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



Kennywood Community Picnic
SportsVision will host a community picnic for people who are visually impaired at Kennywood Park on Sunday, July 27. Ticket orders and meal reservations for this event were due by July 1 (as we were preparing this newsletter). There may still be a few slots available. If you have not yet mailed in your ticket order and meal reservation, please do so immediately. The first 50 individuals to reserve will enjoy an all you can eat buffet for free, compliments of SportsVision. After the first 50 meals, it will cost $15 per person to eat. SportsVision will notify all reserved individuals of their meal status by July 19 at the latest.

All tickets will be distributed the day of the event from 10:30- 11:30 a.m. at the Kennywood main gate. If you cannot meet then, please make special arrangements with the SportsVision office. Likewise, if you wanted the tickets for a later date in the season, please let us know to mail you the tickets.

We have reserved Pavilion 10 for the entire day. Feel free to use the pavilion at your leisure however, we cannot be responsible for items you may leave during the day. Our meal will be served at 3 p.m. You will have access to Pepsi product drinks from 2-5 p.m. The buffet will include boneless barbecue chicken, pasta penne, hamburgers, tossed salad, potato salad, baked beans, and fruit salad. The picnic will be held rain or shine.

For specific information on Kennywood policies, please visit or call 412-461-0500.   

Picnic & Wave Pool
Escape the summer scorch this August with SportsVision. We  will host a covered dish picnic and wave pool afternoon at Settler’s Cabin Park on Sunday, August 24 from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Families of children and adults who are visually impaired, vision professionals, and SportsVision supporters are welcome to attend.

The day will begin with games and fellowship for the first two hours. We’ll eat at 1 p.m. SportsVision will provide the drinks, hot dogs, and hamburgers. We need you to supply the accompaniments. Each family is encouraged to bring either a salad, side dish, or a dessert to share with the group. After lunch, at about 2 p.m., we will head to the wave pool until 5 p.m. SportsVision will pay everyone’s admission to the wave pool. It’s important to know that once you leave the wave pool area, you cannot re-enter without paying another admission fee. For this reason, we will eat before our trip to the pool.

Our picnic activities will be held at the Gilbert Love shelter located at the entrance to Settler’s Cabin Park. The park is situated in Robinson, North Fayette, and Collier townships. It is easily accessed from the Ridge Road exit off of U.S. Route 22/30. Those traveling via I-79 and I-279 should find the location convenient. The enclosed peach-colored sheet offers more specific directions.

There is no doubt the day will be filled with great food and fun. To participate, let us know how many will attend and what covered dish your family will bring. You can either call the office at 412-429-1996 or e-mail us at to make your reservation. Reservations are due by Friday, August 15, 2008. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need any additional information.

September with the Swashbucklers
SportsVision invites both adults and youth who are visually impaired and their families to join us for a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game. The game will be Sunday, September 14 at 1:35 p.m. verses the St. Louis Cardinals. Prior to the game families can enjoy the Kids Zone on Federal Street from 11 a.m. – 1:15 p.m. After the game, all children will be able to head onto the field and “Run the Bases”. This could be an experience of a lifetime for a child with limited vision. We are working with the Pirates to also allow Adult sighted guides and adults who are visually impaired on the field. Yet another bonus, on this date, all children 12 and under will receive a Kids Cap promotion.

We are offering a very special deal to make this event affordable for families. Tickets are just $17 per person and include: Pirates ball cap and $10 voucher good for either food or memorabilia. Tickets must be ordered directly from SportsVision by completing the enclosed Pirates Ticket Order Form on the pink sheet and returning it with your check. You can order up to six tickets per order form. Each reservation must include at least one individual with a visual impairment. All paid orders are due by Friday, August 15.

Once the deadline passes, we will contact participants to confirm the reservation and provide additional details. Please contact Sue Lichtenfels at 412-429-1996 or with any questions or concerns. Also, please note that SportsVision reserves the right to refuse any order if we suspect abuse of our generosity. 

