Blind archers gather to practice sport in West Fargo

The North Dakota Association of the Blind is stepping up to make sure people who have lost their vision can experience the thrill of archery.

Zelda Gebhard, a blind archer, draws back as instructor George Racine watches.
Ryan Longnecker / WDAY News
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WEST FARGO — There have been great steps taken to get people with disabilities more opportunities for hunting.

At Sandhills Archery, Zelda Gebhard of Edgeley, North Dakota, is learning more about archery than she ever imagined.

From the bow and arrow, down to the cable, string and arrow rest.

Instructor George Racine has been working with the North Dakota Association for the Blind, summer or winter, getting people like Gebhard comfortable and safe with archery. He finds it inspirational.

"I like to think of it as empowerment," Racine said. "Any archer out there that shoots, try closing your eyes and try to shoot, and it's unbelievable how much sight is part of the shooting experience. So for these individuals, to give them the ability to shoot without sight is unbelievable."


Gebhard was born with a genetic eye disease that has progressively robbed her of her sight.

"Archery is a family support. My husband is an archer, and my sons are archers, some of my daughter-in-laws and some of my grand kids, and I don't think grandma should have to stay in the house and do dishes while they were out shooting at targets and having fun," Gebhard said

Racine has a special setup for the students to help get their feet situated and their wrist in that sweet spot. The North Dakota Association for the Blind funds programs like Sandhills Archery from money raised during Giving Hearts Day.

More from WDAY's Kevin Wallevand

"When you have to give up so much, your world shrinks," Gebhard said. "And doing something new and being successful at it, it helps you broaden up that scope of what you can do."

Emily Zilka, 25, of Grand Forks has a genetic eye disease that left her with little vision.

More than anything, this sport and these lessons create confidence for those trying to maintain independence.

"Instead of the Little Engine That Could,(...) you think, 'I can't do that, I can't do that,'" Gebhard said. "But that's the mantra that comes in. So doing something, whatever it is, (...) gives you that confidence to give it a try. Give it a go."

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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