Future Reflections  Convention Report 2006

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Why We Come Back

Editor’s Note: All of the following parents are also leaders of NFB parent divisions within their states. We have included contact information for each of them. They are available to talk to other families, teachers, or others from their states or regions about the NFB, the convention, or any topic related to blindness.

Julie Hunter leads a class at the 2000 convention.Julie Hunter (Colorado): Even though my blind child is well into adulthood, I still love to attend NFB conventions. Taking part in the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children seminars and meetings is important to me. It gives me a chance to learn about new approaches to raising and educating blind kids, as well as providing an opportunity to share my experiences with younger parents. At home in Denver, I remain active with our state affiliate and our Colorado Parents of Blind Children, and I use what I learn when helping young parents with IEP meetings. Attending an NFB national convention is the best way to get a boost of enthusiasm for what we are all doing in the NFB, working together to create equality of opportunity for all blind people--children and adults. [The president of the Colorado Parents of Blind Children is Lucie Kiwimagi. Her contact information is <[email protected]>.]

Sandy Taboada manages the NOPBC registration at the 1999 convention.Joe and Sandy Taboada (Louisiana) <[email protected]>: Here’s why we come back:

1. To help with our part in organizing/running the NOPBC events (registration primarily) and anything else that needs done.

2. Our son Michael certainly benefits from the program for teens. He has made many friends that he wishes to visit with every year. He has been conversing over the Internet with a friend of a friend that he knows through NFB/NOPBC connections, and he will be meeting that friend for the first time at the 2007 convention. Socializing is SOOOO important!

3. Our younger son (who is sighted) gets to visit with his best friend, Levi (another sighted sibling), and during convention they are inseparable--two peas in a pod--couldn’t be more alike. Again, socializing is SOOOO important.

4. We have also made many friends in the NFB/NOPBC, and feel that we are part of a large family. Some friends we see only at convention. We are very good friends with one family whose two kids (one blind and one sighted) are exactly the same age as our two kids (one blind and one sighted). We live near the East Coast and they live near the West Coast, but we get to spend some vacation time during the convention with them. Socializing is SOOOOO important.

Note the theme? I think everyone that has been to the NFB convention gets a tremendous amount of information and a boost of energy (and the NFB convention is the best place for this). But we can’t forget that we are a family--both the small unit and the larger NOPBC/NFB family--and families need to have fun and recharge our connections to each other, too.

So, we come to help others, to get and give information, to recharge, to renew our friendships, and to rededicate ourselves to the challenges that lie ahead.

Barbara Mathews and husband Rob Sweeney at the 2004 conventionBarbara Mathews (California) <[email protected]>: Here are a few reasons we come back: Kyra gets to see her friends; I get to see my friends; we’ll meet new friends; and we will inevitably learn something (or many things) we didn’t know before. Last summer, Kyra learned how to use the abacus from Annee Hartzell (a blind teacher of blind children). It was totally unplanned. I don’t know what it will be next summer, but it will be great.

Kendra (right) and sister Sarah at the 2006 convention Sensory Safari display.Stephanie Kieszak-Holloway (Georgia) <[email protected]>: My family will be attending our fourth annual NFB convention in Atlanta this summer. The first year my husband and I attended just a few sessions, but we saw enough to know we wanted to bring the whole family to Kentucky for the 2005 convention. Last year’s convention in Dallas was our best yet as our twelve-year-old sighted daughter, Sarah, eagerly ran off to the teen room on a daily basis, and our three-year-old, Kendra (who is blind), had a chance to mingle with other blind children and adults. Our five-month-old son, RJ, attended many of the sessions with me. I was honored to be elected to the board of the NOPBC at the 2006 convention as well.

Although Kendra has had a cane since the age of eighteen months, it wasn’t until she heard the tap, tap, tap of hundreds of other canes at the convention that she started to show interest in using hers. Six months after our last convention, Kendra still talks about the Sensory Safari and about meeting Merry-Noel Chamberlain at the Cane Walk. We will continue to attend NFB conventions because it’s the best way we know of to show Kendra that blindness does not need to limit her in any way.

