Atlanta Lions Support the National Federation for the Blind’s Bell Program

Atlanta Lions National Federation for the Blind
The National Federation for the Blind’s Bell Program provides several programs and initiatives which focus on Education as education is the most urgent civil rights issue facing the blind in the 21st century. It is known that very few blind children receive Braille instruction for one reason or another. Almost 85% of blind children are Braille illiterate. This is not acceptable in our society today.

One of these NFB programs is The BELL program – Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning. BELL increases awareness and supports Braille literacy among blind children. The two week summer program provides intense Braille instruction and training to children who are not currently receiving the services they need during the regular school year. It is meant to serve students who are not currently receiving enough Braille instruction in school or who could benefit from Braille enrichment over the summer.

The program is designed to run Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m which operates like a regular school day. The schedule and activities were developed with the individual needs of the children in mind. The schedule allows for small group instruction, which provides children with the opportunity for more individual attention. In addition to Braille crafts, games, and other engaging projects, children may also enjoy field trips to sites related to the NFB BELL curriculum. A parent seminar will also accompany the program where parents can learn strategies to support their child in the learning and use of Braille. From this seminar parents can also gain valuable information to aid them in the empowerment of their child as they interact with other parents of blind children and successful blind adults.

As a parent of a six year old blind child I truly understand the need for early intervention, braille literacy and strong parent advocacy – literacy and independence would be the main keys to my daughter’s success and if I would like to support that for other children as well.

The two week program will be held at The Center for the Visually Impaired (CVI) and some of the expenses include, materials, transportation and a daily healthy lunch for the kids (an average of 18 children).

Smart Lunch Smart Kid

Fellow Atlanta Lions participated in the Smart Lunch, Smart Kid program July 15-19, 2013. Read on to learn more.

Action Ministries’ Childhood Nutrition Initiative

Smart Lunch, Smart Kid – Action Ministries’ child nutrition program – brings nutritious meals to children in need and makes it possible for partners to make a difference in the lives of children in their local communities.

Every day in Georgia, more than 800,000 students receive a free or reducedprice lunch. Sadly, when the school year ends, so does their access to this important meal.

Research shows proper nutrition in childhood plays an important role in a young person’s physical and mental growth. It can contribute to a child’s overall health and well-being and help them grow to their full potential.

According to a recent national study, Georgia ranks sixth in the nation for child food insecurity (limited or uncertain access to adequate food) with more than 700,000 children in the state at risk of hunger.

Many children at risk of hunger rely on school meals as their primary source of nutrition. Of the 800,000 who receive free or reduced-price lunches at school only 13.6 percent (just over 100,000 children) participate in summer meals programs in Georgia.

Action Ministries is committed to ensuring that Georgia’s children have access to the food they need to learn and grow – especially during the summer months.

How does Smart Lunch, Smart Kid work?

Using the most up-to-date data available, a local Action Ministries coordinator identifies communities of greatest need and determines suitable distribution sites.

The local coordinator provides training to community partners and volunteers receive training on how to prepare lunches which are assembled following an easy-to-use menu of smart food choices.

The coordinator then works with local volunteers to deliver healthy sack lunches to around 400 children in each area who are not served by other programs.

How can I become involved in Smart Lunch, Smart Kid?

Action Ministries is pleased to offer various levels of involvement.

  • Organizations can serve as Host Sites.
  • Volunteers can join together to make, package and deliver meals. All can give of their time and their personal gifts.

 

Million Penny Challenge

Atlanta Lions Club - Million Penny ChallengaeAtlanta Lions Club kicked off the White Cane fundraiser today with the “Million Penny Challenge” The goal is to raise $10,000.00 by June 15th to support The Georgia Lions Lighthouse and other Lions charities. We will be distributing buckets throughout the community asking “May we have your pennies?” For 62 days, from April 15th to June 15th, we are asking the Atlanta Lions and friends of the Atlanta Lions to support this effort by collecting change in these buckets. A portion of the monies, 50%, will go to the Georgia Lions Lighthouse. Here is a sample of the work that the Lions of Georgia and the Lighthouse perform:

Shannon’s Story

At the age of 25, my lifelong battle against a rare, genetic and brutally painful eye disease finally took its toll and rendered me almost legally blind. My young son, who was just a year old at the time, was also experiencing episodic bouts of pain and severe sensitivity to light which meant he too had inherited the dreaded disease. Each erosion or, scratch across our corneas, occurred for any number of reasons; simply upon opening our eyes from sleep, or a wisp of hair across the eye, or for no known reason at all. Each erosion caused a lattice work pattern of abrasions to appear across the surface of the eye. Each and every time my infant son or I experienced an erosion, we were confined to bed. The extreme photophobias meant those days in bed were spent in utter darkness. Not a candle, not the flicker of a television, not a ray of sunlight could be tolerated. My son was so young that scarring of his cornea had not yet become a concern. The horror of the pain in someone so young? Yes. Blindness not yet. For me though, the recurrent corneal erosions and central corneal clouding had finally disabled me.

