Braille Monitor               January 2024

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Gary Van Dorn Day Brings Dollars to NFBCO

by Peggy Chong

On August 18, several Federationists, members of the Denver Disability Community, and friends of Gary Van Dorn, treasurer of the Mile High Chapter of the NFB of Colorado stood in the hot morning sun at 16th and Welton Streets, to honor Gary Van Dorn for his service to the community and to the Federation in particular.

Gary was nominated for the Minoru Yasui Community Volunteer Award by the NFB of Colorado for all he does, highlighting his tireless work to keep everyone informed about the many changes in the public transportation system, new developments that affect rideshare services, and the multi-year, 16th Street Mall re-development project.

The Minoru Yasui Community Volunteer Award is presented ten months of each year since 1977 to an unsung volunteer hero in the Denver area for their selfless service to the community. Gary is the third Federationist to receive the award: Elsie Cowan, in 1977, the first year of the award; Julie Hunter in 2021; and Gary in 2023.

Gary Van DornMinoru Yasui (October 19, 1916 – November 12, 1986) was an American lawyer from Oregon. Born in Hood River, Oregon, he earned both an undergraduate degree and his law degree at the University of Oregon. He was one of the few Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor who fought laws that directly targeted Japanese Americans or Japanese immigrants. His case was the first case to test the constitutionality of the curfews targeted at minority groups.

Yasui's case made its way to the United States Supreme Court, where his conviction for breaking curfew was affirmed. After internment during most of World War II, he moved to Denver, Colorado, in 1944. In Denver, Yasui married and became a local leader in civic affairs, including leadership positions in the Japanese American Citizens League. In 1986, his criminal conviction was overturned by the federal court.

In 2015, Senator Mazie K. Hirono nominated Yasui for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award of the United States. On November 16, 2015, President Barack Obama announced that Yasui would receive a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In recognizing Gary, everyone had a different story to tell, a different project he worked on, and a different organization he connected with. His energy and service knows no limits. Even with a full-time job, Gary never has an excuse why he cannot serve.

The half-hour presentation began with speeches from the Minoru Yasui Community Volunteer Award Committee. They presented Gary with a plaque recognizing his outstanding, longtime service to the community and the NFB in particular. A proclamation from the mayor declaring August 18, 2023, to be Gary Van Dorn Day, and a check for $2,000 made payable to the NFB of Colorado in recognition of his efforts was the highpoint of the day. Afterwards, several accompanied Gary to a local restaurant to help him celebrate.

Blind Leader Honored for His Contributions to Denver


Denver, Colorado, (August 16, 2023): The National Federation of the Blind of Colorado (NFBCO) is proud to announce that state board member Gary Van Dorn, Denver, is the August 2023 recipient of the Minoru Yasui Community Volunteer Award. Gary has requested that the $2,000 award he will receive be donated to NFBCO.

Gary moved to Denver in 1991 and quickly joined the NFBCO, becoming very active. He is a busy analyst for the IRS. Yet, he finds time to accept several titles and responsibilities in the organization: secretary of the NFBCO Mile High Chapter, NFBCO state board member, NFBCO Transportation Chair, fundraiser, and official photographer. Gary contributes to the NFBCO in an abundance of large and small ways.

Some of his many projects involve disabilities counsel to the Sixteenth Street Mall redesign. He advises the city of Denver, the Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD). Gary provides his insights with various developers and contractors on the needs and wishes of the disabled community. As a member of the Colfax Redevelopment Project, Gary provides the collective voice of people with disabilities, an essential part of the community who needs to be heard when designing new spaces.

Gary collaborated with other organizations at Denver International Airport rideshare pickups. Recommending improvements for people with disabilities, including the blind. Gary serves as a volunteer leader in the Colorado Cross Disability Coalition.

“Gary has been a great mentor to me, especially after I was elected president of the NFBCO’s Mile High Chapter,” said Cody Bair, a blind person who works as a CPA Manager at PwC. “He is always willing to share his time and knowledge with anyone who asks,” Cody added.

“I became better acquainted with Mr. Van Dorn when I first moved to Colorado in the late summer of 2018,” said Curtis Chong, Nonvisual Access Technology Consultant. "Despite his busy schedule and full-time job at the IRS, Mr. Van Dorn kindly took the time to welcome me to Denver. He introduced me to various transportation options for blind people like myself in the metropolitan area."

Chong continued, “When I was persuaded by Mr. Van Dorn to attend an RTD board meeting, I was impressed that many of the board members knew Mr. Van Dorn personally, so frequent was his attendance. Mr. Van Dorn often provided public testimony on various transportation issues and often spoke personally with RTD directors and senior management.”

“Gary does not seek the spotlight,” said Peggy Chong, NFBCO’s historian. “That is why we in the NFBCO are so excited for Gary and grateful for his generous gift through the Minoru Yasui Award.”

Minoru Yasui was a Japanese American. He was one of thousands of Japanese Americans who endured curfews and internment during World War II. Coming to Denver after the war, Yasui passed the Colorado Bar with the highest score recorded that year. He spent his career helping other Japanese Americans as well as other minorities. He was a strong political activist and fought for civil rights. He valued inclusivity and integrity. He acted with vision, perseverance, and compassion.

In 1976, the city of Denver established a monthly Community Volunteer Award in his honor. As a result of this award, more than $982,000 has been given to 514 non-profit organizations.

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About the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado: The National Federation of the Blind of Colorado is the oldest and largest organization of blind people in Colorado. The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.

For information about this initiative, please contact:
Peggy Chong
[email protected]

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