Fifteen blind and visually impaired teens from Winnipeg-area schools got a chance to lace up some skates Wednesday and hit the ice. For some of the students, it was their first time.
It was a part of the Courage Canada Hockey for the Blind program, which runs "learn to skate" workshops across the country from Victoria, B.C., to St. John's.
It was the first time the program, which has introduced more than 600 visually impaired kids to skating and hockey, has made a stop here in Winnipeg.
"Skating is amazing. You're on the ice and you just feel like the whole world fades away," said Humera Sadiq.
The Grade 11 student from Fort Richmond Collegiate is legally blind and has skated a handful of times, but this was a unique opportunity for her to come and be a part of a larger group of peers.
"You feel like part of a community because everyone is no different than you," said Sadiq.
Students at the one-day camp were paired up with mentors from the University of Manitoba men's and women's hockey teams.
Children and youth from more than 20 communities across the country will have an opportunity to participate in similar one-day camps that work not only on skating skills, but also include off-ice components that focus on building confidence, self-esteem, healthy and active lifestyles and leadership characteristics.
Students will also be introduced to the Paralympic sport of goalball as well as blind soccer, and they will learn about the Paralympics and para-sport opportunities in their community.
It's great for students like Sadiq, who moved to the province three years ago from Ontario and found opportunities for visually impaired youth to participate in sports are not always easy to find here.
"It gives you a chance to try something new and you don't feel left out because your classmates can do something you can't," she said.
Students who stand out or show a keen interest in hockey at Wednesday's session in Winnipeg could be selected to participate in a week-long national summer camp in Burnaby, B.C., in July for youth between the ages of 12 and 18.