I had no insurance, could not allow myself to continue to drive, correcting my vision with glasses was not a reality and faking it at work was out of the question. Between his bouts and mine it was pretty hard to hold down a job for long. On good days when I could see it was a challenge. Without vision at least some of the time, we were done for. I was alone and I was scared. I knew I needed a cornea transplant. My Mother had one with moderate success and an Aunt and Grandfather had also been helped by the operation to some degree. Because I had been dealing with my disease, I mean just living with it and all its consequences as a part of my reality since birth, missing school, losing jobs, learning how to handle pain I did with no doctor I could call on.

There was nothing they could ever do to help me in my young mind, could not provide pain relief so my policy was, and why go? Still, I knew the transplants might restore, at least partially, my vision. How to do it with no money and no insurance? Fortune favors the brave; I believed this and so with the help of a friend, began to find corneal surgeons in the Atlanta area. I wrote letters to each of them begging them to help me, uninsured though I was and finally after a month of pleading I got a response.

Dr. Stephen Hamilton, a brilliant, kind and in my humble estimation, heroic surgeon, invited me into his office in Atlanta for a consultation. He confirmed what I knew to be true. A transplant was the way to go. In the exam room Dr. Hamilton made me an offer I’m sure might be shocking to many in the modern medical profession. He offered to do the surgery for free. However, we would need outpatient services and surgical accommodations from the hospital. We would also need a donor cornea and after care costs covered. Cornea tissue transplant recipients never reach a place where they are risk free from rejection and I would require lifelong care. How do you pay for that with no insurance?

It seemed to awful to bare. It seemed in that moment to me that there was no hope.

I was overcome with despair in that moment. An awful thing. We sat there together in the dark; me, close to tears, infant child on my lap, Dr. Hamilton serious and thoughtful.

Suddenly he snapped his fingers,”Lions!” he said.

“Pardon me?” Wondering if he was, as I suspected when he offered to do my surgery for free…crazy.

“The lions Lighthouse folks!” He said, almost giddy.

Dr. Hamilton put his hand on my shoulder, smiled and said, “Don’t worry Shannon, they will help us.”

They did.

In a great whirlwind of what I can only describe as caring and gentle, things began to happen. To be honest I truly don’t remember being asked to do much at all. I signed a few papers, a donor tissue was found much faster than expected and my operation was scheduled. The Lions and Dr. Hamilton’s office handled everything for me. I never received a bill; I never stood in a long line. I did not have to beg for help. They accessed my need, determined they could help, and then, they helped me. They covered all the costs. I had the operation and my life and the life of my son, were changed forever.

I could drive. I could read to him. I could work. I saw things I had forgotten existed. Leaves on trees had singular shapes and lines; they were not just one big glob of color at the top of a trunk.

Definition and meaning were mine. I got my miracle.

I don’t know any of the people who must have participated in the process at the Lions Club. The tireless fundraising, the administrative people who deal with the day to day realities of running a nonprofit that works. There must be many of them. If I could bake them all cookies I would. How do you thank people for helping you see your child’s face, the road ahead, a way through? You can’t really. They don’t expect it. I’d like to say thank you anyway. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

It has been 19 years since that operation. I still struggle with the episodes of pain and fluctuating acuity. I am still a visually impaired person traversing the world. My son also has his share to deal with. One day I will need another transplant. There is no cure for the disease…yet.

When it’s time for me to do it again will I be able to cover cost with private insurance? Will my son? I don’t know. I do know help is out there. Good people are out there who care. You can find them if you know where to look. You can even help someone yourself just by giving freely your time and your money. The Lions Lighthouse Foundation gave me the gift of sight and never ask me for a thing. That’s a story worth sharing. Thank you for allowing me to do so.

~Shannon Dickey