The Braille Monitor                                                                                       April 2003

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UPS Delivers More Than Parcels:
Braille Readers Are Leaders Celebrates 20th

by Sandy Halverson


UPS volunteers being oriented at the 2002 convention.
UPS volunteers being oriented at the 2002 convention.

From the Editor: Sandy Halverson is a longtime leader of the National Federation of the Blind. She and her husband John now live in Virginia, where she works to promote the use of Braille. She has some exciting news for those attending the convention this coming summer:

Every year we say our upcoming national convention is going to be better than our last one. Something new to surprise and delight us always seems to emerge. This year is no exception. We are pleased to announce that at the 2003 NFB convention, on Monday, June 30, we will be celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the NFB Braille Readers Are Leaders contest.

For twenty years this contest, cosponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB), has strengthened literacy, increased Braille reading speeds, and brought the joy of reading Braille to over a thousand blind children nationwide.

To mark the accomplishments of these twenty years, NOPBC and NAPUB have planned a reception at the Galt House on Monday, June 30, between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. You will find enough free food and beverages to assuage any appetite, a Braille book flea market (more about that later), displays, and a brief but lively program from 6:30 to 7:00 p.m. Although anyone who attends the 2003 convention is welcome to attend the reception, we extend a very special invitation to contest participants (past and present) and their families.

So, where does UPS fit into all this? Over the past several years UPS has partnered with the NFB to promote Braille literacy and other access-to-information programs such as NFB-NEWSLINE´┐Ż. UPS has also provided many courteous volunteers at our national conventions, who know how to give appropriate assistance and directions.

Now the UPS Foundation has provided the NFB with a Braille Readers Are Leaders expansion grant. These funds will allow us to make this anniversary event the beginning of many annual reunions, and it will also fund some innovative new elements (such as a mentorship program) to the Braille Readers Are Leaders program. However, once we have these programs off the ground, our task will be to fund them and keep them going. And that's where the Braille book flea market comes in.

The Braille book flea market is your opportunity to share those loved but no longer read Braille books with others and, for a small donation, to find new treasures as you browse tables of Braille reading matter at the anniversary reception on Monday, June 30. Donations generated by this project will help us fund future Braille Readers Are Leaders reunions and activities. So start gathering those Braille books together, and, if you don't want to pack them in your luggage, please contact me (Sandy Halverson, see below) for information about where you can ship them in advance.

Finally, the UPS grant makes it possible for us to offer travel and lodging stipends for the anniversary event to a limited number of former Braille Readers Are Leaders contest participants. Priority for consideration for stipends will go to those age nineteen and older who are willing to be a Braille mentor to younger Braille readers and their families at the convention.

There is a country song with a phrase that goes something like this: "I was country when country wasn't cool." Twenty years ago, when the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest was inaugurated, Braille wasn't cool. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. Mark your convention calendars for June 30 and come help us celebrate our past successes and an even brighter future for Braille literacy.

For more information about the Braille Readers Are Leaders anniversary celebration, the Braille book flea market, the mentorship program, or the travel stipends, please contact Sandy Halverson, president, Virginia Association to Promote the Use of Braille, at (703) 379-1141 or <[email protected]>

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