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VISIONS Newsletter
Sports and leisure through the eyes of individuals who are blind or visually impaired.



Saturday, May 1, 2004 from 1-4 PM
Spring Social--Pizza & Dance Party
Zion Lutheran Church—11609 Frankstown Road in Penn Hills

During this exciting activity, visually impaired youth will meet peers, learn fun party dances, enjoy scrumptious Fox’s Pizza, and build their own delicious sundaes. The event is FREE and open to youth of all ages. Parents are also welcome to join us for peer socialization along with an engaging round-table discussion that will include visually impaired and totally blind adults. Please RSVP the number attending by Wednesday, April 28.

Saturday, May 1, 2004 Rec-Connect Directory
Deadline for Submitting Data Sheets

SportsVision is compiling a directory to help assist blind youth and their families to connect with others like them who have similar recreation and leisure interests. The Rec-Connect Directory will enable those listed in the directory to set up play dates, discuss common interests and experiences, and develop friendships. Using information collected from the data sheets, a directory will be created and distributed to everyone listed in it. If you would like to be listed in the directory and/or would like a copy of it, you need to complete a datasheet and return it to the SportsVision office by Saturday, May 1, 2004. To request a data sheet form, contact SportsVision.

Sunday, May 23, 2004 from 1-6 PM
SportsVision First Annual Community Picnic
Chartiers Park in Bridgeville

Join SportsVision for an afternoon of fellowship and fun. The goal is to bring together everyone associated with SportsVision whether it be as a service recipient, volunteer, donor, blindness professional, friend or family member of a visually impaired person, blind adult, or general supporter of the SportsVision mission. Anyone who is interested in learning more about SportsVision and the folks we serve should also feel welcome to join us. Activities will include: a Chinese auction, 50/50 raffle, youth games, adult fellowship, and lots of great food. It’s a potluck event so bring a yummy covered dish to share with others. For driving directions, click here.

Call SportsVision to RSVP the number of attendees and type of covered dish you intend to bring by Wednesday, May 19.

May/June 2004
Confirmation of Rec-Connect Data
Rec-Connect Directory Publication & Distribution

Throughout the month of May SportsVision will be compiling the Rec-Connect Directory from the data sheets we will have received by May 1. Please be aware that SportsVision will be contacting you in May to confirm the information we have collected from your sheet. You can expect to receive your copy of the directory before the middle of June.

Wednesday, June 16-19, 2004
Camp SportsVision 2004
Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock

Thanks to a number of generous contributions from individuals as well as community organizations including Lions Clubs, the Golden Triangle Council of the Blind, and the Alumni Association of Western PA, SportsVision will be able to hold our summer sports camp again this year. The Third Annual Camp SportsVision will be an overnight experience including instruction in beep baseball, goalball, soccer, track and field, wrestling, swimming, dance, gymnastics, taekwondo, and rock climbing. The camp is open to youth with visual impairments of school age. Cost is $35 upon acceptance and includes three nights lodging, nine meals and eight snacks, use of athletic facilities, and adapted sports instruction. The application deadline is Wednesday, May 26. If you have not already received a camper application, contact SportsVision.

Spring Into Action

This spring marks the beginning of SportsVision's plan to start the SV Junior monthly recreation program. Our Spring Social and First Annual Community Picnic will give us the opportunity to learn what types of activities Western PA's visually impaired youth and their parents would like us to include on the SV Junior calendar. We'll also use these spring events to gather time, day, and location preferences. Our goal is to set a patterned schedule of fun activities that meets everyone's needs and interests.

In addition to concept input, SportsVision is also seeking human resources for the SV Junior program. Volunteers are needed to be activity partners, assist with setup and cleanup, carpool participants, and publicize each activity. SV Junior also needs volunteers to act as Monthly Activity Coordinators. The MAC volunteer will find a location for that month's event, identify the activity's instructors, organize the activity's volunteers, and generally run the actual event. These coordinators will be given both administrative support and coordination assistance from SportsVision. Individuals such as parents, college students, vision teachers, and blind adults should certainly consider becoming a MAC. The volunteer commitment could be as short as one month. Without a doubt, an increase in SportsVision's volunteer base will be vital for the implementation and long-term success of the SV Junior program.

While SportsVision will keep SV Junior's program costs down through the use of volunteers, there will be a number of expenses associated with offering a monthly activity. Some of these expenses will include the creation and distribution of monthly flyers, facility rentals and/or admission fees, transportation reimbursements for volunteers, and event specific supplies for making the necessary adaptations. On an in-kind basis supporters can help by donating office supplies such as copy paper, toner (HP45645-A), and envelopes; arranging for the complimentary out-of-house printing of flyers; purchasing books or rolls of stamps; talking to the local church, fire hall, or social club about hosting an SV Junior activity for free; or approaching a local amusement/attraction/recreation provider to negotiate free or low-cost admission for our visually impaired youth. If you prefer to make a straight financial contribution, please send your check to the Sportsvision office. The address is available on our contact page.

