Ten Burnaby youngsters who are blind or visually-impaired are getting the opportunity to strap on skates this winter and learn to skate and play hockey, thanks to Courage Canada and their national non-profit partner AMI - Accessible Media Inc.
The kids will take to the ice at 8Rinks at noon Tuesday as volunteers from Vancouver Eclipse and B.C. Blind Sports offer assistance.
"This is our second year doing this in Burnaby," said Courage Canada national program director Matt Morrow. "We partner with the Burnaby school district and in 2011-12, we ran a four-part program. This year, we're running a three-part program with the same group of kids. ... They have so much fun and they're learning so much."
Morrow said the kids learn the basics of skating first, then progress to playing hockey with an adapted puck, which is bigger, slower and makes noise, unlike a regulation hockey puck.
While on the ice, each youngster is paired up one-on-one with a skating mentor to assist them individually with the program curriculum, while off-ice workshops focus on themes such as courage, leadership, advocacy and living a healthy, active lifestyle.
The Burnaby kids range in age from Grade 2 students to Grade 12 students.
This season, more than 400 young people who are blind or visually-impaired from coast to coast are participating in learn to skate and blind hockey programs.
"We had 186 kids in 11 programs in 2011-12 and now we're running 30 programs from Victoria to Halifax, so we're on track to reach 400 kids," said Morrow.
The program consists of both on and off-ice components that focus on building confidence, self-esteem and leadership characteristics that carry forward both on the ice and within the community.
For more information, visit www.couragecanada.ca.