Priest lets blind skiers "see"

Describing it as a lesson in trust, American priest Fr Bill Key volunteers to lead legally blind skiers down the slopes of a US mountain resort.

The Milwaukee US Catholic Herald reports that Fr Key, who is pastor at St Joseph Parish in Waukesha, Wisconsin is a trained guide for the Lions Club Blind Outdoor Leisure Development (BOLD).

A volunteer for the last 20 years, Fr Key leads legally blind skiers down the hills of Sunburst Ski Hill in Kewaskum in neighbouring Milwaukee state.

For six Sunday nights during winter, BOLD members and skiers take passes up and down the hills. Blind people who have never skied are taught by an instructor. When they get on the slopes, guides follow them down the hill, giving them directional commands.

The voice of their instructor is the only way they can make it down the hill. Fr Key told the Herald that it's a lesson in trust - similar to the blindfolded "trust walk" done on many Confirmation retreats.

"I ski behind them and tell them to go left or right and when to stop," he said. "You need to do it in a very calm way. All the anxiety in my voice is transferred to them."

Fr Key said the skiers express their appreciation and the guides know they've done something nice for another.

"I'm giving back by helping others enjoy the night," he said. "Without a guide they couldn't do it."

Blind skier Jennie Post who is a member of St Margaret Mary Parish in Milwaukee said that "trust is extremely important between a blind skier and a guide because if you don't trust who is guiding you, you could get seriously injured."

"You need to listen and pay attention and have a good response time. I feel that trust is number one," she concluded.

Blind skiers guided down slopes by voice of priest (Catholic Online, 6/3/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
St Joseph's, Waukesha, Wisconsin

7 Mar 2007