity to train for the Paralympics.

LCIF supports Lions as they create more socially inclusive opportunities for people with all levels of ability. As “knights of the blind,” Lions have long supported people with low vision or blindness. In addition to championing the health and well-being of these communities, they also work to eliminate preventable and reversible blindness. Sharing their community values is the Anthem Foundation, a perfect partnership for LCIF and Lions.

“Together alongside LCIF, we are proud to support the construction of athletic dormitories for athletes who are blind and visually impaired, to allow them to comfortably and safely relax between their training schedules,” said Dr. Kimberly Roop, Anthem Indiana Medicaid President. “We are grateful for our partnership with LCIF, and are proud to have aligned ourselves with an organization that shares a common mission in improving lives and communities. We look forward to these facilities housing many future athletes and Olympians for years to come.”

Thanks to the partnership between LCIF and the Anthem Foundation, there are more athletes with low vision or blindness finding purpose and living their dreams. Given the opportunity to dedicate themselves to training, these athletes are one step closer to competing for gold in the Paralympics.

To learn more about LCIF’s partnership with the Anthem Foundation, read the article in LION Magazine.


Jamie Weber is a marketing content specialist at Lions Clubs International Foundation.

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