HOMETOWN: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF: I am a Pittsburgh native and currently live in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I received my undergraduate degree in recreational therapy from a school north of Pittsburgh called Slippery Rock University, and my master’s in healthcare administration from George Mason University. Professionally, I am an associate consultant at FUND Consulting, where we specialize in the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) industry. In sports, I am a one-time Paralympic athlete, where I attended the Tokyo 2020 Games as the captain of the USA Men’s Goalball Team. I have been a part of USA Goalball for six years and involved with goalball for 16 years. In addition, I am a Goalball Athlete Representative on the board of directors for the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes and have had this role for three years. I look forward to having the opportunity of helping USA Goalball qualify for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games and furthering my professional development in my current roles.
HOW DID YOU FIRST BECOME EXPOSED TO THE WORK OF USABA?: I first became exposed to the work of the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes when I attended my first goalball tournament in 2010, which was located in Warren, Michigan. This tournament was my first exposure to the blind sports community, and it also showed me that there are a ton of opportunities that could come from being involved with the sport.
WHY DO YOU FEEL THE WORK OF USABA IS IMPORTANT TO AMERICANS WHO ARE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED?: I feel that the work that USABA does is important to the blind/Visually Impaired community because they offer a wide variety of opportunities for people to get involved with sports. They have been pushing the growth of goalball and blind soccer throughout the country and impacting the lives of so many people, whether it be athletes, coaches, or fans, USABA continues to leave a major positive impact on the blind community.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT FOR USABA IN THE YEAR AHEAD?: In the year ahead USABA has a ton of events coming up. As a goalball athlete, I am excited to see how Team USA does in the IBSA World Games qualifying tournament in Birmingham, England, and in the Parapan American Games located in Santiago, Chile. In addition, I am excited to see the furthered development of the blind soccer program, and the continued growth after their first-ever international friendly against Canada. Finally, as a sport ambassador for USABA, I look forward to seeing all of the events and programs this group will be a part of to spread awareness of disability sports and to lead the next generation of blind athletes.
HOMETOWN: Huntington, Indiana
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF: My name is Zach Buhler I am a Paralympic goalball athlete and have been playing since 2016. I am currently in school to become a massage therapist and am in the Fort Wayne goalball residency program living with my wife and 3-month-old daughter. I am currently on the board at USABA as an athlete representative. I love the sport of goalball and spreading the word to blind athletes about adaptive sports and what USABA can provide.
HOW DID YOU FIRST BECOME EXPOSED TO THE WORK OF USABA?: I first became exposed to the work of USABA through the residency program in Fort Wayne as Team USA men’s team was training for Rio. I attended my first tournament in February of 2016 and really started diving into what USABA did for blind athletes and adaptive sports.
WHY DO YOU FEEL THE WORK OF USABA IS IMPORTANT TO AMERICANS WHO ARE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED?: I think the work that USABA does is so important for athletes who are blind and visually impaired because it gives those that want to compete, have a community, grow as an individual, and have success a chance to do so at the highest level if they want. I want to provide opportunities to those athletes as I was provided those same opportunities because without them I wouldn’t be who I am today. I always wanted to be on the big stage of sports, that was my dream and after losing my vision that dream was gone. USABA helped me find that way again and for that, I am so grateful.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT FOR USABA IN THE YEAR AHEAD?: I am so excited this year to see the new developments we have coming for the sport of goalball and to really see blind soccer start to take off and compete. I’m super excited to see what USABA has in store for their two sports now and really excited to see where USABA can help all 4 teams be successful on and even off the court and pitch.
HOMETOWN: Enfield, Connecticut
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF: I grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts, and moved with my husband Dave, just a few miles south to live in Enfield, Conn. My stepson Kyle is married and Dave and I have three beautiful granddaughters. I’m very active in various sports and really anything that involves staying healthy. I like to run, play golf, do yoga, and especially like to ride my two horses, Chili and Dixie. I’m currently working as a director of product management at Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield responsible for our life and disability products which we sell to employers and their employees.
HOW DID YOU FIRST BECOME EXPOSED TO THE WORK OF USABA?: I first learned about USABA in the early 1990s when I met Charlie Huebner, the executive director of USABA at the time, at the California International Marathon. I was working at The Hartford Insurance Company and a small team of us there were developing a new program to sponsor some organizations that supported people with disabilities. USABA was one we were considering. The Hartford ultimately did sponsor USABA and I became a USABA board member in 1996. While I left The Hartford in 2001, I continued on the board until 2016 and also brought in my current employer, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, as a USABA sponsor.
WHY DO YOU FEEL THE WORK OF USABA IS IMPORTANT TO AMERICANS WHO ARE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED?: USABA’s work helps increase awareness of and participation in the many sports and recreational activities available for people who are blind and visually impaired. I’m a big believer in the value of sports in improving physical and mental health for people of all abilities and USABA’s work ensures those with visual impairments, and their families and friends, have those same opportunities.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT FOR USABA IN THE YEAR AHEAD?: I’m very excited to see the new blind soccer program grow and bring a whole new group of athletes into the USABA family.
HOMETOWN: Beaverton, Oregon
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF: I am a two-time Paralympic medalist in the sport of goalball. I have a bronze medal from the Rio 2016 Games and a silver medal from the Tokyo 2020 Games. Additionally, I am about to graduate with a master’s in clinical mental health counseling. I received my degree in psychology from Portland State University in 2017 and will graduate Summer of 2022 from Antioch University with my master’s degree. I am from Beaverton, Oregon, and have spent the past five years living out in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to train at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Site.
HOW DID YOU FIRST BECOME EXPOSED TO THE WORK OF USABA?: I was first exposed to USABA when I was 16 years old. I started to play goalball with two goalball Paralympians at the time and they introduced me to goalball tournaments held by USABA. With the exposure I gained through the USABA sanctioned events my love and passion for the sport of goalball grew.
WHY DO YOU FEEL THE WORK OF USABA IS IMPORTANT TO AMERICANS WHO ARE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED?: The work that USABA is doing for Americans who are blind and visually impaired is life-changing. Getting involved with adaptive sports is crucial to confidence building, increasing self-esteem and making lifelong friendships and connections. I can speak from a personal level as a blind athlete, and from an educational professional level with my degree in mental health counseling, that sports and adaptive physical activities change the lives of those who get involved and exposed to them. Whether you become a Paralympic athlete, or simply enjoy tandem cycling and connecting with other blind individuals, getting involved with USABA will create engagement and opportunities for individuals experiencing blindness. It wasn’t until I got involved with goalball and USABA that I started to grow in my confidence as a person who is blind, and started to see positive representations of blindness from those around me. Through this, I learned to embrace my disability and differences. It is important to me that individuals of all ages have the same exposure and opportunities I did.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT FOR USABA IN THE YEAR AHEAD?: I am really excited that USABA reached its goal of becoming a national governing body for both goalball and blind soccer. What an accomplishment to be the NGB for two blind sports. I am looking forward to watching how the organization expands and reaches more people than ever with this shift. I am excited to be a part of the USABA board during this critical time and to do my part as the USOPC Athlete Advisory Council representative for USABA.
HOMETOWN: Sacramento, California
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF: I am the Executive Director of Society for the Blind, which provides education and services to people who are low-vision and blind in a 27-county region.
Prior to joining Society for the Blind, I served as Executive Director for St. Anthony Foundation, one of the largest non-profit social service agencies in San Francisco with a staff of 130 and an annual budget of $15 million. I served for nine years as the Vice President of Resource Development for the West Region of Mercy Housing which included California, Washington, Idaho and Utah.
