Northern Plains Visions of Sport Camp
Dr. James Mastro

My name is Dr. Jim Mastro. I am a professor of Professional and Physical Education at Bemidji State University Minnesota. I have to tell you a little bit about myself.  I am blind.  I was born blind in my right eye due to hypoplasia of the optic nerve (the nerve was not fully developed).  At age eleven I had a curtain rod thrown into my left eye. At the time of the accident, I had two operations that managed to save my vision. Despite my visual difficulties and pressure to do otherwise, I was very active in sports such as track and field, gymnastics and wrestling. Between my junior and senior years of high school, I experienced a retina detachment stemming from the accident when I was eleven. I underwent four operations, but my vision did not return. I was permanently blind.

 

I attended Augsburg College and again became involved in wrestling. I ended up a conference champion; a member of the United States team for the World University games; and an alternate for the 1976 United States Olympic Team, the first person who was blind ever to do so.  About that same time individuals with visual impairment and blindness (VI and B) were added to the Paralympics [Olympics for individuals with physical or sensory impairments]. I am fortunate to have been on seven United States Paralympic teams (1976 - 2000) receiving ten medals in four different sports first person to do so.

 

I started the Northern Plains Visions of Sport Camp (NPVSC) in 1993 with help from the courage center. It was started to give children and youth with VI or B the same opportunities I had to make sports participation a part of their life. Since NPVSC began in 1993, we have introduced over 150 children with VI or B into the world of sports. The reason for NPVSC is twofold: One, to introduce individuals with VI or B to sports and athletic involvement in their neighborhoods, schools, state, national, including possibly representing our country in the Paralympics and Olympics. The other reason is to help individuals who are receiving educational degrees in adapted physical activity and special education understand this low incidence disability as a counselor, coach and pal to these potential athletes. For many of our campers, NPVSC is the only time they interact with peers with similar disabilities. Working individually with counselors, campers experience kayaks, sailing, wall climbing, beep baseball, goalball, PowerShowdown (air hockey for the blind), track and field, cycling, swimming and judo. Often campers are changing what it means to be blind.