Mark J. DeMontis – Founder, President & Spokesperson
Like many young Canadians, Mark DeMontis dreamed of playing in the National Hockey League. At the age of 17, he signed a one-year AAA hockey contract with hopes of playing in the NCAA on an athletic scholarship after high school. But just three months later, Mark’s dreams suddenly derailed after doctors told him he would never play hockey again. One week before his senior year of high school, Mark was diagnosed with Leber’s Optic Neuropathy — a rare condition that took away the central sight in both of his eyes, leaving him legally blind.
Mark didn’t let vision-loss in both his eyes stop him. He ended his senior year as the student council president and became one of 20 recipients from across Canada to receive the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award in 2005, which recognized his leadership within his community while overcoming adversity. The award gave him a full academic scholarship to the University of Western Ontario where he studied MPI – Media & The Public Interest.
Courage Canada – Established 2008
Courage Canada is funded through corporate sponsorship, public donations and fundraising events. The organization strives to provide Canadians who are blind and visually-impaired with the opportunity to learn and play Blind Hockey. At the youth level, Courage Canada works collaboratively with District School Board Vision programs all across Canada to organize monthly learn to skate programs with student’s who are visually-impaired from across the district.
Courage Canada, through corporate and social partnerships strives to:
- Provide the opportunity for Canadias who are visually-impaired to learn, develop and enjoy the game of hockey in a safe and fun environment such as skating and skills development camps as well as structured games
- Help instill strong leadership characteristics such as courage, confidence and sportsmanship both on and off the ice in their communities
- Promote healthy and active lifestyles among all youth and adults.
Courage Carolina & NC State
The Courage Carolina Project was an initiative leading into the 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina which seeked to raise awareness about the growth and development of Blind Hockey in Canada and the United States. Courage Canada partnered with NC State University’s Faculty of Textile Engineering as eight senior design students under the leadership of their professor, Dr. Russell Georgia, worked collaboratively with Courage Canada and Canadian Blind Hockey teams to create a new, improved, and universal hockey puck for the sport of Blind Hockey.
The Quest To The West (2009)
Mark ambitiously launched The Courage Canada organization by inline skating from his hometown, Toronto, across five provinces and 5,000 kilometres to Vancouver to raise funds and awareness for his cause. Mark’s “Quest to the West” gained local and national media attention along the way, appearing on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada and Global National with Kevin Newman. The campaign raised over $60,000 and was sponsored by Ottawa Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk and organizations such as the NHL, Reebok, Tim Horton’s and Rogers.