Visually Impaired Rowers Find Inspiration on Lake Leelanau

“Rowing is one of the few sports that require vision.”

The Lake Leelanau Rowing club is a welcoming bunch who knows how to work hard and have a good time.

16 year-old Lila Miller says, “I am visually impaired. I started rowing right before the 7th grade.” Lila was born premature. Her family had no idea if she would survive or what life would be like. Now 16 years later her life is full of confidence and opportunity.

“I feel happy inside and it helps me get my extra energy,” says Miller. However, Miller isn’t the only rower that is visually impaired. Melinda Hollands has a rare form of Macular Degeneration called Stargardt disease. This disease has taken her vision but it has given her a positive and contagious attitude. “There’s not much we can’t do-we just need to figure out how to get it done.”

Melinda is someone Lila admires. These two rowers have found friendship through their shared love of challenging themselves in and out of the water. This summer they have pushed and encouraged each other to set new goals. Like trying their shot at a national title for both Juniors and Masters. Each of them brought home gold. “It made me feel proud and excited both,” says Lila.

Through rowing both Lila and Melinda have learned one valuable lesson. “I’ve learned that I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was. That I am more capable than sometimes I think I am,” says Melinda.

A true testament to their inclusive crew at the Lake Leelanau Rowing Club. “It becomes that true team spirit when you’re working together and not focusing on the disability,” says Melinda.

If you want more information on the Lake Leelanau Rowing Club click here.


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