November 10, 2004 by

Cara Dunne-Yates

11 comments

Categories: Extraordinary People, Sports

Cara Dunne-Yates was blinded by cancer, but that didn’t stop her from obtaining an Ivy League education, raising a family or winning several medals as a Paralympic athlete.
Born and raised in Chicago, Yates was less than a year old when she was diagnosed with retinal cancer. Although she lost both her eyes to the disease by the time she was five, Yates still learned to ride a bike and ski on her own. Using a team skiing technique, however, Yates was able to participate in competitions by following the sound her of sighted partner’s skis. In 1988, she won a bronze medal in alpine skiing at the Paralympics in Innsbruck, Austria.
With a guide dog by her side, Yates became president of her class at Harvard University and earned a bachelor’s degree in East Asian studies. After graduation, she worked as a volunteer ski instructor at a school for the disabled in Utah. Yates was training for an upcoming winter event when cancer returned — this time in her cheekbone.
After a year of treatment, she enrolled at UCLA Law School. Yates joined the university’s cycling team and competed as a tandem racer with her sighted partner Scott Evans at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics. There she won a silver medal in the mixed tandem kilometer race and a bronze medal on the 200-meter sprint. She also met Spencer Yates, the sighted partner of another blind cyclist. They wed in 1998.
Yates had just finished competing in the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, Australia, when she was diagnosed with cancer for a third time. While undergoing chemotherapy, she received the 2002 True Hero of Sports Award from Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society. She served as co-president of the New England Retinoblastoma Family Foundation and recently began writing her memoirs.
Yates died on Oct. 20 of cancer at the age of 34. She is survived by her husband and two young children.

11 Responses to Cara Dunne-Yates

  1. sharada

    so many memories, I was sitting here talking about her and I thought it was a joke…she would joke about things like this..”death blog’….I miss her never wanted to say goodbye and alway wish I could..ucla law school was hell and she was there for me like an angel from god…so many songs I want to sing for her…to heal her….she always thought she would not have a baby but I read it and saw it and she did…she did exist in miracles…
    cara never judged and was so brilliant..me with my learning dissabilities she would tell me how to drive and where to go it was amazing (dont tell the dmv) and most of all that song I owe you scott the one I should have sang at your wedding…I just lost her after law school I just lost touch and I have so many beutiful stories and sculptures I will write and find,,,the poems and the mission…I remember everything she said…i just never could find you guys again…
    sharada 415-374-4691

  2. Debi

    I met Cara on the ski hill in Iowa. We were both there to race. The way she tells the story, “I heard another little voice say… I think it’s time for a lollipop.” I guess that was me. I was the only other little person there (at least that young) We became fast friends.
    I always knew she had lost her sight due to cancer but I never saw her suffer from it. She has always been an inspiration to me. I even remember one time she tried to teach me braille. She would tell me to stop reading with my eyes and to use my touch. I don’t know how she knew.
    I can honestly say it was an honor to have Cara call me friend. Her family and her memory will never be forgotten.

  3. Jose Pascual III

    Brilliant, tenacious, ambitious, energetic. These words aren’t out of place in describing many Harvard undergrads, but Cara was different, standing out amongst many of her peers. Her accomplishments and abilities would have shined anywhere and would have garnered her respect and admiration. That she was disabled made her that more special, at least to me. As a fellow classmate with an ambulatory disability, I personally knew Cara during those challenging years at Harvard. We studied in the same facilities in the library, walked the same treacherous paths during those winter days from our dorm to the Freshman Union, and interacted with the same administrators who earnestly tried to accomodate our needs. I was extremely shocked and saddened to learn of Cara’s death, but I know in my deepest of hearts that she lived life to the fullest. She was always on the go, an unstoppable force who lept over challenges, and touched lives as she rushed through life. Though she had much left to accomplish, I have no doubt she took joy in having achieved everything she had set out to do…whether that be sports, her academic pursuits, or having a family.
    I have kept Cara’s obituary from the Harvard Journal as a personal reminder of how precious and fleeting life is, of how one individual can make a difference in the lifes of others, and of that dynamic individual–full of determination and purpose–who often walked past me on the way to class so long ago at Harvard Yard.

