When Mark DeMontis lost his sight at age 17, he never imagined that one day he’d become one of Canada’s most important voices for inclusion and accessibility in the sport of hockey. But that’s what unfolded. After unexpectedly losing his central sight in both eyes to Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) – and his dream of playing in the NHL ended. Four years later DeMontis founded Courage Canada, an organization dedicated to help those with blindness or whop are partially sighted, continue playing the game they loved.
A year later DeMontis, an alumni of the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL), launched an amazing 5,000 kilometre fundraising effort. Leaving his home community of Weston Ontario, he inline skated across five provinces to Vancouver, BC, raising awareness and funds to start hockey schools for Canadian youth with sight issues. Two years later, in 2011, DeMontis finished the cross-country adventure by inline skating 2,000 more kilometres from Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Pier 21 back to Weston, Ontario.
For the next five years, Courage Canada worked tirelessly in communities all across the country growing the Parasport of Blind Hockey. By 2016 the Canadian Blind Hockey Association was formed, and the annual National Blind Hockey Tournament in Toronto became a tradition, bringing players and fans from across the country and the United States.
Meanwhile, DeMontis has continued to break down barriers for the blind, hosting a television series, working in development for the provincial government, and beginning production of a documentary and related book on his story. The expansion of Courage Canada’s vision continues, examining the role the sport plays for individuals and families from all walks of life, with an emphasis on inclusion and accessibility for the deaf, amputees, learning disabled, and others.
This 33-year-old visionary and spokesperson has his sights set on making the community and organization more robust and comprehensive with the emphasis on
Leaving No One Behind.