I have a B.A. in Social Work, Sociology, and Criminal Justice from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Masters in Ethics/Bio-Ethics from Santa Clara University- Jesuit School of Theology.
I am currently a lecturer at USF, and President of the board for the CA Agencies of the Blind and Visually Impaired (CAABVI) and the Secretary of the Board of Directors for Vision Serve Alliance, a national association of agencies serving people with vision loss.
I enjoy sports and fitness including cycling, pickleball, and golf. I hold a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Kenpo and have developed a self-defense program for people with vision loss called “Cane-Fu”.
HOW DID YOU FIRST BECOME EXPOSED TO THE WORK OF USABA?: It was in late 2012 that I initially met Richard Hunter who introduced me to Mark Lucas, who was the ED of USABA at that time. Richard, Mark and I talked about the need to get youth involved in activities and sports and from that we created the MaraFUN run and Paralympic Sport Experience at Society for the Blind. This event coincided with the California International Marathon. Society for the Blind also started hosting a dinner for the B/VI runners and their guides on the Friday evening before the CIM.
WHY DO YOU FEEL THE WORK OF USABA IS IMPORTANT TO AMERICANS WHO ARE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED?: Engaging in sports offers so much by way of building confidence, stretching beyond one’s comfort zone, learning about teamwork, honesty and the like. USABA is such a leader and innovator when it comes to creating opportunities for athletes to improve and reach elite levels. USABA helps young aspiring athletes develop and realize they can go as far as they set their minds to go.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT FOR USABA IN THE YEAR AHEAD?: For me, it is the work USABA is doing to cultivate Soccer – and how agencies like Society for the Blind can partner with USABA to reach more people who are blind and low vision. I am also excited about the efforts of Molly and her team to expand USABA’s reach by offering endurance sport opportunities.
HOMETOWN: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF: I am born and raised in Pittsburgh and I have served as the CEO at Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services for 11 years. I have a passion for fitness and I love yoga, weight training, and hiking. I have two daughters ages 3 and 13 and a wonderful husband. In my spare time, I like to travel and read.
HOW DID YOU FIRST BECOME EXPOSED TO THE WORK OF USABA?: I was first exposed to the work of USABA through VisionServe Alliance and my friend Mark Lucas. I attended a VS Alliance conference in Colorado Springs at which we learned a lot about USABA and visited the Olympic Training Center. I also visited a second time and observed a tandem cycling practice. It was so neat to see firsthand how the sports were adapted and played.
WHY DO YOU FEEL THE WORK OF USABA IS IMPORTANT TO AMERICANS WHO ARE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED?: As I said above I am passionate about fitness and the positive effects that sports have on people’s lives. People who are blind often aren’t encouraged in the area of sport and therefore don’t get to experience these benefits. It is great to be a part of an organization that promotes sport and fitness for ALL!
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT FOR USABA IN THE YEAR AHEAD?: I am so excited to join the committee during the inaugural year for blind soccer. I know this is a really big deal and will provide more opportunities for people who are blind to experience and excel at sports.
HOMETOWN: Wharton, New Jersey
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF: I am excited and happy to serve as a newly-elected constituent director for the USABA board. I am an advocate, co-founder, and director of sports of a 501c (3) nonprofit New Jersey sports club for blind, visually impaired, and deaf-blind athletes focused on creating transformative opportunities, enabling the pursuit of excellence, and empowering happiness through adaptive sports. In my sports career, I became an Olympian and Pan American gold medalist as a goalkeeper for the U.S. National Handball Team. I serve on the advisory board for the Disability Center for Sports, Health, and Wellness at Rutgers University and as an active member of the NY/NJ/CT Chapter of the U.S. Olympians and Paralympians Association. I received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and am pursuing a master of business administration degree with DeVry University Keller Graduate School of Management. I am also an instructor for a class about the history of disabilities at Rutgers University and a fitness instructor for the blind at the Joseph Kohn Training Center.
HOW DID YOU FIRST BECOME EXPOSED TO THE WORK OF USABA?: My involvement with the USABA began at the 2015 Goalball Nationals competition in Georgia while I was participating in an Olympic Day event to share information about team handball. Our sports club then partnered with the USABA in 2016 coinciding with the founding of our non-profit organization which led to our athlete’s participation in para track and field and swimming competitions at the local and national levels. Some of our athletes participated in the USABA’s inaugural blind soccer camp, I participated as a mentor for the USABA Emerging Stars Camp, and our organization has hosted two National Blind Sports Day events advocating for the awareness of sports for the blind through hands-on demonstrations.
WHY DO YOU FEEL THE WORK OF USABA IS IMPORTANT TO AMERICANS WHO ARE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED?: The facilitation of adaptive sports activities through the USABA is a great opportunity for Americans who are blind and visually impaired. Spreading awareness and information about sports for the blind and participation in physical activity is essential for better overall health. I believe that we can all contribute our talents and creative abilities toward inclusion and positive social change for under-served communities that need our help. I am in alignment with the USABA’s mission to provide life-changing experiences through adaptive sports to create value for athletes with disabilities.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT FOR USABA IN THE YEAR AHEAD?: I am most excited for the future growth, direction, and potential of the USABA and the participation of our highly decorated men’s and women’s goalball teams at the Tokyo Paralympic Games. I am also eager to spread awareness of the USABA’s mission and the adaptive sports opportunities the organization provides.
HOMETOWN: Atlanta, Georgia
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF: I’m an innovator, a strategist and a closer. I can still beat my 8-year-old in a driveway foot race and my kryptonite is key lime pie. Professionally, my sweet spots are strategic marketing and business operations solutions. I’m a business executive and legal advisor who handles all aspects of counseling regarding business strategy, marketing partnership and event execution, technology, broadcast and e-commerce initiatives, licensing and branding as well as business operations and initiative execution matters and governance, among others. I have specialized experience in professional sports/entertainment, brand/retail, venue/event operations and the tech industries.
HOW DID YOU FIRST BECOME EXPOSED TO THE WORK OF USABA?: I’ve been involved with the Olympic movement for over 10 years and first became aware of USABA about a year ago when I was approached by a colleague who worked on the board search.
WHY DO YOU FEEL THE WORK OF USABA IS IMPORTANT TO AMERICANS WHO ARE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED?: Because they are AMAZING athletes and, selfishly, I’m inspired by their fortitude, perseverance and sheer talent!!!!
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT FOR USABA IN THE YEAR AHEAD?: Everything! The evolution and growth of USABA and the positioning of the organization to offer more competitive opportunities for our athletes are all very exciting! I’m humbled and honored to be a part of that.
HOMETOWN: Aliso Viejo, California
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF: I serve as the general counsel of Tempus Ex Machina, Inc, a sports technology startup. I am also the founder of Major League Business LLC which provides business consulting services to companies and individuals both across and outside of the sports industry. I served as head of player operations for the Alliance of American Football. I previously served for over five years as the general counsel of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Florida.
Before joining the Buccaneers, I spent nine years with Angels Baseball LP and AM830 KLAA building and overseeing the legal department and was deeply involved with baseball operations, human resources, sponsorship, ticket sales, and marketing. Prior to the Angels, I spent nine years working as an athletic trainer in the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, and Montreal Expos organizations.
I earned a B.S in exercise physiology/athletic training and an M.S. in community health promotion from West Virginia University School of Medicine in Morgantown, West Virginia. I also hold a Juris Doctor from California Western School of Law in San Diego, California. I have completed Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau’s Scout Development Program, and am a licensed California attorney and a National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) Certified Athletic Trainer.
HOW DID YOU FIRST BECOME EXPOSED TO THE WORK OF USABA?: I was always aware of the Paralympic movement and learned more about it last year. Prodigy Search reached out to me as USABA was looking for some new board members. The more I learned about the organization, the more I wanted to be part of it. USABA does so much good and continues to grow and evolve into other areas, and I am glad to help bring my sports operational, business, and legal experience to help foster that growth and evolution.
