Future Reflections September- December 1983, Vol. 2 No. 5
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The Parents of Blind Children Division of the National Federation of the Blind organized and elected officers this summer during the annual NFB Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. The officers that were elected are all parents of blind children, and all are committed to the Division's goals of promoting equality and opportunity for all blind children. Here is a little information about each officer and how they feel about being a part of the NFB, and a leader in the new NFB Parents of Blind Children Division. These officers are competent, dedicated parents who will be in the forefront in making the Division an organization that will soon be a respected and significant force in the affairs and concerns of blind children and their parents.
SUSAN FORD, PRESIDENT
Bubbly, enthusiastic and experienced, Susan was the natural choice to lead the organization as its first president. Susan is the former chairperson of the NFB
Parental Concerns Committee and has long been active in the NFB at all levels -- local, state and national. She and husband, John, have two children, Brenda, age 7 and Brent, age 8.
Brent, blind from birth, (he is a retrolental fibroplasia -- RLF -- baby) came to the Fords as a foster child when he was 26 months old. He is now a permanent member of the household. Brent attends a public school in St. Louis, Missouri where John and Susan make their home. Though Susan has a Masters degree in the Education of Visually Impaired Children, it is her own common sense and personal experience (she is blind also) that has been most helpful in raising Brent. In addition to being a full-time mother, Susan works part-time in a private rehabilitation center in St. Louis and tutors blind children in her home. She is proud of Brent and likes to tell how, when he was six-years-old, he placed fourth in the state in the National Multiple Sclerosis Read-a-thon competition.
Of the Division, Susan says, "I expect the Division to become a forum where parents can share common experiences, failures and successes in parenting as their blind children grow up."
FRANK SMITH, FIRST VICE-PRESIDENT
Quiet and unassuming, Frank Smith has great depths of understanding and insights into the problems of blindness and the rewards and heartaches of raising a blind child. Frank and wife, Glenda, have six children between the ages of 17 and 9. Their blind son, Rixon, is now 15 and a source of pride, joy, and worry... just like any other teenager. Rixon was an RLF baby and, because he was about four months premature, was slow in development during the early months. He has since caught up and attends a public school in Boise where he and his family live. Frank says he (Rixon) is working to receive his Eagle Scout Award and hopes to complete his final project soon.
Frank is employed at the Idaho Commission for the Blind as Chief of Field Services, is active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and serves as the Education Chairman in the local chapter of the NFB. Frank believes that, "This federation division is a resource where parents can go for a second opinion and thus prevent the monopoly of institutions and their ideas."
BEVERLY HELMBOLDT, SECRETARY
Beverly can probably be best described as a person who "gets things done". She is very active both in the NFB and in community affairs in her home state of Michigan. She and husband, Loren, teach catechism and conduct marriage-encounter groups for their church. Beverly is also on the consumer advisory committee for the low vision clinic in her area, and within the NFB, Bev serves as local chapter president and first vice-president of the NFB of Michigan.
Beverly and Loren have been married 29 years and have six children that range in age from 27 to 19. Three of the children have aniridia (absence of the iris); a condition Beverly also has. From her own children, Beverly has learned a lot about raising a blind child and is eager to share her experiences and knowledge with others. Beverly states that, "The most important thing the NFB has taught me is that I do not have to be ashamed of being blind. My blind children have also learned to feel OK about their blindness. I have tried to help my children feel good about themselves, and I hope that through the Parents Division we can help all blind children feel good about themselves."
LENA VASSEUR, SECOND VICE PRESIDENT
Lena and husband, Warren, are relatively new members of the National Federation of the Blind. They both joined in March, 1983, when they attended the NFB sponsored Parents Seminar in Louisiana. They have three girls ages 16, 15 and 9. Their yougest daughter, Benita, has retinitus pigmentosa (RP -- sometimes called "tunnel vision"). They are concerned about Benita's future and want her to have the best education and opportunity possible. Lena, a resident of Basile, Louisiana, is a soft-spoken, but determined woman. She also has RP and recently experienced a sudden decrease in vision. Lena explains why she joined the NFB and is taking an active role in the Parents of Blind Children Division, "I know how people can really treat blind persons like second-class citizens. I don't want this to happen to my child, or to myself."
BARBARA CHEADLE, TREASURER
Barbara and husband, John, live in Boise, Idaho with their three children, two boys and one girl ages 6,5 and 17 months. Son Chaz (age 5) is blind and was adopted from Korea when he was two-years-old. Barbara says, "Chaz really keeps us on our toes. He is very active and very creative. All of our children are really great and we feel we have truly been blessed."
Barbara is editor of FUTURE REFLECTIONS and feels very strongly about the need for blind adults and parents of blind children to work together. Barbara and her family have lived in both Nebraska and Missouri before making their home in Idaho. She was involved with parents of blind children and parent groups in both states, and is currently president of the newly formed Parents of Blind Idahoans.
Barbara tells us that, "The biggest help we have had has been from our blind friends. They give sound advice and encouragement. They are good for Chaz, too. He knows there are other people like him so I think it makes him feel comfortable and confident about himself as a blind person."
"Our new parents organization," says Barbara, "is the perfect setting for parents to share with each other, and to interact with and learn from the real experts on blindness ... the organized blind."
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