Conrad Eder playing blind hockey

Conrad Eder: A Young Leader Who Is Passionate About Building Community and Hitting the Ice

Sometimes, what feels like the worst news of your life turns out to be a blessing in disguise. When Conrad Eder found out that he had retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a genetic eye disease that causes progressive vision loss, it was a complete shock. “I remember the appointment vividly,” he says. “They told me, ‘We saw this and that, have a nice day.’ It felt rushed, and there wasn’t any kind of subsequent info or resources made available to me.”

But while adopting a woe-is-me attitude would have been a natural reaction, the then-20-year-old Eder had other plans. “My RP diagnosis has impacted the ensuing years of my life, largely in a positive way,” he says. This positive impact stems from Eder’s optimistic and proactive attitude, his natural inclination for community-building and advocacy, and the fact that he found Fighting Blindness Canada (FBC) so soon in his journey.

“One of the first things I did was Google my disease,” says Eder. “Thankfully, one of the first things that popped up was the FBC website.” He soon got involved with FBC and discovered FBC’s Young Leaders Program. “I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of it,” he says. “Embracing this new community that I was thrust into felt like the best thing I could do.

Now 27, Eder is a vital part of the community of people living with vision loss. He has attended conferences, shared his story via speaking engagements, developed new friendships, and taken on leadership roles, including acting as the Young Leaders Co-Chair in 2023. “I’ve become passionate about sharing the benefits of the Young Leaders Program — namely the personal and professional development opportunities and networking — and ensuring that other visually-impaired youth have access to these benefits,” he says. “It has been a spectacular journey.”

Eder is also an integral part of the blind hockey community. “Getting involved with Canadian Blind Hockey has been one of the best experiences of my life,” he says. “It’s amazing to play a parasport — an adapted sport for people with a disability — that still has all the competitive edge that I want when I participate in athletics. Coaching the blind hockey program here in Ottawa and getting to see kids improve over the course of the season has also been really gratifying.”

For this year’s MOVE FOR SIGHT fundraiser, Eder has partnered with Canadian Blind Hockey to host a special event in Ottawa. Visually-impaired children, youth, and adults from across the city will be participating in a scrimmage at the University of Ottawa, all while raising funds for FBC and spreading the word about para sports and blind hockey.

“I can’t think of a better way to MOVE FOR SIGHT than to play blind hockey,” says Eder. “It’s a great opportunity to get the word out about FBC and Young Leaders and all the great work they do, and also to spotlight blind hockey and attract new participants who have never had the chance to try it before.”

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