WHY DO YOU FEEL THE WORK OF USABA IS IMPORTANT TO AMERICANS WHO ARE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED?: As someone who has a learning disability, finding ways to promote inclusion is very important to me. Everyone should have the opportunity to participate and belong, no matter who they are. USABA’s mission of promoting inclusion and providing opportunities for individuals who are blind or visually impaired is very much in alignment with my values.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT FOR USABA IN THE YEAR AHEAD?: I am excited to see our goalball teams compete and win in Tokyo. Beyond that, I am excited to see USABA grow the game and continue to develop blind soccer.
HOMETOWN: Freehold, New Jersey
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF: I’ve been a not-for-profit executive for more than 40 years. I earned my undergraduate degree from the Catholic University of America and a master’s degree from the Robert J. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University. I’ve held executive positions in educational, healthcare, and philanthropic organizations. I also serve on the board of directors of a number of not-for-profit organizations. In 2008 I had the unique opportunity to run all aspects of Pope Benedict’s visit to New York and the United Nations. Seven years later I helped coordinate the visit of Pope Francis to New York and the United Nations. I also coordinated the Time/Fortune Global Summit at the Vatican in 2016.
I’ve been married to my wife, June for 42 years. We have six grown children and seven grandchildren (so far). We live in Freehold, N.J., and recently sold the large house in which we brought up our children and moved into a smaller home designed for us. We chose the location of this house because five of our seven grandchildren can ride their bikes to our new house. I’m a huge Notre Dame, Yankees, and New York Giants fan. I enjoy playing golf and spending time with our family at home and at our beach house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
HOW DID YOU FIRST BECOME EXPOSED TO THE WORK OF USABA?: In 2009, I became the President and CEO of Lighthouse International in New York City, America’s oldest vision rehabilitation and research organization. While I had spent 25 years in academic health care, this was my first opportunity to run an organization for those who are blind or visually impaired. Since I was new to the field, I traveled to a leadership conference run by VisionServe Alliance and hosted in Colorado Springs by USABA. I neglected to read that the attire for the conference was business casual and only brought three-piece suits to the conference. It has been said that I may have been the only person to learn to play goalball in a Brooks Brothers suit. It was during this conference where I met the former chair and former executive director of USABA and quickly became friends with both of them. Over time they introduced me to all of the work of USABA and I volunteered to get involved.
WHY DO YOU FEEL THE WORK OF USABA IS IMPORTANT TO AMERICANS WHO ARE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED?: It’s easy to forget that USABA is vital to the lives of literally thousands of individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Sometimes, we think only of the athletes who make it to the Paralympics. But, in reality, the heart and soul of the organization are the USABA Sports Clubs in nearly every state in the country and our hundreds of members who participate in the variety of sports offered. Whether it’s tandem cycling through Central Park in New York City, or guided skiing down the slopes in New England or the Rockies, or goalball tournaments in Florida, USABA sanctioned events are happening nearly 365 days a year in every part of our great country.
We are so very proud of all our athletes, whether they be young or old, and all of us look forward to cheering on our Paralympian women’s and men’s goalball teams as well as individual Paralympians in other sports, as they prepare to head to Tokyo.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT FOR USABA IN THE YEAR AHEAD?: 2020 was a year of dynamic change for USABA. We hired a new President and CEO, saw other personnel changes, and brought on many new board members who are committed to the growth of USABA. Now as we proceed through 2021, Molly Quinn and her team along with the board are proceeding forward with a bold new plan for dynamic growth of USABA through new revenue generation plans and significantly higher goals for grants and philanthropic support. This along with the excitement of the upcoming Paralympics and the potential of a second Paralympic sport coming under the purview of USABA may make this one of the most exciting years in our history! However, none of this will be possible without our volunteers, coaches, athletes, and supporters. We are grateful to all of you!
HOMETOWN: Colorado Springs, Colorado
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF: Growing up an Army brat, I moved 11 times before the age of 17. I think this lifestyle taught me a sincere appreciation for meeting new people, experiencing new things, and generally just being adaptable and responsible for my own situation. I worked in the ancient industry known as “newspapers” coming out of college, but quickly transitioned to sports PR and marketing. I spent eight years with U.S. Synchronized Swimming and USA Gymnastics, before making the move to the brand promotion and sponsorships side with Budweiser. Aside from a brief two-year stint as the GM for curling at the Vancouver Olympics, I’ve been in brand marketing and sponsorships for the past 16 years, most recently with Cisco Systems – that little networking company that conveys 80% of the world’s internet traffic. I oversee Cisco’s global sponsorships portfolio which includes the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, USGA golf, City Football Group’s 10 teams, Live Nation, Riot Games, CNN, and as of April 201, the NFL and Paris 2024.
HOW DID YOU FIRST BECOME EXPOSED TO THE WORK OF USABA?: I interned at the USOPC in 1994, living in un-air-conditioned 1970s bunkhouse dorms on the OTC complex and making $1.19/hour (after they subtracted housing expenses). When the intern for USABA became ill, Charlie (Huebner) reached out to the intern community for help for the upcoming World Goalball Championships to be held at the Colorado School for the Blind. I took on PR responsibilities for the event, learned as much as I could in the 3-4 weeks I had, met some really great people like the Armbrusters, and built what I’d like to think was a pretty successful media participation event where we had media members attempt the sport at the direction of our athletes and coaches. From there, I’ve followed the sport off and on as a member of the USOPC family, and upon moving back to the Springs, thought it might be a good opportunity to get involved.
WHY DO YOU FEEL THE WORK OF USABA IS IMPORTANT TO AMERICANS WHO ARE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED?: I firmly believe that participation in team sports is an opportunity to build life skills that just can’t be obtained anywhere else. Communication, teamwork, camaraderie, mental preparation, resilience, confidence – they can’t be learned from a computer or a book. My perception is that blind and visually impaired individuals who participate as athletes emerge from their experience better prepared mentally and physically for any challenge they may face, and to that end, I hope to do everything I can to support the growth and development of those opportunities for all of USABA’s members and constituents.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT FOR USABA IN THE YEAR AHEAD?: I’m a marketing guy, and I can’t NOT see the potential of this organization to grow and flourish at a time when the sporting world is going to turn its attention to the U.S. and LA28. I hope to be a part of setting those goals, and building the foundation, for a sustainable growth initiative that enables the organization’s long-term success and multiple Team USA victories within the very near future.
HOMETOWN: Charlottesville, Virginia
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF: I am a recent husband and law school grad and an even more recent father to a baby girl. I practice law in Washington D.C. and play as much goalball as I can for the Virginia Team and Team USA. I am a member of the USABA board of directors, as well as the USOPC’s Athlete Advisory Council and Paralympic Advisory Council.
HOW DID YOU FIRST BECOME EXPOSED TO THE WORK OF USABA?: I attended my first USABA event, a summer sports camp, when I was 10 years old. I was introduced to goalball at that camp and knew right away that I wanted to be a Paralympian, playing goalball for Team USA. I have since attended hundreds of USABA events, represented Team USA all over the world, worked as an employee of USABA, and had the honor of serving on the board of directors for the past four years.
