To keep in spirit with the summer Olympics and Paralympics Games, not to be deterred by the news and complaints of over-regulation in China from the local people to those foreigners trying to get visas and the promise for protests—let’s not lose our excitement of watching the athletes compete with their fellow mates and countries!
My family and I had the privilege of attending the Paralympics Games in Atlanta in 1996, watching people with disabilities in incredible athletic shape and sportsmanship compete in sports that some may never think about being possible.
A dear friend of ours, Cara Dunne, won the Silver and Bronze in tandem bicycle racing that year. Cara, totally blind since birth from retinoblastoma, a rare form of infant eye cancer, was an amazing human being in all aspects of her life. She grew up and went to Chicago Public Schools, and as a youth got into downhill skiing, winning medals. She then was accepted into and graduated from Harvard University, President of her class, and upon her young adult life after a second bout of cancer got into tandem bike racing which led to her competing and racing in the 1996 Paralympics!
There are many other friends through the years that we’ve met who are in our “blindness” networks, who are athletes and are connected with some great sports and athletics programs in the United States that support youth and adults who are blind or visually impaired. Such organizations like the United States Association for Blind Athletes (USABA) and the Blind Judo Foundation post their programs, activities, and events on FamilyConnect. Teams from their associations will be heading to Beijing for the Paralympics that will begin after the Olympics.
As parents we need to know not to overprotect or be afraid to let our children who are visually impaired or blind to be involved in sports. I remember Mary Zabelski, Cara’s mom, saying when Cara was five years old and wanted to ride a two-wheeler bike for the first time, Mary inwardly felt afraid to let her go, but knew intuitively that the right thing to do was to let her daughter explore and to be physically active, not to hold her back.
Adaptive methods and equipment have been developed for many sports—it’s just a matter of getting connected with other associations and athletic networks involved in sports for people with disabilities to find out the resources and information to get involved. You never know what your child may accomplish—let them live their dreams!