The Courage Canada All-Star Team
Volunteer Board of Directors
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.
At the age of 21 Mark founded Courage Canada with the help of Paolo Abate, Cameron Williams and Gaetano Barilla so that boys and girls across Canada who were blind or visually impaired would have the same opportunity to learn to skate and play hockey he did growing up. He launched the organization by inline-skating 5000 km from Toronto to Vancouver in 2009, and completed the cross-Canada trek by inline-skating from Halifax to Toronto in 2011. The campaigns were supported by countless celebrities, athletes and politicians – Mark was even honoured by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and childhood hero Wayne Gretzky.
Mark became a 2010 Paralympic torch bearer, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medalist, and was selected as one of twenty recipients across Canada of the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award. Besides serving as Courage Canada’s volunteer President, Mark is an accomplished speaker and the co-host for AMI’s ‘Sports Access’.
If you are interested in learning more about Mark DeMontis or are interested in inquiring about his speaking please visit his personal website:
Gary is a life-long Blind Hockey player who has played all positions and currently plays goal for the Vancouver Eclipse. Gary served as President of the Canadian Blind Sports Association for a 10 year period from 2001 to 2011, and is currently also the Vice-President of the International Blind Sports Federation. Gary is a social worker by trade as well as a reporter for Accessible Media Inc. where he covered the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
François has been playing with les Hiboux de Montréal Blind Hockey Club since 2005 and has served as the club vice-president since 2007. François has been an active board member of the CNIB Quebec division for 10 years, as well as President of the Québec Foundation for the Blind. He is the Director of Wealth Management, Financial Adviser with Richardson GMP, and holds a CFA designation.
Matt has a decade experience working for various organizations in the Canadian sport system and has been involved with hockey his entire life. He began working with the Canadian Blind Hockey Teams as the Participation Director for the Canadian Blind Sports Association from 2007 – 2011, when he left the organization to volunteer as a team member for Mark DeMontis’s “Halifax 2 Toronto” inline-skate campaign in support of Courage Canada. Matt became Courage Canada’s National Program Director in January 2012, and has since been promoted to the role of Executive Director. Matt has overseen the growth of both Courage Canada’s youth and adult learn to skate and Blind Hockey programs from including 85 individuals in the 2010-11 season, to now affecting the lives of 275 Canadians who are blind or visually impaired annually.
Nick graduated from Simon Fraser University with a Communication degree in 2008, where he focused on public relations, publishing and advertising. Since then he has worked in communication and community outreach roles, working with youth on behalf of the Province of BC and tackling social justice and accessibility issues with the Social Planning and Research Council of BC. An avid hockey fan, Nick has been working with Courage Canada since January 2012 as a youth learn to skate program volunteer and as the Communications Manager.