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Shannon’s Story

Shannon hiking by water

Meet Shannon Boelter. Shannon, who is from Minnesota, has CHARGE syndrome and uses American Sign Language as her first language. She works at a Deaf school in Minnesota and loves travel, hiking, trivia, and history, particularly history related to the 50 U.S. states.

You may have seen some of Shannon’s hiking photos in the CHARGE Facebook group. Shannon says she started hiking in 2018 but has always enjoyed walking. “Nowadays, I try to go on long and challenging hikes. I walk in snow, rain, and on dry land,” Shannon says. At first, she notes, she worried about her balance challenges. “I learned to control my fear and know my own limits. Now I go out with a few friends and hike more. They encourage me and are very supportive. I use walking poles and it is helpful to feel like I can do it on my own independently.

“CHARGE syndrome is a challenge for me, but I am proud to be a person with CHARGE. It is who I am,” Shannon adds. She notes that while her low vision and balance challenges can sometimes get in the way at work or in everyday life, she doesn’t let them stop her. For example, once when Shannon was hiking, she came across some rocks — a challenge with her balance. But she took her time, considered where to step, and made it across the rocks safely. “When hiking, know your own limits and take your time,” Shannon advises.

“Don’t let people put you down,” she adds. “Don’t let people say “You can’t” because you never know what you or your child can succeed at! Some people said they couldn’t invite me to go hiking because of my balance and vision. I told them, “How do you know I can’t do it?” Always know your or your child’s limits, but don’t let that make you feel they can’t necessarily do something. Just try. If you succeed, awesome! If not, it’s okay; keep smiling!”

Shannon Hiking in Winter