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Visit to the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired

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First off, a special thanks to Victor, Sarah and Mike for volunteering at the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired. If not for their hard work and dedication, 50 Schools / 50 States would not be possible…

The Blind Endeavors Team set out for Jacksonville, Illinois on Veteran’s Day, November 11th, 2015. Our mission was to raise some awareness and showcase various outdoor adventure gear and athletic equipment to a group of young children who live and study at the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired.

Steve Baskis, president and founder of the Blind Endeavors Foundation, kicked off the 50 Schools / 50 States event with an inspirational presentation. He shared the history behind Veteran’s Day as well as telling his story of how he was injured and the inner Strength, Resilience and Courage it took to overcome the adversity he faced from his injuries. Steve also told a few stories of his past endeavors.

Following the presentation was an exhibition of athletic & recreational equipment for the 100 plus people that were in attendance.

Multiple stations showcased a specific sport or outdoor activity for a hands-on experience. For those that cannot see, this type of hands-on experience is far more immersive than a verbal explanation of the gear.

Steve headed up the climbing/mountaineering station. The students were able to handle various climbing/mountaineering equipment to include clothing, boots, crampons, carabiners and more. While they were feeling the gear, Steve would also give some information on how a particular piece of equipment was used. Many of the kids were particularly fascinated with the spikes on the crampons and the fact that they were so big. Steve explained how he used trekking poles to feel the terrain, very similar to the way many would use their white cane to navigate.

Steve Baskis shooting an audio rifle during a biathlon raceAt the biathlon station, Victor described how a skier that is visually impaired is guided by another skier using a speaker to create a “sound picture”. The kids were given the opportunity to feel the audio rifle used in biathlon and to listen to how it worked when a target was hit or missed.

Mike was at the kayak station where students had the opportunity to sit in a whitewater kayak and check out the other gear used such as the spray skirt, helmet and booties…all important gear when whitewater kayaking.

Steve's tandem which has a special red, white and blue color scheme.Old Glory, the tandem which was a special gift to Steve had its own station where Sarah shared some of the tandem’s history, such as the ride from Ottawa, Canada to Washington D.C. Some of the students were shocked to how hard the seats were (it currently has racing seats on it) and also intrigued by the clipless pedals, a couple features that are typically only found on racing tandems.

Towards the end of the event, the group reassembled in the school auditorium for questions and conversation. All of the kids and some of the adults in the audience asked some amazing questions to include questions about how to get involved with sports, recreation and overcoming adversity. The Blind Endeavors Team learned a lot from this visit in just a short amount of time and our hope is to return with more equipment, resources and answers for all who asked questions.

Our hope is to inspire them to think about how they can pursue activities not always considered by the blind or visually impaired community. We need to encourage all people visually impaired or not, that with a little dreaming, and some motivation and support that great things can be accomplished!

Everyone here at Blind Endeavors is extremely excited to pursue the next 50 Schools / 50 States event location! Please refer interested schools or institutions to the following links:

For more information about the 50 Schools / 50 States Campaign please visit:
http://blindendeavors.org/endeavors/50-schools-50-states/

For speaking inquiries: www.blindendeavors.org/speaking

Think you might have something to offer and would like to volunteer? www.blindendeavors.org/volunteer

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Other useful links:

Illinois School for the Visually Impaired

Illinois School for the Deaf

CXC Skiing

Disabled Sports USA