Future Reflections                                                                                Convention Report 2004

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Georgia Parents Organize

by Stephanie Kieszak-Holloway
           President, Georgia Organization of Parents of Blind Children

Stephanie Kieszak-Holloway with her family: husband Richard Holloway; daughter Kendra; and step-daughter Sarah (standing).
Stephanie Kieszak-Holloway with her family; husband, Richard Holloway; daughter Kendra; and step-daughter Sarah (standing).

I recently had what I like to think of as a “Frank Capra moment.” For those of you who can’t quite place the name, Frank Capra was the director of “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring Jimmy Stewart. In the movie, Jimmy Stewart’s character is given the chance to see what life would have been like if he had never been born. My experience wasn’t quite that profound, but I do feel like I was given the chance to travel back in time two years and see myself as I was after finding out that my daughter Kendra was blind.

Last week as I was standing in the observation room watching Kendra singing and bopping around in the class she attends at The Center for the Visually Impaired, a young mother walked in with her four-month-old daughter. We started talking and discovered that our daughters had a lot in common, including that they are both totally blind. I could see the sadness on the mother’s face as she asked me if my little girl was happy. I told her that two years ago, that had also been my greatest concern. What I have discovered since then is that having vision does not automatically make you happy and not having vision does not automatically make you sad.

When people ask me why I added the presidency of the new Georgia Organization of Parents of Blind Children (GOPBC) to a life that already includes a full-time job, a husband, a ten-year-old stepdaughter, and an extremely energetic two-year-old, I can honestly point out that a moment like the one I just described makes it all worthwhile. I have learned so much over the past two years and I welcome the chance to share some of that knowledge with other parents.

The GOPBC was chartered in September, 2004, at the Georgia state convention of the National Federation of the Blind. We are still a very small group although I am pleased to report that we now have more members than officers. Our vice-president is Deirdre Watkins, our secretary is my husband Richard Holloway, and Miki Causey is our board member. The other positions will be filled as we go along.

Even though we are a very new organization, we have already requested canes from the NOPBC for two children. A goal of ours is to spread the word to parents that if they believe their child should have a cane, the GOPBC (through the generosity of the NOPBC) will provide one. My daughter got her first cane at about eighteen months old. I will be the first to admit that she does not use it as an adult would, but she does seem to understand its purpose and, for me, that’s reason enough for her to have one.

In addition to the cane bank, the GOPBC is in the process of putting together a Web site at www.gopbc.org. We hope that this will be a valuable resource for our families and a good way to disseminate information about our services and activities. We will be scheduling field trips to the Georgia Library for Accessible Services (GLASS) and perhaps starting a story hour for children at GLASS next summer. At the suggestion of Linda Stetson, the coordinator at GLASS, we will be collaborating on a survey to determine what services and materials are available for the visually impaired at all Georgia libraries.

Another project that I can’t wait to get started is one in which a parent can call the GOPBC and request that a blind adult go to their child’s school to talk to the students and faculty. I think that many of the misconceptions people have about the blind are largely due to a lack of exposure. Before my daughter was born, I had never met a blind person and I have to admit that I had some incorrect assumptions about what a blind person could do. I have been privileged to meet people through the NFB who have shown me by their example how wrong I was.

We have many more projects planned for the future and we welcome the chance to discuss our organization with anyone who is interested. Suggestions and questions are also welcome. The officers are committed to making the GOPBC an organization which parents, grandparents, and educators can turn to for advice and assistance.

Stephanie Kieszak-Holloway

President, Georgia Organization of Parents of Blind Children

Email: president@gopbc.org

Web site: www.gopbc.org

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