Future Reflections Convention Report 2005
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by Barbara Mathews
The 2005 Parent Power Workshop was designed as an opportunity
for parents to share experiences and ideas on expanding and strengthening state
and local parent groups, fundraising, developing programs, networking, and recruiting
members. It was also an opportunity for
parents to connect with each other. Parents exchanged phone numbers and email addresses so that they could stay in touch over the course of the year.
We were privileged to hear from panelists Carrie Gilmer of Minnesota and Stephanie Kieszak-Holloway of Georgia. Carrie is well-known to many of us. Her speech to the full convention on her experiences with her son Jordan brought the audience to its feet with a standing ovation and brought many of us to tears. Carrie is president of the Minnesota Parents of Blind Children and, at the Workshop, she described starting from scratch and building an active parent organization. Most notably, they have started a “Saturday School” where children learn skills and parents come together to learn and support each other.
Stephanie was also familiar to parents, as she was a panelist during Saturday’s “In the Driver’s Seat” session for parents. At the Workshop, Stephanie spoke about what she has done to get the Georgia Organization of Parents of Blind Children up and running. They have created a Web site and provided free canes to six Georgia children. One very special effort is that Stephanie has worked with a dance studio to offer dance classes to young blind children.
I spoke about the leadership transition in the Parents of Blind Children chapter in California, including the challenges of becoming president of the organization. I talked about the incredibly valuable help that has been provided by NFB state affiliate president Nancy Burns and by my wonderful friend, Annee Hartzell, who is a teacher of the visually impaired, a parent, and a great role model for our children.
Representatives of other state organizations reported on their
activities. There was a recurring theme: A mom or dad or both found that the
parent organization in their state non-existent or close to it. Undaunted, they
started out as the sole officers and members, then built from there. Several
have developed Web sites and newsletters. A clear message was the power of just
a few energetic,
committed parents. Through their efforts and creativity, it is possible to reach out and change the lives of many families. Another message was that the personal rewards, satisfaction, and camaraderie that come from their efforts make it all worthwhile.
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