Hayride & Bonfire
On Saturday, October 4 all children and adults who are visually impaired and their families are invited to gather for an autumn adventure. We will meet at Reilly’s Summer Seat Farm located at 1120 Roosevelt Road in the Mount Nebo region of Pittsburgh’s north hills at 1:15 to begin our tour. First we will pile on for an old fashion hayride. Along the way we will stop to feed the animals, pick our own pumpkins, and learn about Stuffy the scarecrow. After the hayride we will make our own scarecrow, so start thinking of a name. The afternoon will end around a bonfire with hotdogs and marshmallows. It should all wrap up around 5 p.m. All of this fun will cost only $4 per person. Please sign up to join us by calling 412-429-1996 or e-mailing Let us know how many will be attending by Saturday, September 20, 2008.

Audio Dart Tournament    
SportsVision’s Audio Darts Group will host its seventh biennial tournament, The Harold Schlegel Dart Tournament the weekend of October 10-12, 2008.  It will be held at the Greentree Radisson, 101 Radisson Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15205. The room rate for reservations made by September 26 is $94.62 per night including tax for up to five in a room. Call 412-922-8400 for reservations.

Registration for the five events is $75.00; $20.00 for individual events.  Total prize money will be approximately $3600. ALL PARTICIPANTS WILL BE REQUIRED TO USE OCCLUDERS.  No dart can exceed 8 (eight) inches in length or weigh more than 18 grams. Mail your registration money and choice of team members to: Louis Wassermann 2503 Silver Oak Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15220 no later than September 29. There will be no refunds unless substantiated emergency occurs. 

We will begin Friday evening at 7:00.  Specific events will be determined when we know the definite number of participants.  For sure, we will have 301 and 501 count-down events. We definitely will do singles, doubles, and triples.  We want to do one or two team round-robins but numbers might dictate double elimination. For additional information or questions, call Joe Wassermann at: (412) 687-5166, or Sue Lichtenfels at: 412-429-1996. Come one and all to enjoy the weekend!

VIP Artistic Showcase
Plans are being made for the second annual VIP Artistic Showcase to be held this November in a central Pittsburgh location. This year we will spotlight both the performing and fine arts. We hope to turn up the talent a notch and expand the number of participants. Artists of all ages who are visually impaired are invited to showcase their abilities. Performing artists may be singers, dancers, musicians, comedians, impersonators, or the like. The fine art exhibit might include painting, sculpture, woodworking, textiles, pottery, and more. Our goal is to spotlight the enormous artistic abilities of individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

In preparation for the VIP Artistic Showcase, we are seeking your assistance. Please spread the word about this opportunity to anyone you know that possesses artistic ability and is visually impaired. You might also forward the names of potential artists to us. Artists who are interested in getting involved should contact SportsVision at 412-429-1996 or Samples of the artistic ability should be sent to our office. Consider sending us audio/video recordings, electronic audio files, or photographs. Additional details about the VIP Artistic Showcase will be available soon.

** S&L SPOTLIGHT organization **

Miracle League of Southwestern Pennsylvania

The Miracle League of Southwestern Pennsylvania (MLSWPA) was formed in January 2007 to provide children with physical and mental disabilities the opportunity to play organized baseball. The MLSWPA is currently building a facility that meets the unique needs of this special group of children. The field will have everything that other baseball fields have, including handicapped accessible dugouts, restrooms, concession stands in an enclosed area. The playing field will be a synthetic surface that allows easy use of wheel chairs, walkers, and other adaptive devices. The Miracle League field will be located in Cranberry Township as part of the new baseball complex, Graham Park.

The MLSWPA is planning its first Opening Day on May 2, 2009. The season will run every Saturday for 9 weeks. The league is open to every child, no matter his or her level of ability. For the 2009 season, players must be no younger than 5 years of age and no older than 18 years on or before August 30, 2009. Each team will have 12 or 13 players. All players receive a baseball cap and t-shirt.