Regardless of whether you, your business, or your community organization makes an in-kind donation or a monetary one, the value of your gift is tax-deductible.

The launch and maintenance of a successful SV Junior program will certainly require a winning combination of commitment. On-going input from visually impaired youth and their families, continued financial and in-kind support from the community, and an increase in volunteer assistance are all essential. Please consider in what way you can become involved and let us know. If you are unsure how you can best help, please give Sue Lichtenfels a call in the SportsVision office to further explore the options. SportsVision welcomes all of your ideas, assistance, and contributions for the SV Junior program.


by Russell Redenbaugh

On August 30, 2003, I won the World Jiujitsu Championship in my division and placed third in the open.

Jiujitsu is a full-contact grappling martial art exceedingly popular in Brazil where the World Championships are held. The style of jiujitsu that I have studied is called Gracie Method, made famous by the Gracie brothers who won the Ultimate fighting competitions several times. Before this, few in the U.S. were familiar with jiujitsu. The Gracies proved that jiujitsu could trample karate, judo, boxing and any other form of fighting.

The road to victory is never short and in my case, credit must be shared with many people who helped along the way. To prepare, I trained three days each week with three different black belts. The first was Steve Maxwell, co-owner of Maxercise in Philadelphia. Steve not only taught me jiujitsu, but also made it his personal project to transform my body into a lean, strong, limber fighting tool. Hagis, another black belt from Brazil, reinforced many of the moves that I have learned over these past five years. With him I would repeat moves again and again until they became second nature. I also flew to California twice to train with Jean-Jacques Machado, a multi-champion black belt who also fights one-handed. As I was discovering, my blindness was less of a hindrance than the limitations of my left hand. My left hand has only two fingers attached to a fused wrist. Machado taught me many ways to overcome my limitations and use more of my legwork. After six months of high-intensity training, I flew to Brazil for the competition.

D.C. Maxwell, Natalia Davis, Jamie and I flew to Rio together. All of us practice jiujitsu. Once in Rio, we were met by Saulo Ribiera, a six-time world champion who would continue my preparation for the match. He would also prove instrumental in coaching me through my fights. I worked out with Greg, a fellow blue belt from Ohio. After four days of training, the competition was at hand. I had only to focus on my state of mind.

It would all come down to five minutes on the mat. At the tournament I was joined by four more friends from the U.S.: Marco, Anray, Nick and Noah. They, along with other Americans, joined in the cheering. My first hesitations came when I shook my opponent's hand and realized how large it was. My next apprehension arrived when his young 46-year-old body hit my 58-year-old body on the mat. He was so strong and serious. This wasn't friendly sparring in the gym. But I performed technically better than I have ever performed. I even managed to get out of a triangle, a move where the competitor wraps his legs around your neck in an attempt to choke you out. I managed to stand up, stack his body, and produce enough pressure that he finally let go of his grip. Thanks to Saulo, I never gave up even though I was afraid that I might pass out.

When I broke his triangle, it broke his spirit. After that I passed his guard, or for those who don't know jiujitsu, I escaped his legs coiled around my waist. In the end, I won six points to nothing. The gold medal! The crowd roared and I got a standing ovation along with many hugs from friends. Even my competitor was gracious with his compliments. He declared that the better man had indeed won.

Next was the absolute, or open, competition, where size and weight are irrelevant. There were eight competitors. I had resolved previously that I would not fight these if I had won my division. I was still nursing a dislocated rib and feared further injury. But I found myself far less winded than expected, and I was spurred on by the cheers of my son. This match was very different. I had no sense of my opponent. We did not shake hands ahead of time. My first sense of him was when we hit the mat and I discovered that he must have weighed at least 200 pounds, 30 pounds more than me! I lost that five-minute round, but managed to make him work for it. The winner, who had stormed through his division, now moved on to collect the gold medal in the absolutes. I collected a bronze. When I lost, the crowd cheered so loudly it was deafening.

After I collected my medals, many of the competitors and coaches came to shake my hand. They were shocked to see that my hands were also disabled. They looked at me with reverence. Some of the local young people also came up to have their picture taken with me. I was interviewed by a Brazilian magazine, where I hope I inspired others to try harder. This is one of the achievements I am most proud of in my life.

I was not athletic until middle age. I didn't start training for jiujitsu until I was 50. I had always believed that I was not an athlete. I proved myself wrong. As Tony Robbins said, I have found that whether you believe you can, or believe you can't, you are usually right.

