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Celebrating Our Volunteers

Group shot CCB Volunteers 2018

Thirteen is our lucky number when you look at the Rogue’s Gallery in this photo. These are thirteen volunteers who contribute so muchto the Colorado Center for the Blind and to our students. Yet they humbly protest that they get back more than they give. We suppose that’s their call, but we’re telling you they give a lot. They teach Braille to seniors and drive vans, sort through the truckloads of Bed, Bath and beyond donations we received last year, teach students how to write a resume and several read a section or two of the ACT to one of our students. They drive students to rock climb and ski and sky dive, from the airport when they first arrive and back when they graduate, to job interviews and doctor appointments. If it’s true that nonprofits run on volunteers, then it’s no mystery why we’re in such great shape!

So beyond the excellent Romano’s pizza, here’s our thanks to Diane, Janet, John, Carolyn, Geoff, Mike, Josie, Ron, Bill, Kay, Sharon, Julie and Greg! And that also goes for Tony, Soosan, William and Casey who couldn’t make it today!

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From Motorcycles to the New Parking Lot to the #NFBCO18 Convention: Catching Up with All of Autumn

CCB students and staff gather near a row of motorcycles lined up in front of the McGeorge Mountain Terrace Apartments

There are lots of opportunities for students at the Colorado Center for the Blind. Some are part of the formal program, others staff and students develop out of their own interests and contacts. This fall activities like motorcycle rides and rock climbing were mixed in with graduations and the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado Convention, to name a few.

Pictured above: On September 9 students had a chance to go for a motorcycle ride into the mountains. Members of the Sentinels Motorcycle Club loaded up students and took a tour as far as Indian Hills before returning for lunch at Wrigley’s Chicago Bar & Grill in golden. We thank Dishon Spears for organizing this each year.

In the pictures below, Brian and Jodi furthered their scuba diving adventures on October 7 at the Downtown Denver Aquarium. This is a non-required activity instigated by Brian, a certified scuba diver before he became blind. It was Jodi’s second dive ever. You can read more about it in our previous post on scuba diving

There’s a great picture of Brad from above as he works his way up the rock face west of Golden. All students make two rock climbing trips in the fall, and there are also more in the spring. These are a required and long-standing part of our unique training program. What a thrill, what a feeling of confidence when you make it to the top! We also had our martial arts class, and 6 students received their orange belts this fall.

Construction continues out front. In fact, the parking lot is finished and is lovely, if that could ever be said about a parking lot! Just a few more weeks should do it, as there are a couple of more concrete pours to do and landscaping to finish up. This photo is from an earlier, warmer phase of the construction!

Everyone attended the National federation of the Blind Convention October 25 to 28 in Lone Tree. As part of the program, we had a multigenerational panel talk about the Colorado Center for the Blind – we turned 30 years old this year! Ty Gillespie and his mom Laura are shown below. Ty first came to us at age 5 to take part in Confidence Camp for Kids. He’s 13 now, and nobody’s worried about his confidence anymore!

Finally, we’ve had a number of our students graduate this fall, Loren shown below, but also Danielle, Brian (scuba diving), Tad, Carlene and Nick. Naturally, as these veteran students move on, we bring in new ones, so the faces have changed as quickly as the autumn leaves!


Brian and Jodi Scuba Diving at the Denver Aquarium

Looking down at Brad who is nearly 80 feet up the rock face. We see tall trees and the river far below.

Loren M. Ringing his Bell of Freedom at Graduation- Julie clapping

Dust clouds swirl around a front-end loader as dirt and debris are moved for our parking lot construction

Ty and his mom at the podium at NFBCO18

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Thumbs Up for Scuba Divers!

Group of 14 in Scuba Gear in the corner of the pool smile and wave
Brian organized the scuba experience at A-1 Scuba in Littleton. A certified diver himself, he found satisfaction in sharing the sport he loves with his friends and fellow Center students.

A group of seven Colorado Center for the blind students took a scuba lesson on August 31, thanks to the enthusiasm, organization and experience of one of their peers, Brian Bussard and A-1 Scuba and Aquatics Center in Littleton. In fact, A-1 donated the lesson, including gear and instructor time!

Bussard, who came to CCB as a student six months ago, is already a certified diver. He has been for 10 years and loves the sport, but hadn’t been diving in the two years since he became blind, so it was as much his own motivation to get back to the sport as his desire to share it with his fellow students that resulted in his setting up the entire adventure.

“It was really satisfying to share this (scuba diving) with my friends,” he said. From the looks of these photos, everyone found it a pretty satisfying experience!

Thanks to A-1 for working with Brian and our students!

