Paralympian Jason Dunkerley to brighten the night at CNIB Night Steps in Kanata

9/21/2017

Jason Dunkerley will be the guest speaker at CNIB Night Steps in Kanata on September 23. The Paralympian’s passion for sports is an example of what people can do when they are given the opportunity.

Dunkerley was born with Leber's Congenital Amaurosis, a genetic disorder thought to be caused by abnormal development of photoreceptor cells. His two brothers were born with the same condition.

"Growing up, my parents encouraged my brothers and I to be active," says Dunkerley. "They felt it was important because we [individuals with sight loss] don’t always have those opportunities."

As a result of his parents’ support, Dunkerley grew up loving sports. He played many of them, but felt a particular draw towards running. He ran competitively during his high school years at W. Ross MacDonald School in Brantford and chose to attend the University of Guelph, which has one of the top running programs in the country.

None of the other runners in the Guelph program were blind and the coaches had never trained a runner with sight loss, but that did not stand in Dunkerley’s way.

"The environment was diverse," says Dunkerley. "They had no distinct program for blind runners, but they were excited and open to the idea. Eventually, my teammates came to realize I was trying to do the same things they were and my sight was never an issue."

Dunkerley found it extremely helpful to have the opportunity to train with other athletes at the top of the sport. His hard work and determination led him to the Paralympics. He joined the national team in 1998 and has spent almost 20 years representing Canada.

Dunkerley recognizes the importance of access to sports for all. He has spent time volunteering at organizations like Achilles Ottawa, Active Living Alliance for Canadians with a Disability and Ontario Blind Sports – groups which promote athletics for individuals with disabilities.

"I think so much of what gets people involved is a positive environment," says Dunkerley. "Don’t sell yourself short. Believe you can succeed in your goals. You may have to involve other people to help you, or look for creative ways to get involved, but anyone can do it. Don’t give up and be a little stubborn!"

Join Dunkerley at CNIB Night Steps in Kanata on September 23 at the Brookstreet Hotel. Funds raised at this event will support Foundation programming including sports and recreation.

Learn more at cnib.ca/Ontario.
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