Reprinted from The Braille Forum of March 2004

Keep SportsVision’s Three Rivers Flowing

Pittsburgh’s early settlers chose its location and succeeded in building it into an essential urban center because of the three rivers that flow through the area. They relied on the rivers to hall in raw materials and ship out the finished steel products. Although SportsVision does not call them the Ohio, the Allegheny, and the Monongahela, it too relies on the constant flow of three rivers to ensure its growth. By way of direct support, United Way contributions, and shopping rebates, SportsVision brings in money from valued supporters and transforms it into sports and leisure opportunities for people who are blind.

The first funding river that SportsVision relies on is direct support of its fundraiser events and appeal campaigns. When you buy a raffle ticket, attend a Monte Carlo Night, or send a check in response to a letter, you are sailing the river of direct support. The next funding river into SportsVision runs through the port of the United Way. Individuals who make contributions to the United Way through payroll deductions or in response to its annual campaign can direct their gift to support SportsVision. Simply select SportsVision, Inc. with organizational code 1324868 and the United Way river will float your gift to the SportsVision office. Yet another river of support available for SportsVision is offers access to more than 200 on-line stores. When you register to support SportsVision at the on-line mall, you generate a river of rebates from all of the shopping you do through the site. Together these three rivers create and sustain SportsVision programs.

Unfortunately, just as the production and sale of steel is impeded when a drought renders the rivers unnavigable, SportsVision growth and existing services are jeopardized when its three funding rivers run low. Whether you choose to travel the river of direct support, the United Way river route, the river, or all three rivers, all gifts flow into SportsVision programs. Welcome Aboard! Join us for the long-haul and keep SportsVision’s three rivers flowing.


Blind Sailing International (BSI)

Blind sailing at the world-wide level initially began in 1992 at the New Zealand Council for Sailing for Vision Impaired Persons. This group organized the first international regatta for the blind in 1992, in Auckland New Zealand. In 1994, all of the countries participating in blind sailing came together to formed Blind Sailing International, a membership-based organization charged with sanctioning international sailing competitions for sailors who are blind or visually impaired. The BSI mission also included providing support for the development of additional sailing opportunities for the visually impaired community. Since the New Zealand competition in 1992, there have been four international blind sailing regattas held. Participation has grown from five countries competing in 1992 to more than 15 in the most recent international event.

Currently there are several adapted sailing programs in the United States that work with people who are visually impaired. The largest blind-specific program is run through The Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, Massachusetts. The center's SailBlind program is the largest and oldest blind-specific sailing program in the United States. The SailBlind team won the Bronze Medal at the most recent blind sailing international regatta held in Italy in 2002.

In addition to the Carroll Center, there are a number of organizations that offer sailing lessons and competitive opportunities for individuals who are visually impaired. Some of the better known programs exist in Miami, Rhode Island, Texas, and California. To locate a program in a specific area, contact BSI through email using or call the BSI Chair, Arthur O'Neal at the Carroll Center for the Blind at (617) 969-6200. Additional information about blind sailing and a calendar of upcoming BSI events is available at

Locally, the nearest opportunity for blind sailing is available on Presque Isle Bay in Erie, Pennsylvania. The Erie Adapted Sailing Experience (EASE) offers sailing instruction for sailors who are blind and also for those individuals who are physically disabled. To learn more about EASE, contact Jim Stewart by email or by calling 814-456-4077.


Sailing without Sight

In order to be eligible to compete in blind sailing, sailors must meet the universally accepted standards of legal blindness. Competitors are organized according to the International Blind Sports Association’s three levels of visual classification. Sailors must adhere to the rules for competition instituted by the mainstream sailing community with some additions to make sure the boats are being steered by the visually impaired sailors and not their sighted guides. Sighted sailors staff all boats to provide guidance and ensure safety.

Typically sailing crews consist of two blind sailors and two sighted guides. The helmsman must be a blind sailor, who must steer the boat independently. The sighted guide for the helm is not allowed to physically touch any of the controls, and is responsible for verbally guiding the blind helmsman. The second blind sailor primarily operates the sails with assistance from the second sighted sailor. The four sailors work as a team. Their success hinges on impeccable communication and accurate execution of the appropriate maneuvers.

In addition to human guides, blind sailors are permitted to use various adaptive devices to aid sailing. The Tacktick Audio Compass is useful for setting and keeping a course heading. It beeps at varying intervals to indicate a course error if the boat is diverted off course. The OnTrack - GPS Navigation Utility provides a similar course heading tone indicator but it relies on global positioning satellites and requires the use of a computer. One other useful adaptive device for blind sailors is the Marine Instrument Talker. It offers audio indications for depth sounder, boat speed indicator, compass, course-over-ground indicator, and wind direction indicator. Although these devices can certainly make sailing more convenient for blind helmsmen, they are not necessities.

