Last month, 22 of our members set off for Canazei in the Italian Dolomites for our annual ski trip. It was the first time on the trip for Steven and Wayne, who have both never been skiing since losing their sights.
For Steven, 41 and from Ashton-Under-Lyne, it was the first time he had been skiing for 20 years. He says: “I went skiing as a teenager but I haven’t been since losing my sight. It was wonderful to get the opportunity to do it again. Skiing is a bit like riding a bike - once you learn all the manoeuvres you really get back into it”.
Steven joined the Infantry in 1996. He was in the 1st Battalion, serving in Cyprus, Northern Ireland and Kuwait, before being discharged in 2001. He lost his sight when he developed amblyopia in his right eye. Fortunately, Steven found Blind Veterans UK and started to receive support from us in February 2019. He says: “I have so much gratitude for the charity, they have done so much for me”.
He regularly attends our Brighton centre, where he has completed IT training courses and taken part in fitness weeks. Steven says: “I knew a few of the veterans who were going on the trip beforehand through meeting them at the fitness weeks. I’m running the Manchester 10k for the charity in May so I will attending one of their fitness weeks beforehand to help me with my training”.
After returning from the ski trip, Steven says: “The trip was perfect! I had a wonderful time and will definitely be going again next year!”
Similarly, Wayne also thoroughly enjoyed the trip. He says: “The ski trip was second to none, I absolutely loved it! It was a great social occasion. The camaraderie and support from everyone was fantastic.
“I’ve been supported by the charity for just over a year now and they have changing my life. I realise now that there are other people in similar situations – I’m not alone”.
Wayne joined the Army in 1975 in the Royal Armoured Corps, serving in Germany, Northern Ireland and the UK. He was discharged in 1993 as a sergeant major. He says: “During my time in service, I played football for the British Army and for Great Britain in partially sighted football at both junior and senior level”.
He began to lose his sight in the 1980s when he was diagnosed with macular scarring while serving in Germany and now only has a small amount of vision left in his right eye. Wayne says: “I was told by doctors that the sight loss was temporary and would only last 10 days but it got worse until everything was blurred”.
Before attending the ski trip, Wayne also visited our Brighton centre to meet other veterans who were going on the trip. He says: “It was great to meet the others before and made going on the trip less daunting. We all travelled to Gatwick together and it was great to meet people like me”.
Wayne also formed a great bond with his skiing guide, Jonathan. He says: “He was brilliant with me. I just want to get on with my life and he understood that. He was there when I needed help and let me be when I didn’t”.
Hopefully we’ll see both Steven and Wayne on the slopes again next year!