WHY DO YOU FEEL THE WORK OF USABA IS IMPORTANT TO AMERICANS WHO ARE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED?: Sports are such a fundamental part of development for kids in our society. They learn teamwork, goal setting, perseverance, how to win, and most of all how to lose through sports. These lessons are critical for any young person, but for blind people, these lessons are infinitely more so. Unfortunately, most of us who grew up with a visual impairment know all too well what it’s like being told to sit out of a PE class because the teacher didn’t know how to accommodate us. Or watching our friends go off to sports practices while we were left to dream of finding competitive opportunities of our own. Blindness is a really tough disability for those who live it, made even more so because so often the people around us don’t have the knowledge to help us succeed. USABA is so crucial because it provides knowledge to teachers, parents, and coaches all over the country that helps to provide meaningful recreation for blind individuals. I know statistically, and certainly in my own life, that the importance of learning through sport all of the invaluable lessons competition provides cannot be overestimated. I was fortunate to get to pursue my love of sport all the way to the medal stand at the Paralympics. But whether your passion takes you to the Paralympics or just out for a jog, anyone who has a visual impairment needs to know that they can set a goal and succeed. For all of us, that lesson and the confidence gained therein doesn’t stop at the end of the run or when we step off the court. That is a lesson that will guide anyone in life beyond sport as well.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT FOR USABA IN THE YEAR AHEAD?: I’m most excited to see all of the hard work put in by our men’s and women’s goalball teams pay off in a big way in Tokyo. We’ve had a group of incredibly dedicated men and women training nonstop cloistered in Fort Wayne. Meanwhile, the rest of us who are a part of the goalball national teams have been doing our best to train on the outside looking in, waiting for our chance to get back on the court. It’s been tough for all of us, whether training every day or just wishing we could. Tokyo will definitely be a games unlike any other, and I’m excited to see what our men and women will do.
HOMETOWN: Camarillo, California
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF: My husband Doug and I live in Camarillo, California. We have two wonderful daughters, one lives close by in Ventura and the other lives in Laramie, Wyoming. Our family enjoys traveling to explore our world, except for this current and past year, hiking, biking and snowboarding or skiing. I work for Anthem Inc., as a product director for our vision plans for the past 15 years. I now workout virtually three times a week and enjoy long walks with my Goldendoodle, Blossom.
HOW DID YOU FIRST BECOME EXPOSED TO THE WORK OF USABA?: I was fortunate to be invited to an Anthem event with brokers and the USABA at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind. We participated in games of goalball, although much tamer than the athletes that were there training. At this event I met Executive Director Mark Lucas who shared his passion for the USABA, goalball, and blind and visually impaired sport. Since that time I have attended many Anthem ski events in Breckenridge, Colorado, with the USABA and the Breakfast of Champions fundraiser in Colorado Springs. Three years ago, former board member Tracie Foster reached her term limit and I was invited to join the board. It has been an amazing experience learning how to serve on a board and support the USABA.
WHY DO YOU FEEL THE WORK OF USABA IS IMPORTANT TO AMERICANS WHO ARE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED?: Sport participation enriches individuals’ lives in so many ways. I participated in organized sports throughout my childhood and in addition to the benefits of exercise the teamwork, the ability to follow direction and alignment to a common goal teaches all participants vital life lessons. For this reason, all individuals with or without disabilities should have access to sports for connecting with others, enjoyment, the benefit of exercise, or testing one’s abilities at a national and international level such as the Paralympics. It has been amazing to meet and hear so many blind and visually impaired athletes’ stories about their lives and how they access sports in many different ways.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT FOR USABA IN THE YEAR AHEAD?: In this time of the international pandemic we have all had to adapt but continue to move forward. The USABA is no different. Although all of our board meetings and work went virtual, we have all been hard at work. We recently hired a new CEO, Molly Quinn, appointed a new board, and applied for a new status with the USOPC. I am looking forward to getting to know our new board members and CEO. But I am most excited for our women’s and men’s goalball teams to go to Tokyo and compete in the Paralympics and bring home medals as they did in the Rio Paralympics. They have trained long and hard for this opportunity of reaching for Gold!
HOMETOWN: Pendleton, South Carolina
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF: I have been teaching at Clemson University for the last 15 years in the Community Recreation and Sport Management concentration. In addition to teaching, I have been able to focus my research around Parasport development and ethical behavior in sport and have been fortunate to be able to lead a number of grants designed to support the growth of Parasoccer programs for injured military veterans in the United States. In my spare time, I enjoy hiking and traveling with my wife, Lisa and two kids, McKinley and Brooklyn. I also continue to stay active in sport by officiating NCAA soccer and ParaSoccer and will always cherish the memory of being able to officiate in the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games Football 7 a-side gold medal match.
HOW DID YOU FIRST BECOME EXPOSED TO THE WORK OF USABA?: I have attended seven different Paralympic Games and was able to witness incredible athletic talent at each one of the Games. Of particular interest to me were both goalball and 5-a-side blind soccer and I made an effort to watch each of the events whenever I could. In 2016, in response to a desire from a number of partners, I was able to lead a think tank that gathered experts from around the country to discuss how we would go about starting 5-a-side blind soccer in the United States. It was incredible to be in the room brainstorming how to develop and sustain the infrastructure that would grow a blind sport in the country. In addition to individuals from US Soccer, a number of the partners in that room had some connection, directly or indirectly to USABA. As a result of this think tank, we were able to document and publish a peer-reviewed journal article that captured this momentous event titled “SWOT analysis on the potential growth of Football 5-a-side programme across the United States: an exploratory case study approach for athletes with visual impairment”. My relationship with the organization has continued to grow ever since, leading to the remarkable opportunity of being appointed to the USABA Board of Directors in 2020.
WHY DO YOU FEEL THE WORK OF USABA IS IMPORTANT TO AMERICANS WHO ARE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED?: Sport, if programmed well with a positive learning environment at its core, has the ability to build and shape people in an incredible way. By the USABA employing a mission to “…empower Americans who are blind and visually impaired to experience life-changing opportunities in sports…”, it is clear that they believe that all athletes should be able to benefit from sport. This includes Para and adaptive sport and the USABA is uniquely positioned to provide remarkable opportunities for individuals who are blind or visually impaired to participate and grow at the community, national or international levels.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT FOR USABA IN THE YEAR AHEAD?: As a new board of directors comes together with unique ideas and experiences, it has to be an exciting time for the USABA membership and stakeholders to see what might lie ahead in 2021. As athletes, officials, coaches and parents all want to return to healthy competition, the horizon is bright with the growth in USABA programs and opportunities. With a plethora of safety measures in place, Tokyo will host the Paralympic Games this summer and U.S. athletes who are blind or visually impaired will compete in sports like goalball, swimming and athletics after spending countless hours training to be the best they can be, all while inspiring the next generation of athletes. Personally, I have been keenly involved in the growth of 5-a-side blind soccer in the United States and will stand proud one day soon to be cheering on the national team as they play their first game, travel to their first international competition and play in the 2028 Paralympic Games on home soil in Los Angeles.
HOMETOWN: St. Augustine, Florida
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF: My wife Lori and I are retired and reside in St. Augustine, Florida. We are blessed with three adult children who also live in the St. Augustine area. Before retirement, I served as a business executive for several companies in the sporting goods industry. In retirement, we enjoy spending time with family, traveling, boating and fishing, and volunteer service activities.
HOW DID YOU FIRST BECOME EXPOSED TO THE WORK OF USABA?: In 2008, I was asked to serve on the board of directors of the Arkansas chapter of the National Association for Parents of Children with Vision Impairments (NAPVI). Through my service on this board and related fundraising activities, our NAPVI chapter became aware of the activities and services offered by USABA. Eventually, we partnered with USABA on several fundraising activities in Arkansas.
