Rachael Scdoris

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Iditarod Sled Dog Musher

When she described society’s attempts to pigeonhole

her, Rachael Scdoris stated emphatically that she

never was going to be the stereotypical girl who is blind. In

Rachael’s voice was a determination to lead more than a regular

life!

Rachael Scdoris is a 19-year-old legally blind sled dog

musher from Bend, Oregon. She was born with a rare vision

disorder known as congenital achromatopsia, which causes

nearsightedness, farsightedness, and colorblindness. She

has just recently earned the right to fulfill her dream of competing

in the 2005 Alaskan Iditarod by placing sixth in the

400-mile John Beargrease Marathon Race. This was the second

of two highly respected Iditarod qualifying races that

Rachael had to complete to qualify for the 1,200-mile Iditarod.

Rachael will make sports history as the first legally blind athlete

to ever compete in the Iditarod.

To do so she had to win approval for special accommodations

that allow her to safely compete. Rachael will run the

1,200 mile continuous race in March 2005 with a visual interpreter,

who driving a second dog team and communicating

via two-way radio, will ride ahead of Rachael to warn her of

obstacles, such as low hanging branches, broken ice, and even

moose on the trail.

Besides being a highly skilled sled dog racer, Rachael

Scdoris is a fiercely competitive long-distance track and crosscountry

runner. Rachael earned a varsity letter in high school

and was ranked third nationally in both the 1,500 and 3,000

meters by the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes.

Rachael’s story of hope, courage, and determination to

overcome obstacles has attracted national attention. Rachael

has been formally honored by several organizations, includ-

ing the Women’s Sports Foundation, the Oregon Commission

for the Blind, and Goodwill Industries of California. In focusing

only on the possibilities, she’s a role model to everyone,

not only to people who are blind.

Rachael Scdoris

Ignore What Others Say, Do What You Love

I wouldn’t even consider giving up, or quitting. Those concepts are

not available to me, they are not in my vocabulary, and they are

not an option.

February 26, 2004. I am 19 years old as I write this narrative

to all the parents, teachers, and kids reading this book. I

have my entire life ahead of me. I feel that most of the goals,

which seemed to many as merely a child’s fantasy just a few

years ago, are now well within my reach as I approach early

adulthood. When I was only 8 years old, I told my father I was

going to run the great Alaskan Iditarod someday. The Iditarod

is the 1,200-mile sled dog race held in Alaska each year. It is

the ultimate test of human and canine endurance.

This dream of running the Iditarod may seem ambitious

for any child at 8 years old, but for me, most thought the

undertaking was insurmountable. I was born legally blind

and with it came all the challenges associated with my daily

reality.

When I was 4 years old, I was given my first white cane.

The person who was training me to use the white cane, or

“the blind stick” as I called it, insisted that it would give me

freedom and mobility. If I learned to use it correctly, I was

told I would be able to cross streets all alone and do all sorts

Source: Printed with permission from Rachael Scdoris.

of wonderful things. Magic powers were attributed to my

“blind stick!” I was told that people would recognize me as a

blind child and would stop their cars and let me cross the

street. I can guarantee you that people did not stop and let me

cross the street. I don’t think they even noticed my cane. If

they did, they either didn’t know what it was or they simply

didn’t care.

I didn’t really know that I was that different until third

grade. Before third grade I had the cane and the glasses as

well as the binoculars that I used to see the board, but it was

in third grade that the other kids made me feel that I was

different.

At times other kids got me down. I felt as if they viewed

me as the little blind nerd, a role I was not going to accept.

But the challenges that I experienced during that time have

served me well and have been inspirational in the way I look

at life. I never liked being thought of as the blind kid, so in

middle school, I pushed myself to become an athlete.

After going through years of kids teasing me and the occasional

teacher who was uncaring or insensitive, I developed

my never give up philosophy of life. When I was 15, I finished

the 13-day 536-mile Wyoming Stage Stop Sled Dog Race.

I have run the 300-mile AttaBoy 300 race three years in a

row. Most recently, I ran the 350-mile Race to the Sky in Montana

and the 400-mile John Beargrease Marathon Sled dog

race in Montana. I am now one of the top sled dog racers

in the world. I wouldn’t even consider giving up, or quitting.

Those concepts are not available to me. They are not in my

vocabulary, and they are not an option.

People ask me if I ever get frightened when I am racing,

and I say no, that’s not what I’m feeling. I guess it’s stress that

I feel—the stress of the competition, the stress of the race.

Recently my lead dog took off down a train track while I was

in the midst of the race. That was stressful, but it’s all part of it.

My next race is next January, but I will start training in

September. My next step is also college, but I don’t know what

I will be studying. The one thing I am sure of is that I found

something in my life that I am passionate about.

Both my parents have been great and have offered me

support. If I had any advice to offer parents, I would refer to

my parents as role models. Parents encourage your kids, let

them know you love them, and give them what they need

when they need it.

To kids my advice is simple: Find something that you love

to do, and if the other kids are unkind and callous, just ignore

them. Take it from me; eventually they will grow out of it.