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About the Founder

Mark J. DeMontis – Founder, President & Spokesperson. Established 2008.

Like many young Canadians, Mark DeMontis dreamed of one day playing in the National Hockey League. At the age of 17, he signed a one-year AAA hockey contract with hopes of playing in the NCAA on an athletic scholarship after high school. But just three months later, Mark's dreams suddenly derailed after doctors told him he would never play hockey again. One week before his senior year of high school, Mark was diagnosed with Leber's Optic Neuropathy — a rare condition that left him legally blind.

But Mark didn't let losing central sight in both eyes stop him. He ended his senior year as the student council president and with a 93 per cent average. He was also one of 20 recipients from across Canada to receive the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award in 2005, which recognized his leadership within his community while overcoming personal obstacles. The award gave him a full academic scholarship to the University of Western Ontario where he studied media. His inspiring story of rising above life's challenges was covered on the front page of The Toronto Sun.

At the age of 21, Mark founded Courage Canada, a national, registered charity with the goal to implement blind sports hockey schools for blind children and blind youth across Canada. The following year in 2009, Mark ambitiously launched the organization by inline skating from his hometown, Toronto, across five provinces and 5,000 kilometres to Vancouver to raise funds and awareness for his cause. Mark's "Quest to the West" gained local and national media attention along the way, appearing on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada and Global National with Kevin Newman. The campaign raised over $60,000 and was sponsored by Ottawa Senators' owner Eugene Melnyk and organizations such as the NHL, Reebok, Tim Horton's and Rogers.

Today, Mark is a motivational speaker who captivates audiences by taking them on a roller coaster ride through his life and shares the importance of having the right attitude. Since 2005, Mark has travelled to communities across Canada, speaking at schools, youth leadership conferences and businesses to share his inspiring story with people from all walks of life.

If you are interested in having Mark speak at your next corporate function or event please visit www.markdemontis.com

Video Transcript

Mark DeMontis: Having a stage presence and this ability to capture audiences... you know even from a young age, it started growing, I mean high school I was even doing stuff on stage, and performing, and trying to entertain crowds and trying to get my student body going as student council president. Whether it was, you know, on stage or in assembly, whether it was, you know, a pep rally, it could have been really anything, whatever it took for me to grab a microphone and get the crowd going.

Media Story Excerpt: A rare condition known as Leber Optic Neuropathy may have taken his sight, but not his love for the game.

Mark DeMontis: Five provinces, five thousand kilometers to raise money and awareness for Courage Canada, so that blind youth across the nation have the chance to learn and play the game of hockey.

Mark DeMontis: People want to hear about the struggle, what it was like going across Canada on eight wheels, let alone being excited about being non sighted.

Motivational Speech Excerpt: The things you will do for your passions will amaze you. They'll surprise you. Sometimes, you don't even realize how far you're willing to go just to do what you love to do.

Motivational Speech Excerpt: I just was about to get on the ice for my very first time. I stepped out on the ice... boom... and I fell.

Motivational Speech Excerpt: I love hockey. Ever since I was a kid, ever since I was four years old, the nation's game was something I loved to be a part of.

Interview Excerpt: I really feel like after today, after I catch this flight, the dream is really going to start.

Mark DeMontis: Every school I go to, every assembly I do, every company I speak at, I bring my [olympic] torch because it's a symbol of an accomplishment in full circle.

Mark DeMontis: It's important to have that support, it's important to have friends and family in your life that are close to you, helping you each and every step of the way. For many people in our world, they don't have anybody, let alone parents, let alone friends, let alone anyone who can give them that direct support... and sometimes a story and a speech can really change that.

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