by Racquel Decipeda
From the Editor: Admittedly, February is not usually a month in which we are still talking about Christmas, but this item was submitted at the end of December and was too late to be included in the January issue. Congratulations to the San Fernando Valley Chapter, not only for the projects they mention here, but for taking the time to share this nationally:
The San Fernando Valley Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California is celebrating another wonderful year, particularly two of our most successful events: the Best in Tech Conference and the Adopt A Child Project. Our chapter, in collaboration with the Center for the Partially Sighted in Los Angeles, put together the Best in Tech Conference in 2009 with the intent to provide a much-needed service to our community, as well as to help increase awareness about our respective organizations. We just had our sixth annual event on November 22, 2014, which was bigger and better than ever. Best in Tech offers a great opportunity to those who are interested in learning about the latest innovations in assistive technology for the blind and partially sighted. It is a free, annual event for our community, where some of the biggest and most well-known manufacturers and vendors of assistive technology gather with about three hundred blind and low-vision attendees including students, teachers, department of rehab counselors, and ordinary folks who are interested in learning about the best and most helpful assistive technology solutions of the year.
In December we hold our annual chapter holiday party, where our chapter members and their families and friends gather together to share and enjoy the spirit of the holidays. In 2012 the SFV chapter decided to enhance our holiday party by embarking on a new project, the Adopt a Child program. Our chapter members felt that Christmas is the time to give back and share the blessings we have received throughout the year and throughout our journey as blind and low-vision individuals. Once again we reached out to our local community and partnered with the Therapeutic Living Centers for the Blind in Reseda, California (TLC), to help us find families of blind children who could use a little holiday cheer. We were all so touched and overwhelmed with joy at the outcome that this has now become a highly-anticipated yearly tradition.
That first year we adopted a child named Hizela, and in 2013 we had Kobe and Alejandra. These children and their siblings were showered with gifts from all of our chapter members, and they joined us in our annual holiday dinner party, along with the staff from TLC. In 2014 the chapter decided to adopt David Sandoval, who is a thirteen-year-old blind child with microphthalmia/anophthalmia. David is a student at Irving Middle School. He is gifted with a love of music and attends the Primary Academy of Music. David performed for us before dinner and played a Christmas carol with his flute and sang “Treasure,” a song popularized by Bruno Mars. Of course, the highlight of the evening was surprising David with his gifts. The chapter made it possible for David to get one of the things on his wish list: an electric guitar. All of us were happy seeing the big smile on David’s face as he eagerly unwrapped his shiny new guitar, including everything that came along with it: the carrying case, amplifier, and accessories. It was such a pleasure to see and hear David’s mother, Maria Acosta, joyfully experiencing her child’s excitement, happy and thankful for the blessings they’ve received this Christmas.
It is a true blessing and pleasure to give and share with others. This is one project we will continue in future years, and we hope that other chapters will be similarly inspired. We also see this as a great opportunity to convey an important message: that being blind is not a hindrance in achieving your hopes and dreams. You can live the life you want with the proper tools, education, resources, and information. In other words, we are committed to extending a warm welcome to the Federationists of the future.
Editor’s Note: Along with this article we were sent a copy of the letter written by Ms. Acosta to thank the chapter for the gift it gave to her son. Here are a few gems from what she said:
I just want to thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for making my son David so happy. We had so much fun this year. You all made us feel like we were part of your NFB family and that you really wanted to get to know David.
He loved, loved, loved his guitar. He has been asking me for one for a long time, and fortunately the National Federation of the Blind was able to help with this gift. The smile on his face is unforgettable. You are all amazing people who understand the need of a child. As soon as he got home, David couldn’t wait any longer, and he started playing the electric guitar. I am pretty sure our neighbors will enjoy the music!
Once again, thank you so much for my son’s guitar and for inviting us to your holiday party. I hope this will not be the end of our journey with the NFB and that we will be part of this family for a long time.
David Sandoval’s mom