Posted at: 06/26/2012 4:33 PM
| Updated at: 06/26/2012 6:15 PM
By: Robin De Wind | WHEC.com
The only legally blind athlete to compete in the Olympics is now teaching visually impaired children to dream bigger. Kids, who can’t see, rarely dream of being an Olympic athlete. But a local camp for visually impaired children is hoping to change that.
But a legally blind marathon runner who made the Olympic team is now teaching kids who can’t see how to have a vision when it comes to athletics. Marla Runyan is the first legally blind athlete to compete as a paralympian and as a two-time U.S. Olympian in 2000 and 2004. She now works to help children, helping them see that sports can be part of their lives.
Runyan is spending the week on The College at Brockport campus as a teacher for Camp Abilities.
Runyan said, “For a child who has never seen someone else move, they don’t know what running or throwing or kicking a ball looks like.”
The best person to teach kids who can’t see is a woman who learned at a young age to have a vision.
Runyan said, “I just felt my vision was not going to be a limitation to how I can but how I trained and prepared. If there was something missing visually I could learn to do it another way.”
Runyan developed a form of macular degeneration at the age of nine. She is legally blind, but went on to become a world class runner, a five-time gold medal winner at the Paralympics and she is only blind person to compete in the Olympics. She finished 8th in the 1500 meters in the 2000 Sydney games.
Camp Abilities has been going on every summer on Brockport’s campus for 17 years. It’s the vision of Dr. Lauren Lieberman, who teaches adapted physical education at Brockport. Visually impaired kids come here to learn they can use their bodies even if they can’t use their eyes.
Joshua Vanderworker, who is in eighth grade, said, “It gives me hope that maybe someday I can cross the boundary between sighted and unsighted and prove that legally blind and blind people and people with disabilities can do what sighted people do.”
Daniel Parker, who is in eighth grade, said, “The fact that we have an Olympian here is pretty inspiring.”
Kids who are visually impaired don’t get needed exercise like running, riding a bike, or playing baseball. Their muscles don’t develop.
Camp Abilities gives kids the confidence to go back to their schools and show they can participate and perform.
Parker said, “It shows that hey, you can do this stuff. If I want to, I can be an Olympian, if I work at it.”
Glynnis Crouse, who is in sixth grade, said, “My dream is to go to the Paralympics but I learned you can shoot higher.”
Blind and visually impaired children from all over the state and country are invited to Camp Abilities.