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Almost 101 Ways To Decorate Your Cane

by Cortney Osolinski

Editor's Note: Cortney Osolinski wrote the following letter to the editor of the Braille Monitor shortly before her eleventh birthday in 1996. It and the article she enclosed were included in the July, 1996, issue of the Braille Monitor and they are reprinted below. Since many would be curious as to what Cortney is up to now, Future Reflections contacted her mother and learned that she is in her third year at Georgian Court University in Lakewood, New Jersey. She happily conveys the evolution of her experience and independence in college: in her first year, Cortney went home every weekend; however, the following year, her family had to convince her to come home even for Thanksgiving. Cortney plans to become a Braille teacher, but holds a strong passion for anthropology as well. Here is the letter and article she submitted over twelve years ago:

Vineland, New Jersey

Dear Sir or Madam,

My name is Cortney. I'm in fourth grade, and I am a member of the Garden State Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey. I am a writer, and I have just won a contest. My poem, “A Blind Dog,” was accepted for publication in the anthology A Celebration of Young Poets.

I want to be a paleontologist and a dog trainer. I have three ribbons and several awards from horse-riding competitions. I play the violin (“Ode to Joy” is my favorite), and I have a yellow belt in Karate.

My favorite thing to do is go to NFB conventions. I get my own key to our room, all my best friends are there, and I don't have to go to bed at 9:00 p.m. There is a lot of Braille to read, and I always have a party in my room with no adults.

I hope you like my article, “Almost 101 Ways to Decorate Your Cane.”

Sincerely,
Cortney Osolinski

I would like to share with all my NFB friends some of my ideas on how I decorate my cane, but first let me tell you why I decorate it: for holidays, sports events, parties, and just for fun! I love my cane now. I didn't when I was little, but now I think even my sighted friends wish they had one. In fact, some of my ideas came from them. They're always telling me what they would do if they had one.

I disguise my cane at Halloween so it will not give me away, and it really adds to my costume. Last year I won second prize in a contest. I would have won first, but I didn't have my plastic bananas in time. I was a gorilla, and my cane was covered with fake green vine. No one knew it was me, and some of the little kids thought I was a real ape! In the parade I stopped and pounded on my chest every few feet and made gorilla calls.

My mom said I have to include her rules for me when I decorate my cane so:

1. Keep the handle clear so I still have a good grip.
2. I can't go outside at night with my cane covered in dark colors.
3. I have to use my old cane or not damage my good one.
4. Only do to my cane what I know is safe (and fun).

--I'll start with Christmas because everyone loved my “candy cane,” and it was my NFB chapter president, Ms. Ever Lee Hairston, who said I should share my ideas with Braille Monitor readers.

The Candy Cane: Start at one end and wrap with red garland or ribbon, leaving one-inch spaces all the way up. It looks great like that, but you can add a piece of curved styrofoam and wrap it too. You can put a big red bow right where you taped the styrofoam on.
Lights Alive: Spiral-wrap a battery-operated string of about twenty lights the whole length of your cane. This one's great at night, and all my friends want a turn holding it!
Are You Listening: Tie bells near the handle. Mom likes this one when we're in a hurry because everyone hears me coming and steps out of my way. We can even run through the mall.
O Tannenbaum: Cover your cane with green shiny paper. Add garland and little silk or plastic balls all over it. I think I'll ask Santa to put presents around it too. He is blind, you know.
Christmas Flowers: Tie fresh or fake poinsettias near the handle of your cane.
Frosty: Cover your cane with white cotton. Put a little plastic top hat just under the handle, button eyes, and a paper carrot nose.
Yummy Cane: Tape mini candy canes or any wrapped Christmas candy all over your cane. This is my favorite.
Shepherd's Staff: This is for when you're in a school, church, or club play. You can be a shepherd when you go Christmas caroling.

--New Year is next:

Celebrate: Tape a “Happy New Year” banner lengthwise down your cane.
Party Animal: Dangle streamers of many colors all over your cane.
Numbers: Tape the number of the New Year once or all over your cane.

--Super Bowl Sunday, or any sports event:

Pigskins: Tape brown cut-out footballs to dangle from your cane.
Home Team: Wrap your cane in your team colors.
Cheers: Tape a shaker or pompom near the handle.
Mascot: Hang a stuffed animal or picture of a team mascot on your cane.
Hokey Hockey: Cut out the club part of a hockey stick and tape it onto the bottom of your cane.

