Veterans Health Administration
Army Veteran Finds Inspiration through Sports
Deanna Callender has learned to focus without sight. In 2007, the Army and Army National Guard Veteran was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease that would eventually take her eyesight. The news was anything but tragic for her.
“As it got worse, it became a blessing,” Callender says. “I truly feel that God chose me for this.”
Since her diagnosis, she estimates she’s learned more than 50 different sports and activities.
Despite her near-complete vision loss -- she maintains light perception in one eye -- the 59-year-old from Minnesota is living her life to the fullest, she says, and wants to set an example for others.
“I was always an athlete and a dancer, and I want to do good things through these adaptive sports. I want to inspire other Veterans.”
Callender is joining nearly 400 Veterans from across the country at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo., April 1-6. It will be her sixth trip to the clinic. Veterans learn a number of sports and activities at the clinic, including alpine and Nordic skiing, rock climbing and scuba diving.
“I hadn’t skied in probably 20 years,” she says of her first experience at the event. “I love it more now than I ever did.”
“Fishing keeps me in one place for more than a minute.”
Callender was introduced to adaptive sports by therapists at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, who told her about VA’s National Disabled Veterans Training, Exposure and Experience tournament – TEE for short -- where visually-impaired Veterans learn to golf.
After attending the TEE tournament for several years she says other Veterans told her about the Winter Sports Clinic and other sports events in Minneapolis. Her favorite thing to do – fishing.
“I’m a real Minnesota girl. We’re the ‘Land of 10,000 Lakes,’” she laughs. “It’s good for me. It keeps me in one place for more than a minute.”
Callender with her guide Uta Moncur
Since her diagnosis, she estimates she’s learned more than 50 different sports and activities, including: kayaking, goal ball, horseback riding, blind baseball, surfing, sailing, archery and whitewater rafting. She says she hopes other Veterans will follow her lead and learn about the possibilities available to disabled athletes.
“Never stop moving. Do not concentrate on anything you cannot do,” she says. “Focus on what you can and then do it.”
More about the Winter Sports Clinic: Miracles on a Mountainside
Inspiration, courage, pride, and purpose – experience it all right alongside our heroes at the 2018 National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.
The Winter Sports Clinic, hosted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and DAV (Disabled American Veterans), is the world leader in adaptive winter sports instruction for injured Veterans and their families. The Clinic consists of downhill and cross-country ski lessons, a challenge race, adaptive sports workshops and educational classes, plus sponsored and self-directed alternate activities such as scuba diving, sled hockey, a climbing wall and other activities.
Participation is open to U.S. military Veterans with qualifying disabilities, such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, orthopedic amputations, visual impairments, and certain neurological conditions and other disabilities. Veterans with an inpatient or outpatient status with the VA and active-duty military service members are also eligible.
For many Veterans, the journey is just beginning. Others are gathering steam and crushing goals set along the way.
The Winter Sports Clinic promotes sports therapy and rehabilitation through adaptive Alpine and Nordic skiing, rock climbing, wheelchair self-defense, sled hockey, scuba diving and other adaptive sports and activities.
The hope is that Veterans will build upon this experience and continue to lead active, healthy lives through continued support and lessons learned. The clinic is made possible by hundreds of volunteers, strategic corporate partnerships, nonprofit organizations and individual donors.Find more information at https://www.wintersportsclinic.org/