[nfbwatlk] Oregonian Article, Also in the Seattle Times

Prows, Bennett (HHS/OCR) Bennett.Prows at HHS.GOV
Wed Mar 10 16:30:42 UTC 2010

Here's a "feel good" article written by someone who doesn't really
understand blind people.  From the statement that the volunteer "helped"
the student to turn around, (what mobility impaired?) to patting the
young 14 year old skier on the knee, (sounds downright condescending),
this article doesn't do us or the program justice at all.




Bennett Prows

Students from Washington State School for the Blind try skiing at Mount

By Tom Hallman Jr., The Oregonian

March 09, 2010, 7:52PM

 View full size
1f2da50998a7.jpg> Torsten Kjellstrand/The Oregonian Nathaniel Baker
(left), a student at Vancouver's Washington State School for the Blind,
and volunteer Benjamin Pratt enjoy a snowball fight Tuesday during a
cross-country ski outing. The school exposes students to activities once
considered off-limits to those with sight impairments.Jackie Patching
stepped off a school bus Tuesday morning and paused, tentative when her
feet slid on the snowy Teacup Lake Nordic Ski Area
<http://www.skisite.com/xcDetail.cfm?id=8418>  parking lot. The
16-year-old, who can see only shades of light, had come to Mount Hood
<http://www.mthood.info/>  to ski. 

She rocked slightly when a woman gently took her by the arm. 

"Right this way," said Janet Tschanz, 65, one of 25 volunteers who'd
come to help 14 students from Vancouver's Washington State School for
the Blind <http://www.wssb.wa.gov/>  go cross-country skiing. 

"You're on your way now," Tschanz said as they walked together. 

"Thank you," Patching said.


The trip was a fun outing for the students and a chance to learn a new
skill. But it was more than that, too. It was part of the school's
mission to prepare students to participate in all areas of life. 

"When they leave here, we want them to be as independent as possible,"
said Adrienne Fernandez, the school's recreation and volunteer
coordinator who was busy in the parking lot Tuesday morning introducing
students and volunteers. 

Decades ago, she said, people who were visually impaired were told about
all the things they couldn't do. 

"Granted, our students may not become brain surgeons," she said. "But
there are so many things they can do. Studies have shown that only 30
percent of the blind and visually impaired go to college. Last year, 80
percent of our kids went to college." 

 View full size
c02ef51aed3f2.jpg> Torsten Kjellstrand/The OregonianStudent David
Hammond (front, left) skis with volunteers Hillary Schwirtlich (in
glasses) and Jordan Pratt (Benjamin Pratt's older sister). Fourteen
students were assisted by 25 volunteers on the trip to Mount Hood's
Teacup Lake. So along those lines, the school offers its 65 students
lessons in skiing, golf, scuba diving and riding bikes, via a tandem
bike with a guide up front. 

Tuesday, once the volunteers and students were matched up, they hiked
arm in arm through the woods toward a warming hut where they'd assemble
before skiing on freshly groomed trails. 

Student David Hammond, 19, came because he wants to go cross-country
skiing with his father. He walked with Jordan Pratt, a 16-year-old
volunteer from Portland's Grant High School
<http://grant.pps.k12.or.us/proto/> . They walked in silence, feet
crunching on the nearly 4 inches of new snow. 

Hammond, who is blind, stopped and bent down. He grabbed some snow and
lifted it to his cheek. He smiled, then knelt again to make a snowball. 

"There's a tree behind you," Pratt said, helping turn Hammond around.
"Now throw it." 


"Good job," Pratt said. 

This is the fourth year that Teacup has invited students, said Ron
Kikel, informational assistant at the U.S. Forest Service'
<http://www.fs.fed.us/> s Mount Hood Ranger District. 

"We had just been doing snowshoeing with them," he said. "Someone
suggested cross-country skiing last year, but we didn't know how they
would catch on. They blossomed and took off. Every volunteer was blown
away. These kids are tenacious." 

Richard Fay, a member of the Teacup Lake Nordic Club
<http://www.teacupnordic.org/> , said switching to cross-country upped
the ante -- and the fun. Trained instructors from three groups -- the
Teacup club, the Forest Service and the Oregon Nordic Club, Columbia
Gorge Chapter <http://www.onc.org/cgc/>  -- serve as guides. Each
student skis between two guides, who ski at the student's pace and offer
directions when approaching corners. 

"Some of these kids are totally blind," Fay said. "Some can't see
forward but have some peripheral vision. Others see shadows. 

"All of them are remarkable," he said. "They believe there's nothing
they can't do, and that makes them a joy to be around." 

In the warming hut, Ruben Castenada, 14, sat with his red-tipped cane
while a volunteer laced up his ski boots then patted him on the knee. 

"I'm ready," Castenada said. 

The room buzzed with excitement. 

"Hey, someone is going to get detention here," Fay said. The students
couldn't see he was smiling. 

Outside, the students stood with volunteers, who helped them into their

"There is so much negativity in the world," said Fernandez, the school's
recreation coordinator. "At this moment, you see the best in the world.
You see the goodness in people." 

And then they were off. The sound of laughter faded, and once more the
woods were silent. 

-- Tom Hallman Jr. <mailto:tomhallman at news.oregonian.com> 

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