by Annie McEachirn Carson
What follows is the story of the Meet the Blind Month and White Cane Awareness Day event held by the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio Cincinnati Chapter. I am the recreation chairperson/ event coordinator and was assisted in the planning of this celebration by Sheri Albers, Ohio state vice president, member of the Cincinnati chapter; Walter Mitchell, chairman, fundraising committee; and Kim McEachirn, member, recreation and fundraising committees. The organizing of this event began in the summer of 2017. During this time, Kim McEachirn came up with the idea to produce a t-shirt consisting of a special design: a blue eye with “Meet the Blind” above the eye and “Mind to Mind” below it. With the support of the fundraising committee, Kim and I met with a designer, Tommy Rueff, director of Happen, Inc. and a local t-shirt manufacturer who transformed Kim’s dream into reality, completing the order of one hundred t-shirts. These unique t-shirts would be sold as a fundraiser for the local chapter by request and during our event.
In September I arranged for Sheri Albers and myself to participate in a thirty-minute interview conducted by Robert Lee Harris with Cincinnati City Cable. A summary of the National Federation of the Blind, the Cincinnati Chapter’s Meet the Blind Month, and White Cane Safety Awareness Day event were discussed. You can see that interview by going to https://vimeo.com/234562206.
After the success of the video on cable TV, internet and Facebook, the planning committee became more excited about our vision for the Meet the Blind Month and White Cane Safety Awareness Day event scheduled on October 2. Over the following weeks, invitations were sent to the Clovernook Center for the Blind, The Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and to the general public through a variety of social media outlets. Traditionally, the opening ceremony for the Meet the Blind Month and White Cane Awareness Day had begun at City Hall, therefore, as in previous years, we felt it important to involve a city official in reading the Meet the Blind Month and White Cane Safety Day proclamations. Vice Mayor David Mann, who took honor in reading the proclamations to a crowd of more than fifty attendees, spoke passionately about his own personal connection between family and community. As a father of a hearing-impaired daughter and as a husband whose wife Betsy volunteers her time in doing audio description for the blind at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, David Mann is well aware of the individual’s need to achieve and one’s willingness to serve.
Leading up to the event on October 2, the planning team focused on all of the intricate details in order to bring the event to fruition. Several volunteers from organizations such as Cincinnati City Cable, Happen Inc., Cancer Justice Network Inc., Clovernook Center for the Blind, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Davis Cookie Collection, Chick-fil-A, Graeter’s, and the Friends of the African Union supported the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio Cincinnati Chapter by donating their skills, talents, and resources.
With the use of excellent sound systems at both City Hall and Fountain Square, the team had the ability to share their message with those near and far. Beautifully designed programs were created and handed out to sighted friends and to David Mann.
Due to the tragedy in Las Vegas, I started the ceremony with a moment of silence for those killed or injured during the mass shooting. After this I officially welcomed everyone to our celebration with the purpose of sharing that blind people desire to use their skills and talents and to be independent to go and come at their convenience. NFB Cincinnati Chapter Vice President Lisa Hall read (in Braille) a brief history of Meet the Blind Month and White Cane Safety Day, David Mann read the proclamations, and Lillie Pennington, Cincinnati Chapter member, sang “Glory Federation” as the crowd enthusiastically joined in with the chorus. As I thanked David Mann on behalf of the NFB, I presented him with a t-shirt. The program finished with Sheri Albers inviting the crowd to join in the White Cane Walk to Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati.
The walk to Fountain Square, led by Sheri, was pleasant and well organized. Several sighted volunteers walked alongside NFB members. Upon arrival at Fountain Square, friend and volunteer Cassy Kohs took several pictures to commemorate the special event. I then introduced the recreation committee and fundraising committee. Lisa Hall read a Braille copy of each of the proclamations. Sheri and I then led the group in the one-minute message of NFB. For the next two hours Walter Mitchell and Kim McEachirn helped share the organization’s message by continuous announcements over the sound system while NFB friends/volunteers Lisa, Julie, and Cassy helped sell t-shirts. Jean Selvidge, a sighted member of the NFB, was very diligent in providing literature to the public and also assisting in the sale of the t-shirts.The Cincinnati Chapter is truly grateful for the fifty-plus attendees that participated in the event on the beautiful Monday afternoon of October 2. Some of these attendees included many of the Cincinnati Federation family: Dr. Carolyn Peters, president of Miami Valley Chapter and state board member; Gloria Robinson from the same chapter; Sam Foulkes and several blind coworkers from Clovernook Center for the Blind; the community relations team from The Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired; volunteers; and visitors. Together we did it! With love, hope, and determination, we achieved our goal!