by Lauren Beyer
Jim Beyer: The final speaker in the panel is my daughter Lauren Beyer. She is a fourteen-year-old freshman in high school. She is just going into Big Sky High School. She has been in our local public school all of her career and maintains honor-roll status. Other than that, she’s just a normal kid.
I was born blind in a small town in Montana. My parents moved us to a nearby small city so that I could learn Braille and have a chance to succeed. I did well in school with my grades, but I was kind of lonely. Kids were nice to me when I was in school, but nobody knew how to hang out with “the blind girl.”
I had a few friends, but I spent a lot of afternoons and weekends alone. My parents said once that they would almost pay somebody to come over to my house to hang out. There were always lots of kids over at our house, but they were all my brothers' friends. Not only did I not have any friends to hang out with, I didn't know any other blind kids my age. I thought I was the only one in the world who was living this life.
I knew nothing about being blind; I wouldn't even say that word. Then, when I was eleven, my parents said something about an NFB convention. I had no idea what that was. We all flew to Louisville, Kentucky. I had no idea what to expect. At the convention there was a thing called the teen room. It was a rented room where teens could hang out and talk. I met girls there from all over America. I felt good. I found the friends I'd never even known were out there. We had so much fun at the convention that the words “parents” and “curfew” were forgotten.
When I was at convention, my friends said something about a month-long program in Minnesota. My parents looked into it and talked with Shawn Mayo, the director of the program. Even though Buddy Camp was only a week away, they still let me sign up. I spent four weeks in the Pillsbury mansion in Minneapolis and became closer with some of the friends I'd made at convention. We have all kept in contact since then. We visit on the phone or IM or MySpace each other on the Internet.
We went to the convention again in Atlanta in 2007. All of us hung out in the teen room; had a sleepover in my parents room; went to Six Flags together; and, while our parents were off in—ugh--meetings, we laughed and caught up.
I am so happy that we hooked up with the NFB! Making friends in the NFB has somehow helped me to collect a big group of sighted friends at home as well. I now have friends that I can count on, not only in my hometown, but all around the country. I now have good friends in states such as California, Alaska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oregon, Missouri, and Utah. My afternoons and weekends are no longer lonely thanks to my friends in the NFB.