Two women in wet suits stand inside a swimming poolWith her instructor Carol, Annette Gives the thumbs up.
A young man in diving mask and snorkel gives the thumbs up after surfacing with his instructorLoren decided to try snorkeling. Here he is in the pool with his instructor AnnaMarie.


Two women at the surface of a pool with diving masks pushed onto their foreheadsDanielle and instructor Rita surface near the edge of the pool.
A tall young man in t-shirt stands with his petite, wet-suited instructor in the shallow end of the poolAbdi (6 feet, 8 inches)and Lynn (not so much) partner in the pool to prove, not only that blindness need not hold you back, but there are no maximum or minimum height limits to enjoy scuba diving.


Four pairs of divers, some at the surface, some just below, and some on the bottom of the pool
Students paired off with A1 instructors for their practice dives.
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Belding Travels with Hockey Stick All the Way to the First U.S. #BlindHockey team #LivetheLifeYouWant @USAHockey

Daniel works the puck across the ice
Daniel in full Hockey gear in action on the ice


Since January, fans attending Colorado Avalanche games have been treated to between-periods video of the Try Blind Hockey Day on January 17. Over 50 blind Coloradans went out on the ice that day, some for the first time, others with a stick in their hand for the first time. Fans are impressed by the video, but it is little more than an historical artifact now.

In just three short months, blind hockey has gone from being nonexistent in Colorado to a sport avidly pursued by dozens of players. And it’s produced a member of the newly-formed U.S. National Blind Hockey Team under the auspices of USA Hockey.

Daniel Belding, Cane Travel Instructor at CCB, was invited to be a member of the first U.S. team. The only other team right now is Canada, but other countries are anxious to get their blind athletes out on the ice soon, spurred on perhaps by the first-ever international blind hockey games planned for October. That’s when the new U.S. team will meet Canada in Pittsburgh for a best-of-three series.

Since January, about a dozen and a half Metro-area skaters, men and women and some as young as six years old, met weekely for practice. Craig Fitzpatrick, a member of the Washington Wheelers was temporarily located here for his day job and certainly helped inspire young blind hockey players. Fitzpatric visited CCB in March to talk about blind hockey, though a number of students were already going to practices. Fitzpatrick was also picked for the U.S. team.

As a result of all that ice time, Belding and fellow Cane Travel Instructor Steve Patten were invited to attend the 14th annual Toyota-USA Hockey Disabled Hockey Festival in Chicago last weekend. It was from among the 80-plus blind skaters that Belding, Fitzpatrick and others were invited to try out for the national team.

It’s never been a secret that Daniel loves hockey. So much so that he played on sighted teams in high school leagues in the Denver area. Though he didn’t think of himself as blind at the time despite limited central vision and even more limited peripheral vision. He nonetheless developed a number of alternative techniques to stay on the ice.

“You can hear the (standard) puck a lot better as the game goes on,” Daniel said of one of those alternate techniques, noting that the ice gets rougher with prolonged play.

But his experience with blind hockey dates to January 17 and the Try Blind Hockey Day at the Pepsi Center. He couldn’t be having more fun!

Blind hockey is a relatively new sport in the U.S. Though it started in Canada in the 1970s it wasn’t played below the 49th Parallel until three years ago. Along with teams in Canada, there were at least seven teams active in the U.S. at the start of this year, including the Wheelers. There will soon be more than a dozen. So the rapid rise in popularity of blind hockey in the Denver area really isn’t anything new, but parallels the rapid expansion of blind hockey in the U.S. since 2014. And maybe it prefigures a worldwide trend to come!

What’s up next for the national team is a skills camp in July and then a final cut-down to 14 from 30 in August. Those will be the players that face off against Canada in the fall.

For Belding, there’s no chance he’ll be slowing down. The chance to play the game he loves so much has energized him. He and Patten have been on the ice three mornings a week at Denver University for months already – at 5:30 a.m. If anything, he’ll be looking for more ice time now!

Craig Fitzpatrick holds up an adapted hockey puck while he gives a talk about Blind Hockey at the Colorado Center for the Blind

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Taking It to the Net: CCB There at Start of Blind Hockey in Colorado @USAHockey

CCB students go out on the ice in their hockey gear

Back in January the Colorado Avalanche hosted a “Try Hockey” event for prospective blind hockey players. It featured several blind hockey players from across Canada and the United States and was coordinated by USA Hockeyand the Colorado Amateur Hockey Association. Forty-two blind participants, including youth and some,like me, who were much older, took to the ice that day. About half of those participants came from CCB. You can read more about it in this article, Try-Blind-Hockey Day Another Example of How Hockey is for Everyone.

