Future Reflections Winter/Spring, Vol. 14 No. 1
[PICTURE] WOW AM/FM Country radio station D.J.'s (from left to right) Ken Brooks, Brian Walther, Bill Jensen, and Rusty Clark enjoy the beautiful September day of the golf tournament they so generously helped promote for the newly organized Parents Division of Nebraska.
[PICTURE] KEFM Lite '96' radio station D.J.'s Jack Swanda (left) and Fred Brooks (right) take a break from the Nebraska Parents of Blind Children Golf Tournament to pose with Angela Larson, daughter of Joe and Gail Larson.
[PICTURE] John Cheadle makes a contribution to Nicolas's White Cane Bank pig at the 1994 NFB Convention in Detroit.
The following reports are from three of our newest parent division affiliates of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. For more information about the NOPBC and the nearest state or regional chapter to you, contact:
Mrs. Barbara Cheadle, President
National Organization of
Parents of Blind Children
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
Goals and Objectives
1. To create a climate of opportunity for blind children in home and society.
2. To provide information and support to parents of blind children.
3. To facilitate the sharing of experiences and concerns among parents of blind children.
4. To develop and expand resources available to parents and their children.
5. To help parents of blind children gain perspective through partnership and contact with blind adults.
6. To function as an integral part of the National Federation of the Blind in its ongoing effort to eliminate discrimination and prejudice against the blind and to achieve for the blind security, equality, and opportunity.
REPORT FROM NEBRASKA
by Joe Larson, President Nebraska Parents of Blind Children
Two Nebraska families, Joe and Gail Larson and Mark and Carol Smith, met for the first time when the NFB Convention convened last July in Detroit, Michigan. Both couples are parents of blind children. Angela Larson is fourteen years old, and Eric Smith is two years old. After attending the parents seminar, the Smiths and Larsons were convinced that Nebraska needed an NFB parents division, too. We wanted to bring all the advantages of an NFB parents group to our state-the positive philosophy, the networking with parents, the competent blind role models, the political savvy of the NFB, the information, the parent-to-parent support system, and the commitment to creating better opportunities for our blind kids.
After the convention, we lost no time organizing our parent chapter. On August 21, 1994, our chapter came into being at an organizing meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. Joe Larson was elected President; Carol Smith, First Vice President; and Kim Becker, Secretary/Treasurer. The first order of business was a fund raiser. Joe had successfully organized charity golf tournaments for other organizations and offered to do one for the newly-formed Nebraska Parents of Blind Children. The date was set for September 17, 1994. With the help of two local radio stations in Omaha, advertising spots were donated for the tournament. In a six-week period we recruited eighty golfers to play in the tournament. All golfers received a T-shirt with the NFB logo on it and other prizes. The first-, second-, and third-place teams received trophies. Plans are already underway for the second annual golf tournament, and the radio stations are eager to help again!
We have wasted no time helping blind children in Nebraska with the money we have raised. At the annual White Cane Banquet on November 5, sponsored by the Omaha chapter of the NFB, we presented a Braille writer to a program that has thirteen blind children and is in desperate need of equipment.
Through all our activities such as the golf tournament, which was as much a public-education effort as it was a fund raiser, we expect to have a positive impact on all blind children and their parents across the entire state.
REPORT FROM WEST VIRGINIA
by Keri Stockton, President Parents of Blind Children Division of the NFB of West Virginia
Three cheers for the new West Virginia parents division! Although we are small, we have been quite active since we organized in August, 1994, at our NFB state convention. Along with Nicolas (my son who is blind) I have contacted parents, schools, and vision teachers to let them know about our parents group and our Children's Cane Bank. Nicholas and I have made several presentations about blindness and blind children to groups such as the Head Start teachers from a ten-county area. We also plan to participate in a special Children's Day at the legislature this year.
We are especially proud of our Children's White Cane Bank, which was up and ready for business the day we organized. The bank provides free white canes to blind children of all ages in West Virginia. Nicolas started raising funds for the bank months ago. He got a special piggy-bank for the White Cane Bank. Soon, others learned about his bank and began making contributions. Then he took it with him to the NFB Convention in Detroit. By that time the pig was so fat he had to push it around in a doll-stroller. Thanks to everyone who helped him, he raised enough to get the cane bank started. We hope with this bank to help all blind children in West Virginia to get the tool that will enable them to move and walk easily, as free of the fear of falling as Nicolas.
I guess everyone comes to the NFB by a different path, and it was a fall that brought Nicolas and me to learn a better way. Nicolas was not yet two years old when he learned how to descend the stairs standing up. But one day he missed a step and fell. Down he came, thump, thump, thump-screaming at each smack of his face on the uncarpeted tread. When he reached the bottom, he cried for a long time. He was so small and so upset; I held him for about an hour. When he could talk again, he said, "Those stairs, those bad stairs!" It was clear he was in pain. He said, "My head was just like a drum; Bum, Bum, Bum." At that point, I cried.