--Now some things for Valentine's Day:

Cupid's Arrow: Put feathers at the top and a cut out paper arrow point near the tip.
Love and Kisses: Cover your cane with red hearts and Hershey's Kisses.
Love Stinks: Dangle a paper cutout of a skunk and red hearts from your cane.
Wrapped With Love: Wrap your cane from top to bottom with red foil heart garland.
That Someone Special: Dangle the picture or the name of your Valentine from the cord or handle of your cane.

--Next is St. Patrick's Day:

Luck of the Irish: Make a giant shamrock by wrapping your cane with green paper and cut out four leaves to tape just under the handle.
Top of the Mornin': Put a paper Leprechaun near the top of your cane, colored paper going down the length like a rainbow, and a paper picture of a pot of gold near the tip.
Kiss Me, I'm Irish: (mom's favorite) Put a “Kiss me, I'm Irish” pin on your cane, shirt, coat, hat, or socks.
Shamrock Special: Cover your cane with shiny shamrock stickers.
Glowing Green: Remember at Christmas to get extra green lights and use a battery-powered string of twenty lights to wrap your cane.

--Next is Easter:

The Egg Hunt: Wrap string around green Easter grass covering your cane. Then glue little plastic eggs in.
Peter Cotton Tail: Glue or tape lots of colored cotton balls all over your cane.
Jesus Died For Me: Cut white paper to make your cane into a cross and tape it on. Braille and print your favorite Easter verse across the cross.
Haul a Nail: Tape a nail on your cane as a reminder.
Tastiest: Tape covered chocolate Easter eggs all over your cane.

--Fourth of July and the National Convention:

Star Spangled Banner: Tape red ribbon stripes around your cane, leaving room for blue star stickers in between.
Flag Pole: Tie a small flag near the top of your cane.

--Okay, now for my favorite: Halloween. Make your cane into something that goes with your costume like:

French Maid: Create a feather duster on your cane.
Cheerleader: Tie a pompom or shaker to your cane.
Jail Bird: Attach a black painted styrofoam ball and chain to your cane.
Witch: Make your cane into a broom stick.
Indian: Your cane can be a totem pole.
Barber: Turn your cane into a barber's pole.
Baby: Make it a lollypop.
Queen or Fairy: Do some magic of your own and make a magic wand.
Devil: Make a pitchfork.
Native: A spear.
Tarzan, ape, or dinosaur: Wrap your cane with fake green vine.
Stranded Island Survivor: Your cane can become a palm tree.
Farmer: It's a hoe.
Clown: Make it a leash and add a paper dog.
King: Make a scepter.
Fisherman: It becomes a fishing pole.
Mummy or Grave Digger: It can be a shovel.
Bride: Attach a bouquet of flowers and a draped veil.
Bunny: Turn your cane into a giant carrot.
Cave Man or Dog: Make it a big white bone.
Accident Victim: It can become a crutch.
Really Bad Accident Victim: Tape a small plastic baggie with ketchup at the top of your cane; then tape one end of a red shoe-string licorice whip to the bag and the other end to your arm. It's an IV pole.
Band Leader: It can be a baton.
Sailor: It can be a lighthouse. Use a little flashlight on the top.
Cave Man: Make it a club.
G.I. Joe: You can make a rifle.
Henry the Eighth: Turn your cane into a turkey leg.
Bo Peep: Make the Christmas candy cane without the stripe.
Casper: Turn your cane into Uncle Stretch.
Scarecrow: The cane becomes a skinny bail of hay.
Hawaiian: Cover it with flowers.

In the Fall you can make your cane into a big sunflower. When I was little, my mom always put something on the cord of my cane to keep my hands busy, like snap-together beads or toy chain links. She says that if she had a cane, she would put a stress ball on it. You could put Rosary beads or a picture of your children or family on it. I think that my mom's best idea is getting the plastic eyes you can buy at the craft store for making stuffed animals and taping them near the tip of your cane. I think it helps new kids I meet and even adults understand what a cane is. It explains itself this way and saves me from having to try.

I always have lots of fun with my cane. I love my cane. And since we'll be together for a long time, I plan on having lots more fun with it. I hope you do too. Look for my next article on “One Hundred and One Inventions” to help me and other blind people, like a cane/umbrella and a toothbrush whose handle holds the toothpaste--just one pump, wet, and you're set. Well, I don't want to give too much away.

You think that I'm insane
Because I love my cane?
It might just bring me fame.
See, now even you know my name.
--Cortney Osolinski

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