Likewise, blind sailors need not use specialized boats. With some orientation to any boat’s layout and operation, a blind helmsman can sail it. According to BSI’s web site, most of its sailors prefer boats with tillers over those with wheels so they can get a better feel for the helm. It is vital for the helmsman to be in tune to the pressure on the helm and sails as well as the direction of the breeze and the balance of the boat. Currently, the boat of choice for international regattas is the Sonar.

According to the SailBlind page at the Carroll Center’s web site, “Sailing as a blind person can have far reaching benefits. Through competition, blind sailors experience the exhilaration of racing and of joining forces with their sighted teammates. They achieve a new dimension of physical and emotional freedom that can enhance their self- confidence and personal development. They also communicate a powerful symbol to the sighted world of what blind men and women can achieve, when given the opportunity.” For those interested in learning more about either becoming or instructing a blind sailor, the Carroll Center publishes a book entitled, Facing the Wind- a manual for teaching blind and visually impaired persons to sail. Order it by visiting

Success at SRU

"Impressive," that seems to be the word to best describe the SportsVision/SRU one-day clinic held on Saturday, March 27. Impressive were the members of SRU's Adapted Physical Activities Council, who coordinated all of the day's details. Impressive was the level of commitment displayed by the volunteer activity partners and coaches. Impressive were the blind athletes that tried their hand at all of the day's activities. It was an impressive success indeed.

For months prior to the clinic, Wendy Fagan, the SportsVision Youth Activities Coordinator, along with many students from the SRU APAC worked to ensure the clinic would be a great experience. They contacted the area Intermediate Units to recruit participants. They rounded up donations from Giant Eagle and Domino's Pizza. Students designed t-shirts, ordered them, and also got the bulk of their cost donated by Dean Fulton at SRU. The bulk of their work also included recruiting and training the volunteer coaches.

Each of the day's activities was led by volunteer coaches who demonstrated great enthusiasm and patience. For example, Tom (TC) Cobb, a SRU professor of dance, encouraged parents, volunteers, and youth to join in learning an African dance and chant. Eighteen volunteers from the leadership class of the ATA Martial Arts School in Grove City gave up their Saturday afternoon to train the youth in Taekwondo. A number of vision teachers volunteered to drive their students to the clinic. Every volunteer should be acknowledged for his or her continued commitment to the SportsVision mission.

The clinic provided 24 visually impaired youth from Western PA introductory training in taekwondo, dance, gymnastics and tumbling, goalball, and rock climbing. Just before lunch, the entire group gathered for one final dance. Several athletes were enthralled by the concept of climbing the wall, and a few even made it to the top. At the end of the day, each athlete demonstrated the skills he/she learned in goalball.

Congratulations to the planning team for coordinating such a successful clinic! Thanks to the volunteers and businesses that made commitments to the day! Kudos to the youth participants for trying it all! Welcome to anyone thinking about becoming more involved with SportsVision!


May 28-30, 2004
17th Annual May Davidow-Northeast Games
Cabrini College in Radnor, PA

This is a fun sports weekend for both youth and adults that offers regional championship sports, competitions, and instructional clinics. No experience is needed. The weekend's events will include swimming, track and field, judo, goalball, power lifting, tandem bicycling, wrestling, and soccer. For additional information contact 800-596-5146 x33.

August 10-13, 2004 from 9:30 AM – 2:30 PM
Technology Week-- Day Program
Keystone Blind Association in Sharon, PA

During this week, students will have the opportunity to experience a variety of adaptive technology available to students with visual impairments or practice certain pieces of technology to improve their skill level. The types of equipment you can learn include Braille 'n Speak, Type 'n Speak, Braille Note, JAWS, the Braillewriter, the abacus, low vision aids, and much more. Contact Kathie Preece at (724) 347-5501 for additional details and to register.

Fielding a Beep Baseball Team

Recently, Bob Jahoda, a SportsVision volunteer and alumni of the Western PA School for Blind Children expressed a strong interest in starting a beep baseball team in the Pittsburgh area. Anyone in fairly good physical condition and over the age of 15 might want to consider joining the team. If you would like additional information about beep baseball, you can visit or request a brochure from SportsVision. Once Bob has an idea of who is interested, times, dates, and locations will be determined. Give Bob a call at (724) 417-3742 to express your interest or learn more.

September 2004
SportsVision Flea Market Fundraiser

Heads up! During the month of September SportsVision will be conducting a flea market fundraiser. As you delve into spring cleaning, you may want to gather up some of the items you no longer want or need. Clean up the clutter and send it SportsVision's way to be included in our flea market. Your donations will be tax deductible even though you may not think they are worth much anymore. Collection will run through the summer so give SportsVision a call to arrange the acquisition.



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Phone: 412.429.1996 | Email:
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