Sunday, June 23, 2013

An Unintended Inspiration

You've undoubtedly seen pictures that people posted of the recent "super-moon" when it was brighter and appeared closer than usual. Frankly, while it may have been amazing in person, when viewing the pictures, they pretty much look like typical shots of the full moon.

But there was an exception to the super-moon shots that not only caught my eye, but inspired me.  Robert Stephens is a photographer and I "liked" his Solitary Traveler Photography facebook page a while back. He posts wonderful pictures, saying, "If you like it, share it," so I am.  He posted this picture of Starr's Mill in Fayette County, GA - and it was taken at midnight! He wrote that he wanted to show the impact the full moon has on nature photography.

When I saw the photo posted on facebook, I commented that I liked it. But it was his reply to my comment that really made me think. He said, "I had no interest in yet another picture of the moon. I was more interested in how its light impacted the world around me than the actual moon itself."

Isn't this truly what life is about? Isn't our true purpose not only to exist, but to make an impact, a difference? It seems that our "worth" in life isn't measured by the time we spend on earth, but rather, the impact we make while here. As we reach out towards others, we welcome their hands raised towards us as well. This served not only as a moment of insight for me, but a reminder, and re-motivated me to share these insights.

For more information or art prints, go to Robert Stevens' website: 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Support the Crusade!

While there are many good organizations in the world, in my opinion, there are few that are as worthwhile and deserve support as much as the Crusade for Children.

There are the well-known public reasons:
1. They provide services and equipment to help children with special needs.
2. 100% of the funds raised is used for the children - NONE of it goes toward other costs! (do you have any idea how rare this is?)
3. The money raised in the local area is used in that area.

These are all wonderful reasons, and alone, would be enough for me to support the Crusade. But then, there's the personal side of the story, the real reasons I support the Crusade for Children.

We moved to Louisville, Kentucky in mid-June, 1982; parents of a healthy 3 month old baby and plans to attend seminary then return to Tennessee to work in church. Nope, no connection to the then unheard of Crusade for Children at that point.  But fast forward one short year...

My first experience with the Crusade for Children was in 1983.  I kept hearing mention of it on the radio and TV but had no idea what they were talking about - why was this such a big deal? My mind was still reeling from the amazement at my first observation of the Derby Festival and realization that the Derby is more than a 2 minute horse race. When the firemen walked door to door in our neighborhood, I dug out a dollar and gave it to him, still not really sure what it was all about.

In my world, there were bigger concerns... in the first year in Kentucky, our lives were turned upside down. Not long after starting his seminary studies, Keith started experiencing vision problems. By October, he required emergency surgery to repair a detached retina. By January, he wasn't healing well and they decided he needed further surgery.  After surgery, they realized there was nothing to be done to prevent blindness. The same week, I discovered that "the flu" I couldn't seem to shake was morning sickness.

Despite having a teaching certificate, none of the schools would hire me because I was temporary... we'd only be in the state for a few years. (obviously, there wasn't a teaching shortage then as there is now) When I tried to find work at daycare centers, they rejected me because I was over-qualified and would leave as soon as I was offered a teaching position. They refused to consider me even when I promised I'd stay. Keith lost his job as a delivery person the day of the first surgery. We were struggling, and a few times, didn't have money for food. So the dollar I dug out for the fireman was much more substantial than they could possibly imagine.

In July, 1983, our second child was born 6 weeks early and spent some time in the NICU.  I spent my days at home with our 16 month old son (as well as the two boys I babysat) and late at night, I went to the NICU to be with our newborn for a few hours. As I sat there in the low light, I noticed stickers on much of the specialized equipment that read, "This was provided by Crusade for Children funds." I recalled hearing something about it a month earlier, but didn't remember much.

That fall, I learned of a position working for the Jefferson County Public Schools.  A friend told me about it - they were trying something new, using brand new, still being tested, equipment. The plan was to type print materials into a computer and print it out into braille. The blind students in the district were able to get some braille textbooks  (unless they were brand new) but none of their teacher worksheets or tests, in braille. When interviewed, I was told that the position was funded by a grant and therefore wasn't guaranteed to be permanent.  Yes, I got the job and enjoyed creating the braille materials. My salary, as well as the computer and braille printer, were paid for by a grant the district got from the Crusade for Children. The program worked well and later, the district took it on as a permanent part of their program.

A few months later, I learned of a position at the Kentucky School for the Blind working in the Rec Dept. As a teenager, I'd had a desire to work with the blind, but never pursued it after that... indeed, it didn't even come across my radar again until this moment. They asked if I had certification in visual impairment? Since I didn't know such a thing existed, obviously, not.  I soon learned that there were only four schools in the country that offered this certification. One of them is in Louisville.

It was too late for the position I applied for, but soon, I was in the process of applying for admission to the University of Louisville Graduate School. My plan was to get my master's degree in special education, with a concentration in visual impairment. How on earth could I go from worrying about paying for meager groceries to going to Graduate School? Interesting you should ask... I applied for, and was granted, a scholarship from the Crusade for Children! They paid for ALL of my special education classes! This, along with the teaching certificate I already had, allowed me to teach special education.  By taking just one more class on  my own, I was able to turn this into a master's degree.  I continued worked for JCPS producing braille while I took classes at night.

Part of my coursework involved visiting many programs for children with special needs. I spent some time at a school for children with cerebral palsy. They had specialized walkers, wheelchairs, tables and even eating utensils! I saw equipment (and TOYS) modified so they operate the switches and use them. I went to Churchill Park, a school for extremely handicapped students - some were fed with feeding tubes, others couldn't seem to grasp the simplest things - yet their teachers were patiently working with them. There were therapists teaching children to hold a fork, or to speak, or to walk. I attended a program for preschool children with Down's Syndrome and learned the importance of early intervention and the difference it makes. I visited programs for students with severe behavior disorders. These and other places had something in common - you guessed it, used funds paid for by the Crusade for Children.

Once I graduated, I taught at the Kentucky School for the Blind.  There I learned of the many, many ways the Crusade touched lives as my students shared their stories. Many had been born prematurely, and of course used the same equipment my son used. Some of the buses that transported them to school had "Paid for with Crusade for Children funds" written on the back.

Thanks to the Crusade for Children, children born with special needs are not only provided with equipment that helps them survive, but given the materials and teaching they need to thrive. Thousands and thousands of adults are now working in careers and raising families, all because they received services from the Crusade for Children as they were growing up.  The Crusade for Children is celebrating it's 60th year - a milestone that speaks volumes when you consider the many, many lives touched.

Not speaking for others, but you can see the number of times my own life has been affected by the Crusade for Children. Can you imagine the bigger impact this has had on the children with disabilities? I taught at the School for the Blind for 15 years and saw many lives touched by the Crusade. When I later started teaching in public school, I saw even more examples of Crusade funds used for children with special needs - all funds used to help them be the absolute best they can be!

Please... give generously.  Last year, the Crusade awarded grants to almost 200 schools, hospitals, and programs for children with special needs.The goal is $6 million this year - will you help?  For more information about the Crusade for Children, including a link to donate, go to their website.
Crusade for Children