Dream provides youth with vision loss sports opportunities

Ian and athletes from 2015 Sports Camp.

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Dream provides youth with vision loss sports opportunities

(MILWAUKEE, WI. – June 28, 2016) – Vision Forward Association will host the second annual ‘Play it Forward Youth Sports Camp’ July 11-13, on the Marquette University campus, for youth who are blind or visually impaired.  All sports are adapted specifically for youth with vision loss so they can have opportunities to participate in swimming, track and field, goal ball and a variety of other sports.

This camp is a result of the vision of a Marquette University biomedical sciences student, Ian Kloehn, and his hope to “Pay it Forward”.  Being legally blind since birth, Ian had benefited from a similar camp when he was young and never forgot the impact it had on his life.  He dreamt of providing this same type of opportunity for other youth.  His vision coincided with the goals of the Youth Program at Vision Forward: providing meaningful opportunities for youth of all ages who are blind or visually impaired so they can have the same experience as their sighted peers.

It’s hard to imagine, but 70% of school-age children who are blind have NEVER participated in any sport or physical activity.  Vision Forward is determined to change this by offering this Sports Camp and other physical activities to empower kids to be physically active despite their vision loss, to improve their health and to have fun!

For Ian, the Sports Camp is an opportunity to share his successes with young students and inspire them, in the same way he had been inspired by others in his youth. In 2009, the skills and lessons he learned at sports camp resulted in his being one of eleven students from the United States chosen to attend the Paralympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.  This experience opened his eyes to the whole “world” of disabilities and demonstrated that he could overcome any barrier as long as he was willing to put in the necessary time and effort.

Ian is a young man who strives for excellence and wants to pay forward the positive experiences and lessons he learned in his youth—the ones that helped make him who he is today.  In addition to his studies, Ian plays intramural soccer and is on the club running team at Marquette.  He recently completed the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon and has qualified for the Boston Marathon.

The Sports Camp, in its second year, has attracted great community support and interest.  This year, Dr. Lovell, Marquette University President, will run with the athletes during the track and field session on Tuesday, July 12.  Paralympic swim coaches, Laura Becherer and Glen O’Sullivan, will lead the swim session on Wednesday, July 13.  All coaches are volunteering their time and many Marquette students will be found volunteering throughout the Sports Camp.  With the help and support of all involved, the athletes will get to enjoy a variety of sports that help them learn new skills, build friendships and socialize with peers.

“Vision Forward is proud to offer the ‘Play it Forward Sports Camp,” said Terri Davis, Executive Director for Vision Forward. “This is an amazing collaborative effort and we strongly believe in its long term impact on the youth. We’re especially proud of the community’s growing support.”

For the kids who participate in camp, it is three days of fun, active engagement in sports and an opportunity to enhance their skills and independence.  “These kids, they make everything worth it,” said Ian.  “In the future I hope this camp will grow and have an impact on even more kids.”

About Vision Forward Association
Vision Forward is Southeastern Wisconsin’s premier resource for people who are blind or visually impaired. Our vision is to provide specialized services and programs to people of all ages and at all stages of vision loss so that they have every opportunity to be vital contributing members of our society. For more information, visit www.vision-forward.org



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