WHY DO YOU FEEL THE WORK OF USABA IS IMPORTANT TO AMERICANS WHO ARE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED?: Participation in sports and outdoor activities played an extremely important role in my childhood development. I learned many important life lessons through this participation. My wife and I are so thankful that all three of our children also benefited from participating in sports and outdoor activities. We believe that it is important that all Americans have access to sports and outdoor activities. USABA provides this access to the blind and visually impaired here in the USA.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT FOR USABA IN THE YEAR AHEAD?: The year 2020 has been one of many transitions for USABA. We have a newly appointed Chief Executive Officer who will offer a fresh perspective on future initiatives and the direction of USABA. Also, we have seven newly elected or appointed board members who will interject new ideas, support and relationships to USABA. Specifically, I am excited about the growing trends here in the USA to support the development of blind soccer and the role USABA can play to assist in the development and growth of this sport in the year to come.
HOMETOWN: Tucson, Arizona
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST USABA EXPERIENCE?: My first USABA experience was at the Learn to Race Cycling Camp in 2015. It was incredible. Pam Fernandez helped me get to that camp, finding me a pilot for the tandem, and ensured that I had a bike to ride at the camp. I was so green and didn’t have anything but an ambition to win. I met some other incredible athletes there as well as pilots and coaches. I always love staying at the Olympic Training Center, but it was that camp that prepared me to come back to Colorado Springs and win the 2015 national title in the track cycling kilo in December.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A MEMBER?: I’ve been a USABA member since 2011, if I recall correctly, and made the choice to become a lifetime member in 2017.
HOW HAS USABA IMPACTED YOUR LIFE?: With positivity, hope and opportunity. From helping me fundraise money while working hard to become a US Paralympian in track and field, to supporting me to become a competitive track cyclist, even supplying me with a bike to ride, teaching and supporting my training, to hosting goalball tournaments that I’ve participated in. I absolutely love USABA.
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?: I grew up all over the South. I was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, and lived in several different little towns around there…Mobile, Alabama, Jacksonville and Orlando, Florida, Anaheim, California, Houston, Texas, and finally moved to Tucson, Arizona in the middle of 8th grade.
WHAT ARE SOME HOBBIES/SPORTS YOU’RE INVOLVED WITH?: I am involved with blind soccer, goalball, and beep baseball. I absolutely love blind soccer. Throughout COVID, I can always grab my soccer ball and go in the backyard to practice my dribbling, penalty kicks, and conditioning. I love goalball and beep baseball as well and use both to become better in both. Goalball has made me a better beep ball defender, and my rotational training for beep baseball has helped me become a better thrower in goalball.
I also lead an online fitness community called 3 Week Fitness Challenge.
WHAT IS YOUR OCCUPATION?: I lead sales and business development for American Foundation for the Blind Consulting. We provide a suite of inclusion consulting services from accessibility 101 training to process and policy development, digital manual usability testing to VPATs, and diversity disability employment program training and development.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAMILY: I am married to my wife Rosa and I have one daughter, Phoenix. My younger brother lives in Georgia and my parents live in Washington.
DO YOU HAVE ANY UPCOMING EVENTS/GOALS YOU ARE EXCITED ABOUT?: Yes, absolutely. I am incredibly excited to be involved with USABA’s efforts to build and develop a competitive 5-a-side soccer team for the 2028 Paralympic Games in Los Angeles, I am passionate about my online fitness group that just so happens to have several people with blindness or visual impairment, being a leader and positive role model for my daughter, and several other personal and professional goals, including getting back out on the beep baseball field since the 2020 World Series was canceled.
WHAT’S A QUOTE YOU LIVE BY OR FIND MOTIVATIONAL?: “There’s 86,400 seconds in a day. The difference between me, you, and the people who win or lose is what we do with those seconds.”
HOMETOWN: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST USABA EXPERIENCE?: Besides local events and experiences with the Blind Sports Organization in Philadelphia during middle school and early in high school, I believe my first USABA experience was youth nationals for goalball in 2008 and 2009. It was my first time traveling for a tournament, and I was immediately hooked. Our team had a great time both years, and we improved and earned the bronze medal in my second and final youth nationals.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A MEMBER?: I became a member of USABA in high school, so around 2007/2008.
HOW HAS USABA IMPACTED YOUR LIFE?: USABA has given me opportunities and reasons to compete, stay active, travel, and gain lifelong teammates and friends.
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?: I grew up in Philly, and still live here.
WHAT ARE SOME HOBBIES/SPORTS YOU’RE INVOLVED WITH?: My primary sport is goalball. I was introduced to goalball at a sports camp in Delaware with the Blind Sports Organization. Though my first experience was daunting, I’d finally found a sport where I could compete on an equal playing field without any adaptations. I currently play for the DC Corruption women’s team. Beyond goalball, I enjoy being active, and the United We Move! challenge has helped to keep me accountable since I’m not using the gym at work due to COVID-19. I also enjoy long walks with my 2-year-old seeing eye dog Kato who still has lots of puppy energy.
WHAT IS YOUR OCCUPATION?: I’m a contract specialist for the Defense Logistics Agency, and work on a Navy base in Philadelphia.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAMILY: I’m the youngest of nine siblings and I’m fortunate that we’re a close family. I have three brothers and five sisters; my parents definitely saved the best for last! I also have 16 nieces and nephews under the age of 11, so family gatherings and vacations are rowdy but fun.
DO YOU HAVE ANY UPCOMING EVENTS/GOALS YOU ARE EXCITED ABOUT?: I’m definitely excited to play goalball again, whenever that may be. Once it’s safe to do so, I’ll appreciate each practice and game even more. The United We Move! challenge has also given me tangible evidence of my level of fitness, and the other participants inspire me to strive to increase my activity. I’m looking into purchasing a Peloton bike after their recent accessibility updates, and plan on doing more of Tyler Merren’s fantastic workouts from home as well.
WHAT’S A QUOTE YOU LIVE BY OR FIND MOTIVATION IN?: I was an English major in college, so I enjoy many quotes. One that has recently stuck with me is from Carli Lloyd’s book. “Life is complicated. Life is going to throw all kinds of obstacles in your way. All I can tell you is what works for me: be true to yourself, don’t do fake, and above all else, keep on working, because that’s what will take you where you want to go.” -Carli Lloyd
Photo description: Rose and her sister pose for a photo against the backdrop of the French Alps while hiking last summer during their visit for the women’s soccer World Cup.
HOMETOWN: Covington, Kentucky
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST USABA EXPERIENCE?: My first USABA experience was playing in the goalball tournament in Michigan six years ago.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A MEMBER?: Since 2014.
HOW HAS USABA IMPACTED YOUR LIFE?: Since joining USABA I was introduced to goalball, fitness challenges, and activities that have kept me motivated to get healthy and stay healthy. It has given me something to do that I enjoy and that pushes me to work and play harder.
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?: I grew up in Covington, Kentucky.
WHAT IS YOUR OCCUPATION?: Machine operator at Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAMILY: Married 21 years to my lovely bride and we have two beautiful grown children who are working toward their future. We have one dog, Cooper, and one rabbit, Bentley.
DO YOU HAVE ANY UPCOMING EVENTS/GOALS YOU ARE EXCITED ABOUT?: Trying to stay active in this COVID world and virtual MS 150 bike ride.
WHAT’S A QUOTE YOU LIVE BY OR FIND MOTIVATION IN?: “Treat people the way you want to be treated and live life to fullest and without regrets.”
HOMETOWN: Palm Harbor, Florida
BACKGROUND: I grew up on the Gulf Coast of Florida. I am a content manager in the marketing department at Saint Leo University. I write and edit content for print and digital marketing platforms and also host a podcast where I interview faculty, staff, and students. I’m 33 years old and have an older brother, David. I have Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), which is a genetic retinal condition. My parents have always been extremely supportive of me and have helped me be successful in so many ways. During my free time I enjoy playing beep baseball, walking, writing, singing, playing guitar, podcasting, and being an active member of the American Council of the Blind Next Generation organization.
