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Screaming With Glee, Kids Hit By Blindness Find Their Passion On Ice

By Alan Gionet

LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) - "Where's our coach?" asks six year old Logan Galloway as he steps onto the ice at Foothills Ice Arena.

Foothills Ice Arena (1)
(credit: CBS)

His little sister, 4-year-old Zoe, trails him.

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There's nothing unusual about little kids taking the ice, except this is something their parents thought they might never do.

"Logan's not an athlete, because he can't really play all the sports that everyone plays. So he just kind of would sit on the sidelines while the boys would run around and play tag and play baseball and soccer," said their mom Allison Galloway.

Foothills Ice Arena (6)
(credit: CBS)

Both of her children are going blind.

"If you take a piece of cardboard and you punch a bunch of holes in it, that's how they can see," Allison explained. "The holes will get less and less over time."

"I like shooting the puck and skating," said energetic Logan on the ice. He's thrilled to be learning and picking up skating.

Foothills Ice Arena (4)
(credit: CBS)

It all started when they were invited to an event held by the Colorado Avalanche called, "Hockey is For Everyone." The kids fell in love with it. They next day they were invited to attend a game.

"I just remember sitting up in the stands with Logan and the excitement, the noise, he just loved it," said his mom.

Soon a group was organizing practices. It was led by Doris Donley, vice president of adaptive hockey for the Colorado Amateur Hockey Association.

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"His enthusiasm and his sister's enthusiasm are remarkable," said Doris about Logan and Zoe. "They get to hear from the ice mom and dad in the stands saying 'Go Logan, Go Zoe,'" explained Doris. "And it's remarkable. You see the smile on their faces just like the rest of us."

It's not just kids, either. There are visually impaired adults playing at the other end of the ice.

"I feel like a kid again," said legally blind adult player Daniel Belding, who grew up playing hockey, then left hockey when he began to lose his vision. But he's back.

"It's just like all the worries are gone, they're off the ice. I'm out here playing having fun with my friends and just living life like I want to."

They couldn't do it without the help of coaching from sighted players. Foothills Ice Arena donated the ice time this day. Kevin Conners leads a group of volunteers -- many of whom are solid players in their own right from college level and advanced league play. They, too, had to learn. They use a larger, metal puck with ball bearings inside so the blind players can hear it.

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"You have to describe everything. Everything has to be 'We're going to take 10 strides this way, then we're going to make a left,'" said Conners.

Kevin and Doris and the other sighted players figured out how to get it rolling. Now there are dozens of young and old on the ice.

"She was giving them skates and sticks and we were getting pads," he says with a smile. "My friends and I, the first two practices, we were taking all our sticks from college and everyone's cutting them down and giving them to all the kiddos."

Visiting this day was former Avalanche player John-Michael Liles.

John-Michael Liles
John-Michael Liles (credit: CBS)

"I'm just super impressed with the kids and how dialed in they are finding that puck and shooting it and passing it," he said. "It is amazing."

For the parents of Logan and Zoe, the idea that they are playing hockey busts through worries that go with the fact that their children are losing their sight.

"The more you see that there are other ways. There are ways to get around it, there are ways to adapt, it opens your mind back up," said dad Mike Galloway.

On the ice the kids screamed with glee.

Liles and fellow former Avs player Rick Berry towed them around.

"It's awe inspiring for the parent of a kid with a disability to have them see that they can do everything and there's people out in the world that want to help them do that," said Allison.

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As great as it was to watch, Allison and Mike got bad news again about a cure for their children's creeping blindness. Yet another pharmaceutical company declined last week to get involved in a trial of a potential cure being led by a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. The rarity of the type of Leber congenital amaurosis that affects Logan and Zoe is so rare, there's just not enough profit potential in a cure to commercially fund a trial.

Allison says the researcher figures the trial it will only take six months. But the cost will be a few million dollars. Every day that there's no cure adds new stress.

"The longer it goes the worse their vision gets," said Allison.

The Galloways and supporters have raised some money, but need to raise more. They have a fundraising race coming up in Westminster August 26th. Here's a link to their fundraising and run website:

Alan Gionet is anchor of CBS4 This Morning and reports on a wide variety of issues and "Good Question" stories. He started at CBS4 in 1994. Follow Alan on Twitter @AlanGTV or on Facebook.

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