Integral to the Miracle League concept is the “Buddy System.” Buddies assist all Miracle League players. These buddies are mainstream children who play baseball or are members of youth church groups, boys and girls scouts, and other volunteer groups or simply individuals of any age who want to get involved. In order to encourage friendships, Buddies are assigned to the same child or team for the entire season.  Buddies are expected to protect the Miracle League player at all times. When a hard hitter is up at bat, buddies are to step in front of the Miracle League player for protection. In general, buddies assist players with hitting, running the bases, and fielding in whatever capacity is necessary. Buddies are responsible for their individual player from the time of introduction until the player is back in the care of their parent/guardian. This means that no matter where their player goes the buddy must go.

There are no losers in the Miracle League, only winners with the score tied at the end of each game. Each game is two innings long. An inning consists of every player batting, running the bases, and scoring a run. No player is called “out”. At the end of the season, every player receives a trophy. The focus is more on participation than on winning.

Registration for the opening season of the MLSWPA begins September 1, 2008. To register your child in the upcoming league, send an e-mail to Tom Gray at For all other inquiries about the MLSWPA, either e-mail or call 724-831-7392. Additional information is available on the web at


Book Discussion Group
The Carnegie Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped is celebrating Pittsburgh's 250th birthday by offering a summer book discussion group.  On Thursday, July 17, from 2-3 p.m. they will discuss Joseph Bathanti's award-winning East Liberty, a book about a boy growing up in East Liberty during the 1950's and 60's. On Thursday, August 21, from 2-3 p.m., they will discuss Pittsburgh Love Stories, which features twenty local writers including Stewart O'Nan and Jan Beatty. These books are available on cassette from the library.  Contact the library at 412-687-2440 to register for these free events.

Developmental Cycling Camp
The U.S. Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) is co-sponsoring the U.S. Developmental Cycling Camp for Riders with Disabilities at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, September 23-28 in Colorado Springs, Colo. blind and visually impaired cyclists over age 16 and their sighted partners, who ride tandem bikes are encouraged to attend. A special invitation is being extended to military servicemen and women who have encountered disabilities from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom who want to learn to race. Riders attending camp will be on their bikes up to two times per day participating in skill drills, practicing safe riding techniques and competing in race simulations. There will also be evening lectures. The hope is that the camp will open new opportunities for sports and recreation to people with physical disabilities. Food, housing and airport transfers will be provided.  Athletes will be responsible for their travel arrangements and a nominal camp fee.     Riders are asked to bring their own bikes and gear to the camp.  Tandem riders are encouraged to bring their own pilots (riding partners), but if needed, USABA will help find partners. For more information or to request an application, contact Pam Fernandes at or call 781-449-9563.  Information about the camp and an application can also be downloaded from the USABA web site at

Braille NCAA Guide 
The Braille Revival League of Alabama offers the 2008 NCAA college football Guide covering 120 division 1-A teams and most  division 1-AA teams in Braille. Also included will be the results of the 2007-2008 BOWLS, the AP top twenty-five final polls.  the 2008-2009 bowl schedule and much more. Checks covering the $10 cost should be made out to Allen H. Gillis and sent to him at 302 Schaeffel Road, Cullman, AL 35055. For additional information, contact him at 256-734-4047 or

Olympic Hall of Fame Honors
Fifteen-time Paralympic medalist John Morgan, a visually impaired swim racer was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame on June 19, 2008. He first competed at the Paralympic Games in 1984 notching five medals. Eight years later, Morgan tallied eight gold medals and a pair of silver medals setting six world records and two Paralympic records at the Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games. He set 14 world records in his swimming career, including five in the B2 classification and nine in the B1 classification.


