Archery for all

Washington School for the Blind students take aim at balloons

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Archer Don Newell helps a visually impaired child shoot an arrow at a balloon Wednesday, at the Chinook Archer's range in Camas.

Archer Don Newell believes anybody can shoot a bow and arrow, even if they are blind.

Students from the Washington School for the Blind proved it Wednesday at the Chinook Archer’s range in Camas, by popping balloons and winning candy bars, soda pops and gold medals. Newell and other volunteers have been guiding these blind archers for the past six years.

“The kids just thoroughly enjoy it. Any time one of them pops a balloon, the whole place is in an uproar,” Newell said. “Kids are our being of tomorrow. We want to do everything we can to help them.”

Although shooting arrows without the ability to see sounds dangerous, Newell said it is possible with help from a spotter. Professional archers who are blind use foot locators and a tactile aiming device.

The bow and the arrow rest on the aiming device. The foot locators are positioned at the shooting line to help the archer get into a comfortable stance. Working together, the archer and the spotter adjust the aiming device to hit the center of the target.

“They aim it and they take the shot,” Newell said. “The helper can only say ‘up, down’ or ‘down, up’ to them. It’s awesome to watch what they can do.”

A total of 19 WSSB students took turns firing three arrows from different stations Wednesday. Plenty of balloons were popped each round. The hardest part for the kids was waiting for their turn to shoot again.

“These kids just have a blast,” said WSSB Residential Life Counselor Mark Raetzman. “It’s great for camaraderie. They can cheer each other on, give each other a hard time and take stories with them back to the campus. Just good stuff, all around.”

The kids who popped balloons were awarded gold medals. Ruben Castaneda and Nathan Purcell both had two medals around their necks.

“It’s a nice feeling of accomplishment,” Purcell said. “It kind of gives you the feeling you can do stuff like this even if you can’t really see.”

Life counselors Raetzman and Carrie Tanner look for activites that help the students feel “normal.” On top of archery, the kids are willing to try anything from golf to swimming.

“These kids can do anything they set their minds to,” Raetzman said. “They are incredibly talented, and they have all the potential in the world.”

Even if these archers cannot see their target, Newell said the expressions on their faces when they hear a balloon pop is priceless.

“We are all volunteers who don’t get paid for anything,” he said. “The only thing we get is the satisfaction of the kids.”

Newell believes there is an archer inside all of us. The Chinook Archer’s range in Camas provides opportunities for the whole family to enjoy the sport together, year-round.

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