The Braille Monitor                                                                                       May 2003

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Birthday Bash at St. Lucy's School
by Lynn Heitz

Harriett Go reads a story about Louis Braille to the students of St. Lucy's School.  Both she and the students are using Braille.
Harriett Go reads a story about Louis Braille to the students of St. Lucy's School. Both she and the students are using Braille.

From the Editor: Lynn Heitz is president of the Keystone Chapter of the NFB of Pennsylvania. Most readers know that January 4 is Louis Braille's birthday. In the following article Lynn Heitz reports on a fine birthday party that took place this year in Philadelphia. This is what she says:

It is fitting that Louis Braille's birthday is the first one of the year celebrated by the blind community. Members of the Keystone Chapter of the NFB of Pennsylvania in conjunction with the Pennsylvania State Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (BVS) did just that early this year. Seven of us spent the afternoon of January 10 at St. Lucy's Day School for Blind Children celebrating the birthday of the person who has had the greatest impact on the lives of blind people throughout the world. Included in the group were Donald Krentzman, district manager of the Philadelphia office of BVS; James Antonacci, president of the NFB of Pennsylvania; Lynn Heitz, president of the Keystone Chapter; Patricia Grebloski, graduate of St. Lucy's; Harriet Go, the first recipient of an NFB of Pennsylvania Scholarship at the 2002 state convention and graduate of St. Lucy's; and Barbara Esposito and Wiley Smith, Keystone Chapter members.

The birthday celebration included the usual storytelling, singing, presents, and of course eating cake. Harriet read a Braille story about the life of Louis Braille while the students followed along in their own Braille copies. It was breathtaking to hear the loud swoosh when Harriet and all of the students turned their pages in unison as they read the story together. Following this, Jim Antonacci led us in singing "Happy Birthday." Then came the presents. Lynn Heitz distributed Beanie Buddies to each of the students and special guests. There were zebras, lions, monkeys, and puppies. The animals were incredibly soft and cuddly. Three special Beanie Buddies were presented. The first was to Sister Meg, principal of St. Lucy's school. The second went to Donald Krentzman. The final Beanie Buddy was given to the oldest alumna visiting St. Lucy's day school, Patricia Grebloski. Patricia said that she graduated from St. Lucy's in 1956, which actually preceded the construction of the current school building.

The most exciting part of the program was yet to come. Lynn Heitz and Barbara Esposito had baked cupcakes that read "Happy Birthday Louis Braille" in both Braille (using M&Ms) and tactile letters (one letter to a cupcake). The children were so excited about this that they each had to make sure the cupcakes were in the proper order before eating them.

It is always exciting to visit St. Lucy's because the children are bright, full of energy, and eager to learn. The only thing that distinguishes them from other students is that they are blind. This means that, in addition to the standard, age-appropriate educational curriculum, they learn Braille early on and how to use the white cane. The school participates enthusiastically in the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest. Last year the Keystone Chapter awarded a fifty-dollar savings bond to St. Lucy's student Rosemary Martin.

It was exciting to have Donald Krentzman of BVS, the staff of St. Lucy's, and the members of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania come together in partnership on this special day. We salute the staff of St. Lucy's day school for their dedication in teaching these students to become fully participating members of our society. Through this partnership the students at St. Lucy's will be able to achieve their future goals and truly embody the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind--that it is indeed respectable to be blind.

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