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Ski for Sight

SHABBONA – Robert Taylor of Loves Park is legally blind, but doesn’t let his disability stop him. On Saturday, Taylor skied three miles around Shabbona Lake State Park.

Taylor was one of about 70 people who attended the 38th annual Ski for Sight last weekend.

“It’s good to be out and about and getting fresh air because it helps with cabin fever,” said Taylor, who has been attending Ski for Sight for seven years. “It’s a lot of fun, and I don’t let my blindness slow me down.”

Taylor was guided by Sycamore Lions Club members Chuck Christensen and Chuck Bergsmith.

“Ski for Sight is all about different Lions Clubs coming together for a common cause, to help people who are blind and visually impaired,” Christensen said. “And it helps us get out of the house and have fun, too.”

The three-day Ski for Sight event began with a pizza party on Friday night. On Saturday, there was breakfast in Waterman, followed by a day of winter activities, including cross-country skiing, ice fishing and hiking at Shabbona Lake State Park. Lunch was served in the warming station. Later in the evening, a banquet and dance was held in DeKalb. On Sunday, there was breakfast in Cortland and guests could choose to either go bowling or play bingo. The weekend concluded with a pork chop and chicken lunch in Elburn.

Ski for Sight was hosted by 14 local Lions Clubs in the Southwest Region of District 1-J: Big Rock, Cortland, DeKalb, Elburn, Genoa, Hinckley, Lee, Maple Park, Malta, Sandwich, Shabbona, Somonauk, Sycamore and Waterman.

Through Lions Club fundraising, the entire weekend of events is provided free to its guests, including transportation, entertainment and activities, meals and a two-night stay at the Best Western hotel in DeKalb.

The event’s mission statement is to provide “a weekend of healthy entertainment and many opportunities for all participants to expand their horizons – physically, mentally and emotionally.”

Dave Stryker, Ski for Sight chairman, said that helping people who are blind, deaf and visually and hearing impaired has been important to the Lions Club since 1925, when the club was challenged by Helen Keller to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.”

Ski for Sight was started after Shabbona Lion Jim Sandine, who was also the park ranger at Shabbona Lake State Park, had an idea for a cross-country skiing event. The event has been held annually during the last full weekend in January.

“What first started as cross-country skiing has expanded to a weekend full of social events, winter activities and fun,” Stryker said. “It’s more than just skiing on Saturday. We also go ice fishing, hiking, and there’s hayrack rides.”

If there’s no snow for skiing, guests have the opportunity to go hiking along the trails.

Waterman Boy Scout Troop 139 leaders Nick Cipra and Evan Ostrander helped with the winter activities at Lake Shabbona with three scouts: Gage Gibson, 15, Liam Forde, 12, and Ethan Forde, 14. None of the scouts had ever been cross-country skiing before.

“An event like this is all about helping others and giving back,” Ostrander said. “It’s about getting over our fears, trying new things and learning about people that have a different lifestyle than you. It’s easy to take things for granted.”

Tim Pierce, secretary of the Shabbona Lake Sportsman Club, helped guests ice fish on the lake.

“It’s not about catching fish, it’s about the experience of being together in the outdoors,” Pierce said. “It’s something anyone of any age can do. It’s just a fun, inexpensive winter activity.”

Dale Bettenhausen of Villa Park has been attending the event for 9 years. This year, he spent his Saturday ice fishing on Lake Shabbona.

“I love it, it’s a fantastic weekend,” he said. “The activities you do and the camaraderie you experience are second to none. There are hardly any, if there are any, other events like this. I can’t drive trucks, boats, racecars or motorcycles anymore, but I can still fish.”

Tina Anderson of Chicago has been attending Ski for Sight for the past eight years with her boyfriend, Elliott Terry.

“I love to be around my peers because they give me inspiration and motivate me,” she said. “I may be blind, but I am determined to let nothing stop me. The Lions motivate me to keep striving. It’s a no judgment zone, I can be myself.”

Nancy Reyes of Chicago, who has also been attending Ski for Sight since 2012, said she returns every year because of how well she and the other guests are treated.

“I love this weekend because I get treated like royalty, we get the red carpet treatment instead of being treated like we’re disabled,” she said. “When I was sighted, I didn’t do anything like this. Never in my life would I have gone skiing. I was too afraid. I’ve lost my sight, but I’m not scared anymore. If people who are sighted can do it, I can do it, too. I can do anything.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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