Copyright 2013 Journal Sentinel Inc.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wisconsin)
September 15, 2013 Sunday
B News; Pg. 2
|Sharing the ice for a spin | Youth hockey players aid visually impaired skaters|
THOMAS CONTENT, ;firstname.lastname@example.org Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
Neil Young hadn't skated for 40 years until Saturday morning at Wilson Ice Arena on Milwaukee's south side.
The Shorewood man had a little adjusting to get used to - the only skates available were hockey skates and he had been used to figure skates.
Oh, and there were some other adjustments to make: The last time he skated, Young could see. "I've been legally blind since the late '70s, but it hasn't stopped me from doing anything," Young said. Young was among nine VIPs - visually impaired people - who took advantage of two hours of ice time with the assistance of youth hockey players through the Southeastern Hockey Association of Wisconsin.
The hockey players took some time off from practice and training to guide Young and other VIPs around the ice.
The VIPs are participants in the Blind Outdoor Leisure Development, or BOLD, program. Financed by the Lions Clubs of Southeastern Wisconsin, the nearly 40-year-old program pays for transportation and offers visually impaired people everything from museum visits and Milwaukee Brewers games to more active pursuits including horseback riding, water skiing and even stock car racing. "We like getting our VIPs out and spending time with the rest of the sightseeing public to show them they can do the things we do," said Ray Tweedale, a BOLD board member and member of the Richfield Lions Club.
As many as 200 people from across the region participate in various BOLD events. Their schedule is impressive, even daunting: Last weekend was hot-air ballooning. Next weekend is tandem-bicycling, and the week after that comes canoeing.
"It's like a bucket list," said Judy Malek of Pleasant Prairie, taking a breather after her time on the ice. Malek has peripheral vision but can't see straight ahead. She has multiple sclerosis and Leber optic neuropathy, a disease that affects the optic nerve, so she was gliding on the ice with the help of a walker. "We're just experiencing one new thing at a time." Malek still has at least one thing left on her personal list: "I'd still like to parachute, in tandem, with a guide."
That, too, will likely happen. A parachuting trip was scheduled this summer, Malek said, but was postponed by the pilot because of technical difficulties. Hockey association volunteers were glad to open up the ice rink and help out the VIPs.
"It's amazing that people overcome these obstacles, and we complain about cold weather or whatnot," hockey mom Lauren Welch said. "It's teaching our kids an amazing lesson in life."
During his skating stint Saturday, Young, 59, stayed on the ice for nearly two hours and showed good form - even crossing on his turns. "Once I got my sea legs, I got my rhythm going," he said.
And once he did that, he was able to give his 9-yearold daughter, Carol, some pointers. She sees fine, but this was her first time on the ice.
Young could hear his daughter was taking careful steps but not gliding along.
"I heard this chatter, chatter chatter. It was just walking," he said later.
"Push off and glide," Young told her as she held his hand crossing the ice.
Across the rink, teenagers Brittney Wargolet and Liz Hahn were chatting as they made their own way around.
Wargolet, 14, of Raymond, is a hockey player who says she was excited to volunteer. Hahn turns 16 this month and was skating for the first time on single rather than double-bladed skates.
Hahn, who lives in Sussex, became visually impaired as a result of complications from her premature birth at Waukesha Memorial Hospital. She weighed13 ounces at birth and three pounds at 12 weeks.
"I was the world's tiniest baby," she exclaimed. "Wisconsin's tiniest," reminded her mother, Kathy Shimek-Hahn.
The once-tiniest baby has been part of the BOLD Kids program for years and likes skiing the best. She's looking forward to a BOLD ski outing in Michigan this winter.
On the ice, Hahn was too independent to seek out much help from Wargolet and leaned on an orange plastic skate trainer to help guide her around.
"She's doing amazing. She could really get out there and skate," Wargolet said. "And I got to hear a lot of fun stories."
The two girls seemed like fast friends, talking about Hahn's skiing pursuits and her late goldfish. Shimek-Hahn said she loves the social interaction the BOLD program provides.
As they headed down the ice, Hahn started to skate a little faster, then looked up and caught her mother's eye.
"This is awesome!" Hahn said. "Look at me, Mom! Look at me!"
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On the web The BOLD program is always looking for new VIPs - visually impaired people who want to participate - as well as volunteer guides. More information is at www.wisconsinbold.com.
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September 16, 2013