USABA INVOLVEMENT: In January of 2019, I was invited to participate in the USABA Wellness Activity Challenge program with USABA and received a Fitbit from my local organization, the Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind in New Port Richey, Fla. Using this Fitbit for over a year now has given me so much insight into my physical activity. It has made me get up and move so much more than I ever would have without it. I’m addicted to checking my step count, mileage, and active minutes each day, and I am more motivated to be physically active. It’s also cool to compete against other blind individuals in my community who are also involved in this program. As a visually impaired individual since birth, I’ve looked for ways to connect with other blind and visually impaired people who I can relate to and get to know. I’ve been interested in sports for the blind for several years, and I know that USABA puts on numerous events every year. I would love to attend one of these events, especially one of the adapted skiing events or training camps to learn how to play more sports.
PODCAST:I recorded my first episode of the podcast in November of 2019. Since I’ve always enjoyed podcasting and hosted one for my job, I wanted to start a personal podcast. I have learned more and more about sports for the blind over the last few years, and I am so intrigued by the physical achievements of some people who are blind. I’m also amazed at how so many different sports can be adapted for the blind with such minimal modifications. So, I decided to start this podcast to raise awareness about sports for the blind to educate the general public. Of course, I also want to provide ideas and resources for any blind and visually impaired individuals who may be interested in getting involved in such activities. The main focus of the podcast is sports and recreation for the blind. I usually have a guest or two who I interview on each episode. So far, I’ve covered beep baseball, goalball, running, swimming, tandem biking, audio darts, martial arts, and a number of other sports. I’m trying to include as much variety as possible to cater to the wide interests of those who may be listening. One big takeaway I’ve learned so far is that the physical abilities of blind and visually impaired individuals truly run the gamut. While there is a stereotype that blind people can’t be physically active, I have learned that this stereotype is far from the truth. Interviewing blind athletes who have competed in triathlons, marathons, skiing, mountain climbing, and other activities that most normally sighted people would never do demonstrates a perfect example of the fact that anyone can do anything, no matter what challenges they may face in their lives.
PODCAST LINK: You can find the Eyes Free Sports podcast at http://eyesfreesports.podbean.com. It is also available on Apple Podcasts and you can ask Alexa to “Play the Eyes Free Sports podcast on Apple Podcasts” to hear the latest episode on your Amazon device. Plus, you can follow the podcast and interesting content on blind sports at http://facebook.com/eyesfreesports and http://twitter.com/eyesfreesports.
FAVORITE QUOTE: “The past is history and the future is a mystery.” -My mom
Photo Description: Wearing a red baseball hat and a gray t-shirt that reads “Braille Bandits – Palm Beach County”, Greg Lindberg poses while holding a beep baseball in his left hand and resting a baseball bat on his right shoulder.
MEMBER SINCE: 1976
HOMETOWN: Indianapolis, Indiana
BACKGROUND: John grew up in Indiana and now alternates his time between South Fort Myers, Florida, during winter and Indianapolis in the summertime. He has two children who he adores along with his girlfriend. John received his bachelor’s degree from Normal College American Gymnastics Union while being a college aid at the Indiana School for the Blind. He later received his master’s degree in special education:visual impairment from the University of Northern Colorado. He taught at the Missouri School for the Blind from 1975 to 2004. Later, John retired from teaching and devoted his time to his family.
HOBBIES: John has a strong appetite for fitness and has a weight-training program that works on flexibility for lower back problems. He is involved in aerobics, pole vaulting, javelin, the Senior Games, and other general fitness activities. Alongside this, John has recently created a game called Family Time that’s sold on eBay. When John retired and shifted more attention to family dynamics, he invented the game in order to utilize the idea of cooperation through collaborative and humorous activities with your family members. John is incredibly excited to see what this game will inspire.
USABA INVOLVEMENT: USABA was founded in 1976, and John was there from the beginning. John was a wrestling coach at the time and Lou Moneymaker, one of the USABA founders, was working on bringing coaches together to promote athletics. At a meeting in Kansas City, Dr. David Beaver saw this as a perfect opportunity for John to bring in instructions for powerlifting for the visually impaired community. With Burt Boyer, the man who coined the name United States Association of Blind Athletes, and all other members dedicating their time and care, USABA was born.
John has been there from the beginning, putting in an immense amount of time researching any potential modifications needed with lifting, listening to parent feedback, and working with people interested in powerlifting. In 1988 and 1990, he was the team leader for the World Powerlifting Championships where the United States won 5 events. John helped expand the interest and effort in powerlifting across borders, influencing individuals such as John Baxter to implement similar programs in Canada. Beyond this, John’s dedication has been recognized by his peers and the visually impaired community through words of thanks and award presentations, which has truly touched him.
Being able to involve himself in such a challenging and gratifying atmosphere, John has walked away with many heart-warming memories. He was selected to be a Paralympic coach at the 1984 Summer Paralympics in New York and recalled a particular moment that left him in awe. One morning, four athletes with amputations were brought to the edge of the pool to begin the medley swim. Watching the resilience and grit of those four swimmers brought John to tears and showed him the epitome of a true athlete.
MOTIVATIONAL MESSAGE: “Treat people with fairness, be humble, and be obedient.”
Photo Description: John is pictured standing in front of a building wearing a blue button-down dress shirt and with his hands folded in front of him.
MEMBER SINCE: 2014
HOMETOWN: Los Angeles, Calif.
BACKGROUND: I grew up in California and currently do property management. I do not have children and am single and have never been married. I am a fairly private person and I use sports and the USABA National Fitness Challenge to help me break through some of those boundaries.
ATHLETICS: I enjoy yoga, hiking, running and snowboarding! When I get the chance I cycle, shoot and do archery.
USABA INVOLVEMENT: I went to a program for disabled veterans in Alabama after going to a conference with BVA (Blinded Veterans Association). It was for people who were interested in getting back into sporting activities, so we got to try out different sports, after which I contacted USABA because they had a representative there for Paralympic sports and I was interested in archery. USABA means an opportunity to experience and explore sports I never thought I could. I have been able to achieve success in other sports and gain the confidence to push harder and surprise myself. USABA gives me a chance to make friends and interact with people because I often isolate myself.
UPCOMING EVENTS: I plan on doing a few 5k and 10k events. I am looking into doing my first half marathon. I am working daily toward doing a full King Pigeon and a Pincha in my yoga practice, finding peace, general openness, and mindfulness in my practice.
MOTIVATIONAL QUOTE: “I would rather do yoga.” -Shianti Lee
Photo Description: Shianti is pictured seated on the bow of a sailboat leaning against the rail with her back to the water. She is wearing a brownish/orange patterned dress with matching headband and black sunglasses.
MEMBER SINCE: 2009
HOMETOWN: Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania
BACKGROUND: I grew up with two brothers and a sister in Philadelphia. I’m a network and systems engineer at Bryn Mawr College. I’m one of the people in the background making sure the Wi-Fi and all of the other college systems stay up and running so everyone can get their work done. In October, I married my best friend Paige. We’re enjoying starting our married lives together and can’t wait to welcome our first baby at the end of July!
HOBBIES: When I’m not busy with my day job, I’m busy with planning and running activities for the Blind Sports Organization where I’ve been the president of our board of directors since 2017. Our organization runs programs for goalball, beep baseball, and various events for youth members throughout the year.
USABA INVOLVEMENT:My first experience with USABA was the 2009 Goalball Youth Nationals in St. Augustine, Fla., where I played on BSO’s youth team. I continued to play goalball on and off until I ultimately made the switch to be an official in 2015. USABA has had a huge impact on my life. I’ve met a bunch of great people and the group of referees I work with have become part of my family. Goalball season is one of my favorite times of the year!