I swore to him that day that if there was any way to help him walk safely up and down stairs, and to help him not trip over things he couldn't see on the floor, I would find it. I called the NFB that day and spoke to Barbara Cheadle and learned about children's canes. To make a long story short, Nicolas got one, and he was the youngest child in West Virginia to use a cane. He has enjoyed discovering his world in ways I've treasured watching. He pulls a child-size shopping cart at the store, hikes, and camps-all with his cane doing what he calls, "Tap-taps" out in front.
What about the piggy? Well, it is collecting pennies (and nickels and dimes and dollars) again, and who knows how many it will collect this year. Penny by penny, and one member at a time, both the piggy and the West Virginia Parents of Blind Children will keep growing and providing new opportunities for the blind children of West Virginia.
REPORT FROM WISCONSIN
by Margie Watson, President Parents of Blind Children of the NFB of Wisconsin
The Parents of Blind Children Division of the NFB of Wisconsin was formed in August, 1994. Margie Watson and her husband Marc (who is Vice President) are parents of three children, the oldest of whom is blind. Jodie Cowle, Secretary, is a long-time blind member and leader of the NFB in our state. Diana Reinhardt, board member, has a son who is blind. These leaders bring many talents and experience to our new parents division.
Our first events occurred during the NFB of Wisconsin Annual Convention in October. On Friday night, parents gathered to discuss cane travel issues and to view the "Kids with Canes" video. On Saturday, the Parents Division invited Mrs. Mary Ann Damm, President of the Volunteer Braillists and Tapists, Inc. of Madison, to speak about the services the group offers. She described the monthly library hour for blind children, a Braille library for children and adults, and the annual holiday Braille book sale. Parents and NFB members alike were excited to see all of the Braille children's books on display.
In November, our new cane bank presented 18-month-old Ziggy Reinhardt with his first cane. In the coming weeks parents will be gathering to write letters to government officials to gain their support in obtaining Braille literacy provisions in the revision of IDEA. We are also organizing a spring fund raiser to offer financial aid to families attending the 1995 NFB Convention in Chicago. Our parents division is off to a strong start.
REPORT FROM WASHINGTON
by Barbara Freeman, President Parents of Blind Children Division of the NFB of Washington
Mrs. Barbara Freeman gave the following report on October 15, 1994, at the annual luncheon meeting of the POBC of Washington:
It has been a year since the blind children and parents of this division formally joined the Federation family. Everyone here should be proud of what we have accomplished. We have made great strides both in educating ourselves and the community about blindness and in supporting each other in our efforts to provide all of our blind children-the gifted, the developmentally threatened, and the multiply handicapped-with the best possible opportunities to reach their highest potential.
The adults of the affiliate have given every help in our efforts to form a strong, vital organization. They have generously provided funding. Individual members have given time and attention to any child who needed a mentor, tutor, or advocate.
We put on a successful parents seminar in March for twenty families. Our parent division national president, Barbara Cheadle, attended. Our student division put on a teen-age seminar at the same time. The teen-agers used public transportation, cooked pizza, and discussed the cost of special privilege.
For the first time, State Services for the Blind hired someone recommended and endorsed by the Federation affiliate to teach their preschool conference. Joe Cutter, a pediatric orientation and mobility specialist from New Jersey, put on an unusually positive seminar on teaching mobility skills to preschoolers. Joe's workshop was the best-attended preschool conference ever sponsored by State Services for the Blind. Record numbers of parents and mobility instructors from Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia, Canada, attended. We touched the lives of hundreds of blind children with that one seminar.
We held a family picnic in August that introduced more new parents to our movement and gave us all a chance to talk with one another and to admire each other's children.
Most importantly, we have all grown more comfortable with blindness, and we have advocated for our children. Every parent here has already gone out of his or her own way to come here to learn how to help his or her child. Our children can't wait for society to come around and provide opportunities for them. We, the parents, must see to it that we create those opportunities.
Debbie Day sought out and obtained a private grant to take her son Tim to our National Convention in Detroit, Michigan, this summer. Carol Linhart took her whole family to the Detroit Convention. Barbara Weller arranged for summer tutoring for her son Steward and also organized our summer picnic. Ivy and Frank Jen successfully advocated with their school district to continue their son's placement in an integrated preschool. Melanie Savage has convinced her school district to provide her multiply handicapped daughter with physical and occupational therapy and pre-Braille skills. (The school system had wanted to "warehouse" her at the age of seven.) Jim and Barbara Call are in the process of negotiating Braille instruction for their daughter Terra, who is losing her sight. Denise Mackenstadt taught cane travel to a little girl from Russia this spring. The girl, who was sponsored by Save the Children, went blind while here and had but a short time before she returned to Russia.
Many others have also been creating opportunities for their children. It is this will to provide the best for our children that binds us together as a community and overrides differences of religion and social class. This will to provide the best for Washington's blind children also joins us in fraternity with the adult blind members of this affiliate and the National Federation of the Blind. Together we can provide all of our children with hope, pride, and opportunity.