Debby Brackett with her family--husband, Bob, and children Luke, Daniel, and Winona--at the 2004 conventionDebby Brackett (Florida) <[email protected]>: We found the NFB when researching information about a three-year-old girl we were interested in adopting who is totally blind. Most groups asked why we would want to do so, while others told us not to bother. The NFB and NOPBC said, “Go for it! You can do it, and we’re here to help.” Seven years later, our daughter is an honor roll student in the fifth grade in regular classes. The NFB helped us ensure she is given the tools she needs to succeed. She came to us with the “I can do it if you teach me how” attitude that characterizes the NFB.

Convention is a great opportunity to learn, to teach, and to socialize. We strengthen our knowledge about issues for our children, and we reconnect with the friends we’ve made over the years. It also allows us to help guide others along this path. I can’t imagine a summer without the NFB national convention.

Jill Weatherd (right) and teacher, Wendy Almeda, relax during a workshop break at the 2005 conventionJill Weatherd (Wyoming) <[email protected]>: I remember our first convention in California. We were so overwhelmed. I remember Brad saying something like, “Now don’t even think about this NFB convention becoming our vacation every year.” Well, guess what. We’ve gone every year since then and it IS our family vacation. It’s our family vacation because the NFB is our family. We have friends in the NFB who get it, “it” being that blind people are people first and foremost, and that they are more like other people than they are different. It’s the one week of the year when nobody gives our daughter a second look, unless it’s because she’s riding her cane like a pony instead of using it properly. We go because we want to keep tabs on the kids who are a few years older than our daughter--it’s a way of preparing for the future and scoping out potential problems and opportunities. We go so that we can be the supportive “been there done that” family that newer parents can lean on--because that’s what we experienced as new parents. We go so that our daughter will get the solid foundation of NFB philosophy that she can add to and carry with her as she grows up. We’re looking forward to the year we will be going to watch our daughter in her leadership role as an adult in the NFB.

Maria Garcia with her daughter, Elora, at the convention in Louisville.Maria T. Garcia (New York) <[email protected]>: Why do I come back? I come back because I am the mother of a remarkable child who happens to be blind. As she grows, her needs change. As her needs change, what I need to know to prepare her to become the independent “turn the world on its heels” woman she is destined to become changes.

I come back because every year, bar none, I have found the inspiration and motivation I need to continue for another year as a parent leader in my state. I come back because the convention experience fills me to the brim. I come back because it makes my heart sing.

Jordan Richardson (front right) hangs out with peers Alysha Jeans, Justin Harford, and Ryan Thomas, and also blind mentor, Mark Riccobono, at the 2005 convention.Carrie Gilmer (Minnesota) <[email protected]>: We came to our first convention when our blind son was eight years old; he is now 16. Our top ten reasons for coming back are:

10. It is the one time in the year when our son is in the majority population. At the convention there are tons of peers and mentors for him to hang around with.

9. It is a great learning experience for his siblings.

8. It demonstrates to our son that the whole family is committed and behind him; we believe in his normalcy.

7. The NFB and NOPBC have given us so much; the convention is a time and a place we can give back.

6. Networking, baby! We always find new resources and make new contacts.

5. We can get our hands on exciting new things in technology, aids, and appliances. Try before you buy, is our motto.

4. Our son can visit a “store” [the Braille book flea market] and scour the shelves for a favorite book, pull it off the shelf, and take it home.

3. Excellent speakers that inspire and inform.

2. Mom has maid service for a week and no cooking and lots of fun.

1. Our son would kill us if we didn’t go.

Serena Cucco and her father Bill at the 2004 Sensory Safari.Carol Castellano (New Jersey) <[email protected]>: We began attending NFB conventions when our daughter was in first grade, when we were desperate for help with her education. We received help and so much more. Our daughter is now a senior in college and we’re still attending the conventions. What we found that first time is what still inspires and energizes us each time we go--the message that blind people can lead normal lives complete with a job, a family, friendships, fun, and involvement in community life. We learn something new at convention each year that can not only help our child but that we can take back to our home state to help other blind kids and their families. Attending an NFB convention is absolutely THE BEST thing you can do for your blind child.

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