Dear NAPVI Conference Families,

Welcome to the 2009 International Family Conference! We are happy to announce our children’s programs for Saturday and half day Sunday, July 18th and 19th. We have some wonderful activities planned and we thought this would be a great opportunity to provide you with a few details.

For your school-age children and teens we have arranged an opportunity for your child to experience sports through Paralympics and goalball games. The events will include rowing, track and field, judo, and gymnastics, just to name a few. Your child will get the opportunity to experience a bit of last year’s Beijing Paralympics and test their skills in a fun and supportive setting. In addition, during the weekend events, we are planning a teen social, including hip music and conversation, not to mention a chocolate fountain!

For your younger children, plan to bring a change of clothes because we will be presenting a children’s art studio where kids will be encouraged to explore a variety of art media and materials. We will also provide music and dance theater with performers who really know how to get the kids involved! A spacious play area will allow for indoor and outdoor activities.

Your infants will be thoroughly cuddled and cared for in two spacious suites. Infant and toddler games and activities will be offered throughout the day to keep your child at play with their individual “pace” in mind. We’ll need your child background information form in order to ensure your child’s comfort and enjoyment throughout their childcare experience.

Once we have received your information packet, we will contact you to ensure that we have all the information we need to provide the best possible care for your child. In the coming months we will be providing you with additional details regarding our children’s programs. We are looking forward to a great conference and lots of great fun and new experiences for your child. See you in July!

Thanks so much,

Tori Schladen
Children’s Programs Committee Chair

Sue Parker-Strafaci
Children’s Programs Committee Co-Chair

Lead Coaches for Children’s Paralympic Program

Aerial Gilbert

Aerial GilbertFrom the time she was two years old, when she took her first swimming lesson and then competed in her first swim meet at five, being a competitive athlete would have a thread of continuity throughout Aerial’s life. Her first year in college, as she was watching the Olympics, she discovered rowing and knew immediately that was the sport for her. She rowed in college and continued rowing in a single for pleasure on San Francisco Bay while working as a registered nurse at a local hospital.

In 1988, her life changed in an instant as she was using eye drops which had been tampered with and contained the acid lye. She went to a school for the blind to learn braille, cane travel, and other techniques for independence, but still continued to row, which made her feel competent and confident.

In 2002, while perusing the US Rowing web site, she came across a small article looking for athletes to participate in the first US National Adaptive Rowing Team that was to compete in the World Rowing Championships in Seville, Spain. They were hoping the program would lead to rowing being accepted as an official Paralympic sport. The team turned a few heads navigating the venue with wheelchairs, prosthetic legs, and canes and came home with a bronze medal in the four and gold in the double. Every year since 2002, the number of countries participating and the level of competition has increased. In May 2005, rowing was added as an official Paralympics sport and was included for the first time in the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing.

Throughout the year when she is training away from the rest of the adaptive team, Aerial is the only blind rower in a boathouse of 350 members. The team takes turns driving 30 miles round-trip, four days a week, to pick her up and drive her to the boathouse. They don’t treat her any different than other rowers; she is a full member of the team, competing at the same level and with the same expectations.

She credits her family, friends, rowing partners, and current guide dog, Hedda, with facilitating things to make her dreams come true. When she made the first team that went to Seville in 2002, she set the long-term goal of making the first adaptive team that will go to the Paralympics to represent the US in Beijing in 2008.

Aerial Gilbert lives in northern California and competes regularly at rowing regattas throughout the United States. Aerial currently actively promotes indoor rowing for the blind, which has become an official competition at this year’s Junior Blind Olympics. Aerial is an inductee into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (2004).

Jessica Lorenz

Jessica LorenzJessica Lorenz was introduced to goalball in 1993 at a sports education camp that took place at Western Michigan University. In less than 10 years, she has earned a World Championship title and numerous medals in the sport. In 2008, she carried the Olympic Torch as it made its way through San Francisco and won her second consecutive Paralympic Games medal with a gold in Beijing.

Besides her athletic endeavors, Lorenz enjoys a rewarding career as Director of Public Policy for the San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind. She helped bring accessible crossing signals to San Francisco, lead voter registration drives, and has worked both locally and on the federal level to pass civil rights legislation.

“When I consider what it is that sustains me, it always comes down to one thing—I try, with varying levels of success, to make a positive difference in my community,” says Lorenz, who has been blind since birth.

Along this journey, Lorenz has been supported and inspired by many, including Helen Keller, a lifetime of coaches, professional role models, and a series of devoted seeing eye dogs.

Christy Householter

Christy HouseholterChristy has been a certified orientation and mobility specialist for 24 years and a certified teacher of students with visual impairments for the past 5 years. She is currently Team Leader at Region 10 Education Service Center in Richardson, TX. She has a special interest in leisure and recreational activities for students with visual impairments, and is one of the original founders of Sports Extravaganza for the Blind and Visually Impaired. She coaches goalball to athletes ages 10 and up, and organizes the annual Goalball Invitational Tournament.