Lack of sight hasn't dimmed this athlete's unique vision
Reprinted from the Star Tribune, June 10, 2008

Jim Mastro's home in Bemidji is full of trophies, medals and plaques marking his athletic triumphs in wrestling, judo, shot put and other sports. Some he won as a young man, like his intercollegiate wrestling championship. Others he earned in midlife, including 18 gold, silver and bronze medals from international competitions.

One certificate recognizes him as a fourth-degree black belt in judo -- a sport he's coached for 17 years.

Mastro is not only one of Minnesota's most accomplished athletes. He's also a prolific author on sports-related topics and has lectured across America as well as in Costa Rica and Spain.

Oh yes, did I mention that he's blind?

Last month, Mastro -- a professor of physical education at Bemidji State University -- added another award to his collection. The National Wrestling Hall of Fame bestowed its 2008 Medal of Courage on him at its annual Honors Weekend in Stillwater, Okla.

In racking up his accomplishments, Mastro has amazed everyone. Except, perhaps, himself. He attributes his victories to "attention, focus and hard work.”

Mastro was born blind in his right eye. When he was 11, a young friend hit him in the left eye with a curtain rod during a mock "sword fight." Surgery saved his vision, enabling him to throw himself into wrestling, gymnastics and track and field.

"I was always competitive, and I loved sports camaraderie," said Mastro. But when he was a high school senior, his retina detached. Despite four operations, no sight returned. What he calls the "green curtain" descended.

Mastro thought his athletic career was over. But he found that inactivity was "driving him crazy." So when he entered Augsburg College in 1968, he was determined to try out for the wrestling team.

His physician warned against it. "I asked him why not," said Mastro, "and he didn't mince words. 'Because you're blind,' he told me." Mastro has heard that advice -- and refused to heed it -- many times since then.

"Doctors, physiologists, employers -- they think someone blind can't do the job because they can't imagine themselves doing it," he explained. "But there was no way anything was going to stop me.”

At Augsburg, his coach and teammates welcomed Mastro. "In practice, they gave me no quarter," he said. "I learned how hard you have to go to succeed.”
Mastro went on to win the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference 177-pound wrestling championship in 1972 -- the first blind athlete in state history to do so. In 1976, he qualified as an alternate for the able-bodied U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling squad at the Montreal Summer Games.

Since then, Mastro has devoted his life to sports -- as an athlete, a coach and an inspired educator. In the Paralympics, which are Olympic-style games for disabled athletes, he was the first athlete to medal in four sports -- wrestling, judo, track and field, and goalball, a game that combines elements of soccer and bowling.

One of Mastro's favorite sports is "Beep Baseball," a game for the visually impaired in which the ball beeps and the bases buzz. A friend introduced him to it.

"At first, I said 'you're crazy,'" Mastro recalled. "But I hit the ball on the third pitch and I went on to play for 15 years" -- including many trips to the sport's World Series.

In Bemidji, Mastro's strength is legendary. At one fundraiser, he muscled through 3,076 push-ups in an hour. At another, he hoisted a 45-pound bar 1,300 times in 15 minutes.

In 1985, Mastro became the first blind person in America to earn a Ph.D. in physical education. He focused on his passion: adaptive physical education for the disabled.

"People often think that sports and play are not important for disabled people," he said. "In fact, they are vital for a well-rounded life. One of the greatest feelings in the world is to exceed what you've done before. Sports give people with disabilities what they often don't find elsewhere -- the chance to compete, to show what they can do and to develop skills they need to excel in life, like discipline, teamwork and perseverance.”

These days, Mastro is finding new outlets for his formidable talents and energy. He is promoting "Power Showdown," a game for the blind that resembles air hockey, and is working with Cabinets by Design in Bemidji to make the tables the game requires. Orders are coming in from as far away as Kuwait.

Mastro also directs the Northern Plains Visions of Sport Camp for children and youth with visual impairment, being held this year July 13 to July 19. Its "nonstop action" includes kayaking, judo and rock-climbing.