UPCOMING EVENTS: Looking forward to the arrival of our new baby boy!
FAVORITE QUOTE: “Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.” -Albus Dumbledore
Photo Description: A headshot of Matt Shields wearing a red USA National Goalball Team polo.
HOMETOWN: Camarillo, California
PROFESSION: Amy is the vision product management director for Anthem, Inc. She is responsible for local markets in the western states of California, Colorado, and Nevada, as well as national accounts in all Anthem states.
HOBBIES: Amy takes her therapy dog, Blossom, on visits, skiing, walking, traveling in the U.S. and abroad, and to her volunteer work with USABA. She is also a member of the USABA Board of Directors.
USABA INVOLVEMENT: Amy attended many of the Anthem-sponsored USABA Winter Festivals in Breckenridge, Colorado, with a colleague who, at the time, was on the USABA board of directors. Upon the conclusion of her friend’s term, it was suggested that she explore becoming a board member. “I was thrilled to be nominated to serve this wonderful organization and I’m now in my second term as a board member,” says Wasson.
FONDEST USABA MEMORY: Amy acknowledges there are many great memories from which to choose, but she singles out last year’s keynote address by Paralympic skier Danielle Umstead at the Anthem Winter Ski Festival in Breckenridge. “It was very moving to hear her story and her level of achievement with the U.S. Paralympic Team as a competitive downhill skier,” recalls Wasson.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO GIVE?: “There are so many that have challenges and obstacles to overcome and so many worthy organizations. I think the heart of USABA just resonates with me in its pursuit to help all blind and visually impaired people have access to physical activities or sport, whether it is a local group that has easier activities as well as a social community to connect with, or the higher-achieving individuals that compete at a national and international level. All individuals are represented and can get as little or as much as they seek with USABA. I have heard from many individuals that their first step into getting active was through this great organization and the mentors and support they have provided.”
Photo Description: A professional headshot of Amy Wasson wearing a black suit.
MEMBER SINCE: 1993
HOME STATE: Nebraska
BACKGROUND: Mike Royal grew up on a small farm community in southeastern Nebraska. He currently resides in Magnolia, Texas, outside Houston. Mike and his wife, Wendy, will be celebrating 20 years of marriage in October 2020. They have a teenage daughter and son. Mike also has his fifth guide dog, a Fidelco German Shepherd. Wendy is raising a black Labrador puppy for Southeastern Guide Dogs. In November 2019, Royal took an early retirement after a 25+-year career as an IT auditor. He is currently taking time off before exploring opportunities for his next phase of work-life. In his spare time, he attends family members CrossFit competitions and football games.
ATHLETICS: Mike Royal participates in international competitor waterskiing. His cross-training includes rowing, cycling, running, and weightlifting. Through the 1990s and early 2000s, he ran several national events with USABA and also began to compete in blind water skiing tournaments. In 2009, he made his first international team. To date, Mike has set the audio slalom world record seven times and earned a spot on the U.S. Adaptive Water Ski Team five teams. Mike has been able to ski at Disabled World Championships held in Australia, France, Norway, and the USA. This past summer, the USA Adaptive Water Ski Team won the gold medal at the 14th Barbara Bolding/Jim Grew Disabled Water Ski World Championships in Skarnes, Norway. Mike also won his first individual international gold medal. He became the 2019 vision impaired men slalom world champion and tied the world record with my performance in the finals.
USABA INVOLVEMENT: When Mike was 24 in the early 1990s, he attended his first USABA event. It was a long-distance running camp in Colorado Springs. At the time, Mike was struggling to accept his vision loss and was already legally blind due to retinitis pigmentosa. The camp started his love for blind sporting competitions and helped him adjust to more vision loss that continued to occur through the years. Looking back, at the age of 51, Mike has been a USABA member for more than half his life. “I encourage anyone considering trying a blind sport to contact USABA. You never know how attending your first USABA event might transform your life journey. Thank you to USABA and all the supporters who have helped make my blind sporting life journey so sweet,” said Mike..
UPCOMING EVENTS: The audio slalom world record Mike set in July 2019 has been broken, so he plans to pursue the record again in 2020. Mike also will compete at the Adaptive Water Ski Team Trials in September 2020 to try and earn a spot on the U.S. Adaptive Water Ski Team that will compete in Australia in 2021.
MOTIVATIONAL MESSAGE: “I focus on what I can do and do not let others limit me.”
Photo Description: Action shot of Mike Royal waterskiing, with his arms slightly behind him, wearing black goggles, and a WaterSki Championships tank top.
HOMETOWN: Colorado Springs, Colorado
PROFESSION: Carol has been the travel consultant for USA Hockey for 30 years. Before their move to Colorado, she was the travel consultant for the Indiana Pacers. Steve was a clinical social worker in private practice treating adolescent psychiatric issues for 35 years until he retired two years ago. He now works as the Grants Manager for USABA.
HOBBIES: Carol and Steve love to travel and hike in the mountains. Steve shoots wilderness photography as well. They are both avid Indiana University basketball fans. Carol is also a die-hard Colorado Rockies baseball fan.
USABA INVOLVEMENT: When Steve was in college, he had a chemical burn to his eye that caused him to lose some vision. He promised himself that if he recovered his eyesight that he would repay the eye gods by doing some good for the blind community. Years ago, he met Mark Lucas, executive director of USABA, and asked if he could volunteer. He ended up volunteering for the next 10 years and upon retiring from his practice he joined USABA as the grants manager.
FONDEST USABA MEMORY: Steve: Attended the USABA Marathon Championships last year in California. The post-race debriefing with athletes and guides sharing their running experiences was incredibly powerful.
Carol: Volunteered at a local goalball tournament for USABA and was inspired by what the athletes could accomplish without sight.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO GIVE?: “The opportunity to engage with and observe such tremendous and inspiring athletes is an honor for us both. We both have experienced the benefits of sports involvement in our own lives as well as for both of our boys’ lives. We have made so many good friends and had such positive experiences through sports throughout our lives and want everyone to have that same opportunity. Through adaptive sports, USABA provides this opportunity to many aspiring athletes and weekend warriors who are blind or visually impaired.” Steve Rauch
Photo Description: Steve and Carol wear sunglasses as they stand in the sunshine with a majestic Rocky Mountain backdrop behind them.
MEMBER SINCE: 2018
HOMETOWN: Dacula, Georgia
BACKGROUND: I grew up in Dacula, Georgia. I have a brother, Logan (20), and a sister, Madeline (19), who were adopted from the Ukraine. My dad, Matt, is a real estate agent and my mom, Carmen, is a full-time ‘momager’ for me. I am a full-time student.
ATHLETICS: I am a Paralympic swimmer who currently holds over 20 American records and one world record. I competed in the 2016 Paralympic Games at the age of 15 and became the world champion in the 400-meter freestyle in 2017 and won four more medals. I won six medals at the Pan Pacific Championships and four medals at the 2019 Parapan Am Games. I am also involved in other adaptive sports including tandem cycling and triathlon.
USABA INVOLVEMENT: My first USABA experience was a sport camp that I attended when I was little. USABA has helped me meet other kids with visual impairments and learn more about adaptive sports.
UPCOMING GOALS: I am excited about competing at the 2020 Paralympic swimming trials and hopefully qualifying for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
QUOTE YOU FIND MOTIVATIONAL: “Just keep swimming.”
Photo Description: McClain Hermes stands in front of an American flag wearing a black swim suit with several medals around her neck and her hands on her hips.
