by Angela Wolf
Barbara Cheadle: Next we have a young woman most of you have come to know quite well at this convention: second vice president of the NFB of Texas, president of the Austin Chapter, and chairperson of the convention ambassadors. Here is Angela Wolf.
“The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears.” -- Ellen Goodman
When I went blind at the age of twelve, my parents were full of fear and uncertainty about how I could regain the independence I had had as a sighted child. Ultimately their hopes for my future set them on a quest to find resources that would help them help me—a quest that led them, us, to the National Federation of the Blind.
The journey began quickly. My mom contacted the local chapter, and my parents were soon heading off to a state convention. There they were struck by the wealth of information that existed, but, more important, they were impressed with the attitudes that this group had about blindness and the capabilities of the blind. They saw competent blind people who were attending college and working in a variety of professions, and they knew that was what they wanted for me.
During that convention they met Joanne Wilson and Pam Allen, who provided them with information about the parents division and about summer programs for blind youth at the Louisiana Center. These ladies insisted that my parents send me to the Buddy Program. My parents were not completely sure about sending their child off to live with a bunch of blind people for four weeks, but, as many of you know, Joanne can be very persuasive.
The next thing I knew, I was in Ruston, Louisiana, learning blindness skills. My mom could not stop crying the day they dropped me off, and for the first week I called home every day, begging for them to come pick me up. The best thing they ever did for me, and probably the hardest thing they ever had to do, was to make me stay and encourage me to have fun and find the positive things about camp. Later I found out that my mother would cry as soon as she hung up the phone. By the end of the summer I was having so much fun that I would forget to call home, and my mom had stopped crying—for the most part.
After that summer my parents, especially my mom, became extremely involved in NFB activities. They found fellowship and support with other parents of blind children through the state and national parents divisions, and my mom took on leadership roles, serving as the treasurer and later president of the Louisiana Parents of Blind Children. She also served on the NOPBC board. However, my parents’ involvement in the Federation was not limited to parent events. They truly embraced the NFB philosophy and attitudes, becoming a part of the movement. Mom joined the local chapter, becoming the secretary/treasurer, and my dad always helped behind the scenes wherever he was needed--from helping set up tables to cooking jambalaya for about two-hundred people at a state convention.
Josh Billing said, “To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while.“ I have seen my parents work tirelessly in many capacities. They have worked diligently not only at their paying jobs, but the volunteer ones as well. From PTA to NFB I saw them dedicate their time, energy, and most of all their hearts.
Through their example and encouragement I became involved and was often volunteered by association for various jobs. My mom would have me help with creating flyers for chapter meetings and fundraisers and then stuff the envelopes, and we would all help sell candy bars and wash cars for the chapter. Beginning with the convention in Dallas in 1993, we attended state and national conventions annually. Eventually I began to become more involved on my own, taking leadership roles in the local chapter and the state student division. As I grew older and became more involved in the organization, my parents began to step back and allowed the NFB to become my endeavor.
While my parents are not always able to attend conventions or meetings any more, they continue to help fundraise for the NFB and are never hesitant to approach a blind person or parent of a blind child in the community to ask if they know about the NFB and explain how much the organization has changed our lives.
A couple of years ago, after working with young adults in the Post-Secondary Program at the Texas School for the Blind for about a year and reflecting on my work with the Buddy and STEP kids at LCB, I called my parents to thank them for encouraging me to do so much in my life, even the things I didn’t want to do, because they somehow knew it was best for me. So many of my students have not had the opportunities or experiences that I had and that they deserve. This is one of many of the reasons I wanted to help blind parents in Texas experience what my parents had experienced through the NFB. In a way helping to form the Texas Parents of Blind Children was a way to thank the NFB and the NOPBC for helping my parents help me.
They say it takes a village to raise a child; I am certainly deeply grateful for my NFB family that helped my parents raise me. You too led by example and are responsible for who I am today. Thank you, and happy anniversary, NOPBC!