Sometimes you can see the truth when you can't see other things. After he became blind, Mastro said, "I learned how much time we waste looking at nothing. I also learned that when you don't waste time looking at nothing, how much time you have to think."


Adapt Tap Leveling the Playing Field for Blind Swimmers
BY DIANE KRIEGER SPIVAK//Special Correspondent
Taken from

When Notre Dame Irish Aquatics coach Annie Sawicki found herself with 10 visually impaired swimmers in her masters swim program, she quickly found out what they already knew.

Swimming blind presents its own set of problems. Drifting to the sides of the lane and not knowing when you get to the wall are the most challenging.

Sawicki found that there was nothing on the market to guide blind swimmers in the pool, so 2 ½ years ago she started working on a device that would keep the swimmers on track, as well as enable them to know when to turn.

“At practice they were hitting their heads,” Sawicki said. “Some of them were used to their home clubs where their parents would tap for them.” A tapper stands at the end of the pool holding a pole with a tennis ball attached and taps a blind swimmer on the head or shoulder when he or she nears the wall.

After a series of electronic devices failed, Sawicki was referred to Prof. Paul Down, of the university's Industrial Design Department, who enlisted his graduate students to help solve the problem.

The result, which has a provisional patent and could be ready for production in a few months, is the AdaptTap, a navigation system for visually impaired swimmers.

Sawicki, who coaches masters Paralympic swimmers, says her swimmers helped in the design process, putting different versions to the test. Even the sighted industrial design students who work on the product blindfolded themselves, jumped in the pool and tried it out.

“It's a very simple tactile device that works on the principal of curb feelers,” said Down, who says the device does for blind swimmers what a backstroke flag does for backstrokers. The lane gate system features floating touchpoints with sponge-type balls on the ends that extend out from the lane lines to guide the swimmer.

The design team is working with the National Federation of the Blind, and will present the AdaptTap at the federation's national convention this summer.

“Right now we're sourcing the most cost-effective way to get a system together that would be reliable,” Down said. “We have concepts in mind for how it could be made commercially, but it requires injection molded parts.

Down says the design team is currently looking for funding and for companies to manufacture the device.

Lori Miller, 32, a 1997 Notre Dame alum who bicycled in Sydney in 2000 connected with Irish Masters last year after she decided to do triathlons.

“I've swum with the device, I've tested it and I love it,” said Miller, who's been blind since age 2. “Now that I know something like that exists, it's really hard to jump in the pool to do laps without it,” she said. “It provides orientation throughout the whole lap so I'm not moving back and forth. I can instantly make adjustments to get back to the middle.”

“It eliminates the guesswork,” Miller said. “No more jammed hands and fingers, bumping your head, no more counting strokes and backing off at the end because you know you're getting close to the wall but you're not quite sure. The device takes care of all that. It just takes all the limitations off.”

Down believes the device has the potential to help even fully sighted swimmers with contacts or eyeglasses, those affected by chlorination, backstrokers or even any swimmer since the eyes go in and out of the water while swimming.

Sawicki hopes the device can help other college swimmers “so they don't have to start at ground zero like we did.

“Not every blind swimmer is going to be a Jessica Long or go to the Paralympics,” Sawicki said. “We want to reach out to everyone in the country who is blind who are going to use swimming as fitness. If the product fits the bill and can help elite swimmers go faster for training purposes, that's fantastic.”

** ABOUT US **

SportsVision develops opportunities for individuals who are visually
impaired to participate in competitive sports and life-long leisure
activities. Our vision is a community where people who are visually
impaired have the freedom to pursue and enjoy the many benefits of sports
and leisure opportunities. SportsVision is a 501c3 not-for-profit
organization. All contributions are tax deductible.

Please contact SportsVision at 412-429-1996 for subscription requests. Article submissions and content suggestions for “VISIONS” are always
welcome at P.O. Box 23053, Pittsburgh, PA 15222 or





PO Box 13202 | Pittsburgh, PA 15243
Phone: 412.429.1996 | Email:
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