When Mark DeMontis was a little boy he wanted to grow up to be a professional hockey player.
He played Triple-A hockey and was offered an NCAA hockey scholarship in the States. But when DeMontis was just 17, he lost much of his eyesight due to a rare condition, Leber's Optic Neuropathy.
Now 24, DeMontis, founder of the charity Courage Canada, is prepping to inline-skate from Halifax to Weston, Ontario, in support of learn-to-skate programs and hockey events for the visually impaired.
Watch his story below:
Courage Canada currently has programs in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
"I really wanted to be a part of something in my life that would really make a difference," DeMontis told the Toronto Sun. "I founded Courage Canada so that these youth and adults who are visually impaired can have an opportunity just like I had growing up, and that I was blessed with, to learn and play something that's really special here in Canada."
DeMontis and his team — three partners and an RV — leave Halifax's Pier 21 on August 13th. After skating 50 to 70 kilometres per day, they plan to finish their trek in DeMontis' hometown of Weston, Ontario, on October 15th.
"It'll be amazing to return home after so long and cross the finish line," DeMontis told InsideToronto. "My personal strength comes from this community."
This is DeMontis' second cross-Canada skate. In 2009, he inline-skated from Weston to Vancouver.
Cameron Williams, DeMontis' close friend and Courage Canada's vice-president, will skate alongside the blind hockey hero, pointing out road hazards and providing conversation and company on the long journey.
"I think it's incredible ... his mental strength and how he could get up every single day and keep skating, even through some of the toughest times," Williams said. "His perseverance absolutely amazed me last time and I'm sure I'll see it all again this time around."