HOMETOWNS: St. Augustine, Florida & Chapin, South Carolina
PROFESSION: Gary is a retired CEO/business owner in the sporting goods industry and Lori is a registered nurse.
HOBBIES: Gary and Lori both enjoy traveling, spending time with family, fishing, boating, reading, and outdoor activities.
USABA INVOLVEMENT: In 2006 a friend of Gary’s who just had a child diagnosed with a visual impairment asked him to serve as a founding board member of the Arkansas Chapter of NAPV. Through fundraising activities for NAPVI, Gary met USABA Executive Director Mark Lucas. He was invited to become a member of the USABA board of directors in 2008 and still serves today in the role of treasurer.
Lori’s involvement relates to Gary’s and through the life experience of a very dear friend who was born blind. This inspired her to get involved with initiatives serving the blind.
Both Lori and Gary have had the honor and privilege of meeting numerous visually impaired and blind athletes, listening to amazing speakers at the USABA Breakfast of Champions and enjoying the winter ski event in Breckenridge.
FONDEST USABA MEMORY: Gary has attended many USABA Breakfast with Champions events over the years, stating, “These events are inspiring and humbling to me. Attending these events recharges me and reminds me of why we do what we do at USABA.” Lori’s fondest USABA memory is attending and participating in the winter ski event in Breckenridge, recalling, “What an amazing inspiration to watch these courageous individuals with absent or limited vision skiing down the mountains.”
WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO GIVE?: “Sports participation and the great outdoors has played such an important role in our life and the lives of our three children. We believe the opportunity to participate in sports provides the basis for individuals to develop great attributes such as confidence, leadership, fair play, competitiveness and a sense of being a team player. We strongly believe that all individuals should have the opportunity to participate in sports and outdoor activities and in supporting USABA financially we are a part of making the mission a reality.” -Gary & Lori Remensnyder
Photo Description: Gary and Lori smiling at the camera.
MEMBER SINCE: 2014
HOMETOWN: Warren, Ohio
BACKGROUND: My occupation is as a team lead in the call center department at the Cleveland Sight Center. Part of the department’s outcomes is to employ individuals with low or no vision to help serve customers in an inbound call center. My family is very important to me. Growing up with two brothers and a sister has given me plenty of experience with doing activities together. Today, I have a one-year-old nephew and a 10-year-old niece that I hope to be an example of how hard work through difficult situations can result in positive outcomes.
ATHLETICS: Growing up in Warren, Ohio, I participated in soccer programs through the schools I attended. As part of the transformation of my athletic and health objectives, I started running in 2014 (during the National first Fitness Challenge). Then I began hiking, making two different 30-mile ventures into wilderness trails. Now, with the development of 5-a-side soccer, I have the goal to be a part of a competitive team that potentially would represent the United States.
USABA INVOLVEMENT: The first time I was introduced to USABA was during a National Fitness Challenge. USABA allowed the Cleveland Sight Center to provide trackers that showed how many steps I took daily. This was a very positive experience which encouraged me to be involved with recreational blind activities. USABA has impacted my life in a positive manner. So much so that I can say that the encouragement to be active has been the building blocks of a competitive transformation. The team sports have given me the outlet that shows me that with perseverance through difficult times there are still ways of reaching goals together.
UPCOMING GOALS: My upcoming events will be a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot. This year I plan to participate in both the two-mile and five-mile runs. Following that event, I hope to participate in the 5-a-side soccer camp in California with USABA.
Photo Description: John Naples dribbling a ball at a recent 5-a-side soccer practice.
HOMETOWN: Sacramento, Calif.
PROFESSION: Michael is a practicing ophthalmologist and Shelly is a retired attorney.
HOBBIES: Michael enjoys skiing, hiking and computers, and Shelly treasures her time with the grandchildren and financial analysis.
USABA INVOLVEMENT: It all funnels back to Richard Hunter, volunteer director of the USABA National Marathon Championships at the California International Marathon (CIM). In 2009, Richard contacted the directors of the CIM to request the addition of a VI division. One of the directors is a friend of Michael. He knew that Michael had an interest in sports and vision, so he put him in touch with Richard. At that time, Michael became aware of Richard’s work with USABA and 10 years later Michael and Shelly are still involved.
FONDEST USABA MEMORY: Watching goalball at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO GIVE?: “I believe in giving back with a warm hand. USABA is dear to my heart because the core of my career is vision.” -Michael Schermer
Photo Description: Michael and Shelly Schermer outside smiling for the camera, standing in front of one another.
Member since: 2011
Hometown: Long Island, New York
Background: I grew up in Long Island, New York. I’m an only child. I’m very fortunate that my parents always encouraged me to try new things and were huge advocates for me as I was working my way through school, to make sure I got all the accommodations I needed and had a chance to do whatever I wanted to do. The first time I ran or swam competitively was at the New York State Games for the Physically Challenged in 1986. I’m a lawyer and my practice focuses on public interest litigation. Since 2014 I’ve been a staff attorney at Public Justice in Washington, D.C. We represent consumers and workers who are suing corporations for discrimination or other types of unfair treatment. I love the fast pace of litigation and getting to match wits with people on the other side for a cause I believe in. I guess it’s another way that I’m able to channel my competitive streak. I recently got married to a great guy named Mark Faulkner, who has also joined the USABA community by becoming a goalball referee.
Athletics: I love outdoor sports: cycling, running, hiking and skiing. A fun “first” for me last fall was to transition from indoor rock climbing at a gym to outdoor rock climbing on an actual rock face, which was a challenging but incredibly rewarding experience. I also enjoy water sports like kayaking, and would love to give windsurfing or paddleboarding a try. I’ve been playing goalball since 2009 and really enjoy the team aspect of that sport. The first time I ran or swam competitively was at the New York State Games for the Physically Challenged in 1986. I’m pretty much up for any new experience—there are very few things I won’t try at least once!
USABA Involvement: My first USABA experience was a tandem cycling development camp that I attended at the Lakeshore facility in Alabama in 2010. I was blown away by the caliber of the athletes in attendance, and their desire to compete. That got my own competitive juices flowing and encouraged me to take my fitness to the next level.
Upcoming Goals: Last year I competed in my first triathlon, the Waterman in Rock Hall, Maryland, doing the sprint distance. Next year I want to graduate to the Olympic distance but need to put in some more hours in the pool first to increase my swimming stamina.
Favorite Quote: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”—Fred Devito
Photo Description: Karla and her pilot smile for the camera as the pose for a photo next to a lake while straddling their tandem bicycle.
Member since 2016
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Background: I am a lead accessibility consultant for Target. My husband Ryan and I have been married for 13 years and we currently live in Minneapolis, Minn., with our cat
Athletics: I am an endurance athlete, concentrating mostly on triathlon.
USABA Involvement: My first USABA experience was the tandem bike racing camp at the Olympic Training Center in September 2016. I appreciate that USABA is an organization dedicated to showing blind or visually impaired people that they are athletes. As a kid I couldn’t play the typical sports and so I just assumed that I wasn’t an athlete, but programs run by organizations such as the USABA are breaking those stereotypes every day, and I’m so happy that there are people who believe in us and connect blind and visually impaired athletes with sports and with each other.
Upcoming Events: I recently attended the visually impaired triathlon camp at the OTC in Colorado Springs in September, and my next event is the Twin Cities 10 mile race I’m running with a friend of mine. I’m working to come back from an injury, but am excited to take the winter to continue to get stronger and ready for the 2020 triathlon season.
Favorite Quote: “Whether you think you can or you can’t –you’re right.” -Henry Ford
Photo Description: Randi Strunk and her guide finishing the Ironman Texas in 2018. Both have their arms raised in the air, grinning.