The goal was to encourage amateur blind hockey in the area. It’s working! Since that mid-January event, an average of 18 or so blind hockey enthusiasts have been hitting the ice, practicing passes and shots with the idea of creating some serious competition, says CCB Travel Instructor Daniel Belding, who is well-beyond being termed a mere hockey enthusiast.It was Daniel who took the lead for CCB when we were first contacted about the Try Blind Hockey event.

As a matter of fact, Daniel will be one of only three blind Coloradans who will travel to the 14th annual Toyota-USA Hockey Disabled Hockey Festival in Chicago April 5 to 8, along with his colleague Steve Patten and CCB alum Mike Straub. There they will play with about 80 other very, very serious blind hockey players.

So yes, this very much looks like the start of competitive blind hockey in Colorado!

(Disclaimer: Because of my limitations, not as a blind photographer but as a skater, these photos are taken either while leaning up against the glass or from inside the players bench area. The best skaters that day were out of my reach as a skating photographer, and you should look at the USA Hockey Red Line blog post for some really good ones. By the way, the Avalanche have continued to show video clips from that first day between thirds at home games.)

CCB students & alums put on skates and pads
Ravi flashes a huge smile through the face guard of her hockey helmet


Dan in his hockey helmet and mask
Mickey and her guide take a break on the players bench


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Recent Newspaper Articles Highlight CCB Partnerships

We wanted to bring your attention to a couple of newspaper articles that appeared in November and brought attention to the Center. Both reflect great partnerships that help us ensure that our students can, as our tag line says, learn to “Take Charge with Confidence and Self-reliance!”

The first, from November 5, appeared in the Denver Post’s YourHub. It’s about our neighbor and partner, Angel Concept in downtown Littleton. The article isn’t about the Center, but it features one of our students who has been learning job skills there. For a number of years, we’ve counted on Angel Concept to also mentor one of our summer youth in the “Earn & Learn Program”, helping them gain valuable work experience.

Here’s the article by YourHubs Holly Graham:

Disadvantaged women get a chance to build confidence, learn retail skills at this Littleton boutique

The second article, written by Alex DeWind, appeared in the Colorado Community Media newspapers on November 17. CCM includes such south Metro newspapers as the Centennial Citizen and the Littleton Independent

The article covers our indoor skydiving excursion at iFLY in Lone Tree

Read the iFLY article at:

Learning to Fly: Colorado Center for the Blind students take a field trip to indoor skydiving facility

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Watch CCB Indoor Skydiving @iFLYDenver featured last night on @CBSDenver!

Leon Free Flying the I Fly Denver Wind Tunnel
I-Fly Denver invited us over on Monday to take flight and learn about the science around wind tunnels and things like force and resistance. There was math involved, just saying.

then we got to experience push and pull full-body, so to speak. Here’s a story from CBS Denver Channel 4 last night:

Skydiving Business Helps Students At Center For The Blind

Thanks to everyone at I-Fly Denver – we had a great time!

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A Stroll through the Corn Maze

Students and staff took a Friday afternoon to visit the Chatfield Farms Corn Maze. Martin took his GoPro along and brought back this footage. It was “Structured Discovery” at its most fun!

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NF Challenge Olympic Day 2017

Volunteers steady tandem bicycles as students get aboard
CCB Summer students Mary and Cheyenne get on the tandem bikes with EyeCycle Volunteers while Christina waits her turn

There wasn’t time to sit still till lunch was served, but none were inclined to do so at Saturday’s #NFChallenge Olympic Day 2017. There were just too many things to try out – beep baseball demonstration with the Colorado Storm, judo and power-lifting, goal ball and tandem bicycling with Eye-Cycle! Everybody got to take a turn at three or four of these activities, and a few even took a second bike ride or got into a couple of actual goal ball matches!

But participants were able to sit still long enough to listen to Paralympic runner Chaz Davis talk about how he went from “overweight and out-of-shape” to being the current record-holder in the marathon for blind and visually impaired runners.

And then it was back to another round of fun – and fitness – activities!

A woman swings the bat at the ball coming toward her
Julie Deden connected with her first swing at the Beep Baseball demonstration.

Thanks to the Denver Post for publishing a story on the #NFChallenge Olympic Day.

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Shout out to our five skydiving students!

a grinning young woman strapped to her jump-master gives a double thumbs-up
Ashley was one of five CCB students to go skydiving last week.

That’s right, five of our students stepped out into the atmosphere last Saturday with Mile High Skydiving in Longmont. Bill, a long-time CCB volunteer and driver for the expedition, made a jump as well.

The students organized this themselves made the plans and recruited the volunteers. So, here’s to Shane, Zack and Zach, Ashley, Lindsey – and Bill! You got to love the confidence and their willingness to challenge themselves. Sure, they were strapped to experienced jump-masters, but by comparison, crossing Santa Fe Drive is cake!