  4. Tami

    Cara was my close personal cousin and her and I were the same age and I had enjoyed talking to her and listening to her amazing stories and all of her accomplishments in her life..let me just tell you she was amazing and she did things in her life that I never will be able to do..Cara never let her disablilty bother her and she went on with her life..she will be missed dearly. When I would sit and talk to her she would bring tears to my eyes because of her stories and all of the joy that she brought to everyones lives-she was an inspiration and that thought will always stay with me throughout my life…thanks Cara

  5. a touched student

    hey, it’s me again.
    mr. yates, if you read this, i think you should try to publish your wife’s memoirs. i know it is absolutely none of my business, but i think it would be what she wanted. i read something she wrote in 2001 called “Access to Freedom: What Braille Has Meant To Me” it was amazing. i cried, especially in the last paragraph where she talked about your first anniversary. she was a very powerful writer and i believe her writing would touch many people.
    See you tuesday, then.

  6. kim

    wow! Thank you for sharing your memories of Cara. Oh, how much I miss you, dear Cara. Life just isn’t the same without you. Thank you for always being such a wonderful and loving friend. I am so blessed and proud to have you as one of my closest friends. Matt and I dearly love you and Spencer. Thank you for being at our wedding, always being there to listen to the good and bad parts of our lives, being so excited when I was pregnant and had our daughter and being the first I told when I was pregnant with #2. Oh, how I wished you could have known we had a boy – we named him Spencer (yes, after your hubby and of course my hubby’s first wife – smile). I will always cherish my memories of you, remember our coffee trips, our time volunteering for several schools, the Gazette articles. I miss you. Love you and miss you.

  7. Sharada

    Cara is an amazing woman. Cara is patient, kind never judges, a real friend when your down. Once I asked her what her goal was and it was to be not just the best blind athlete, but to be the best women athlete. We met in law school and we fought the sytematic discrimination, UCLA and the state of California waged on us and other disabled students. Cara spent more and more time bike racing and always wonderd if she could get pregnent or have children. She was so capable and agile people would forget she was blind. We used to write poems together and screenplays and we would go and I would sing karioke…She loved the song, “loving you its easy cause your beautiful…lal la la la ” etc. she asked me to sing it at the wedding I wish I had. she used to want to work out and I was so out of shape I could not keep up with her and it was so funny to wach the faces of the L.A. joggers getting run over mby a blind girl cause they were to slow.
    I used to pitch our story ideas to a friend and writer Stan Wells and he would say “the best script idea is the two of you fighting the world together, now thats a movie” etc. I always thought we had more time.
    I was forced to withdraw from UCLA law school and I went back to workin gat MGM in Santa monica. We w ere making a movie sight unseen and Irwin winkler asked her to be the expert athelete on the film. She decided she did not like the way the charactor was described as bumping into things etc. She decided not too that she had other more important things to do.
    She loved racing with scott, and then she met spencer, they married and god created a miracle for her to have her babies. I missed saying goodbye. Cara demonstrated the meaning of life and living life too the fullest. She is one of the greatest friends anyone could have.
    Sharada Kohn 415-573-9670
    Creativegoddess@yahoo.com

  8. Brian Dunn

    I met Cara back in 1993, we were both on the same chemo. My nurse told me there was another Dunn(e) down the hall from me. It was a great pleasure to meet her and her dad that day. I was amazed at all her accomplishments. I have thought about her often and was saddened today to learn that she had passed away.
    Brian Dunn
    Boston Ma

  9. Amy Masucci

    Cara was like a sister to me, even though she was my cousin. Her positive attitude and motivation to overcome obstacles defined her. She lives on in my memory and is greatly missed. Her son and daughter are doing well and remind me of her in many ways. I will make sure they grow up knowing what an amazing mother they had. She is truly an inspiration me and to all people that knew her.
    amymasucci1@yahoo.com

  10. Elizabeth Cosin

    I interviewed Cara for a story I did at the LA Daily News in the late 90s. She was so inspiring and funny and she invited me to a dinner with her family. It was very sweet. I enjoyed her company and we lived close by each other while she was in Law School so we would talk on occasion. But work piled up for both of us and we lost touch. I found the story I wrote about her in a box of my old clips, so I thought I’d look her up. It makes me happy that she found love and had two children, but I’m deeply saddened at her passing. Now I wish I’d done more to keep in touch with her. She was one of those people who touched everyone she met, but I guess you already know that.

  11. Stef

    I met Cara at a nordic ski resort in 1996 I guess. Cara was in LA then studying law. I ended up teaching her skiing, without knowing her past as a racer. She requested we moved to a hill, she found the flats boring. Later that day she joined the snowshoe tour I was leading and we skied more hills. I learned so much from Cara, from listening to the sounds of our skis/snowshoes, to feeling the sun on my face, to discribing what was around us to her, to ski with my eyes closed and improve my stance…
    Cara was an inspiration for so many of us.
    We miss you sister, and I know you are there with so many of us in our hearts.

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