It is important to the core of what I believe to be inspired to support a cause with my time, abilities or financially. And there are times I am privileged to have a personal experience with an organization such as Lighthouse Central Florida that brings me to the point of giving.
Lighthouse Central Florida brought me hope during a difficult time after my son, Gordon 'Creed' was diagnosed with a congenital disease that eventually will rob him of his sight. Through Lighthouse, we not only found a great support system in the staff but a community of parents and grandparents that could relate to the challenges you face with a child who is legally blind or completely blind.
Lighthouse Central Florida not only serves families, it employs adults who have grown up with the organization and works with the community to see the talented resources a human being has versus the challenges of blindness. The organization also works on the government level to see legislation passed to improve the lives of adults living with blindness and children who need all the tools they can be provided to succeed as adults.
Just imagine life without sight. Imagine having no one to help you pull all the important pieces together. This is what Creed’s life would have been like without Lighthouse Central Florida. I will be forever grateful and that is why I in turn give back.
Review from #MyGivingStory
Shine Bright Like a Lighthouse
Three months after my son Liam was born, his doctor’s noticed that something was wrong. He was not growing as expected, his skin was still jaundiced, and his bloodwork kept coming back abnormal. He was sent for test after test in three different hospitals as doctors tried to figure out a diagnosis to explain his odd collection of symptoms. With each new theory, my dreams for Liam’s future swung radically back and forth. First they suspected it was his liver. Images of transplant waiting lists and immunosuppressant drugs consumed my thoughts. Next it was his blood. I read obsessively about blood disorders and quality of life for those effected. Then came the neurologist and an MRI and I prayed so, so hard. Please, not his brain.
Ultimately, Liam was diagnosed with a condition called Septo-Optic Dysplasia. While he was developing in utero, a portion in the middle of his brain did not develop. His optic nerves are too small to function and his pituitary gland does not produce hormones. In short, he cannot see and will be on medication for the rest of his life.
Through the internet, I got in touch with Lighthouse Central Florida. They are the only resource available for blind and visually impaired individuals in this area. Within a week of contacting them, Lighthouse had assessed Liam’s vision and set him up to receive therapy every week at no charge. Liam’s mentor from Lighthouse has been with him for two and half years and has helped him to walk, talk, jump, play catch, and sing songs. All of which he was never expected to do. I have seen firsthand the tireless dedication of every person who works with Lighthouse. I am beyond grateful for what they have helped Liam achieve. But more than that, I have been deeply touched and inspired by the sense of family Lighthouse holds so dear. So I made a choice. I would not mourn the diagnosis that brought me and Liam to Lighthouse. Instead, I would do everything I could think of to support and encourage my Lighthouse family. And, turns out, I could think of some really fun stuff.
Last winter I had a brilliant idea. I would take 300 middle school students, blindfold them, and set them loose in a field. On top of that, I would provide them with games. But not just any games. I’d arm these 13 year olds—hyper on life and being able to miss a class period-- with markers, water balloons, and raw eggs. We set up stations for the kids to complete a task (like throwing a water balloon or finding their own shoes mixed into a big pile) with either no vision or partial vision goggles. It could have been-- and, realistically, should have been-- a disaster of epic proportions. But it wasn’t. Instead, those kids were challenged to experience the world in a completely different way. They made Braille cards and bookmarks and were stunned when our guest speaker could read them “even though he doesn’t have eyes, Ms. Vasani!” Our field day combined two of my favorite things—charity fundraising and an opportunity for authentic learning.
Since then, Liam and I have shot video for Lighthouse (in which he was a total ham for the camera). We’ve organized a community wide clothing drive for a Lighthouse fundraising event. I speak regularly to potential donors and at business disability awareness trainings sharing Liam’s story. We’ve been in the top 5 fundraising teams for the annual Sight and Sole walk every year. And this year, I am so excited to say that with the help of my middle school minions—I mean, students—we are converting over 70 children’s books into Braille and tactile books for blind kids. Hopefully, we will have them ready for the holidays. My students can’t wait to present them to families who may not have modified books for their children and read (yes! 8th graders who want to read!) to other children they have never met. I am so grateful that, because of Lighthouse, I can help others realize that the biggest gift is in the giving.
Please visit www.lighthousecentralflorida.org for more information on this wonderful nonprofit!
Review from #MyGivingStory
When my daughter Mikayla was born the doctors told us that she would be legally blind. For my family and I this was a time of great uncertainty. We didn’t know what she would be capable of or how we could even help her. When Mikayla was eight years old her vision consultant from her elementary school told us about a school age program at Lighthouse of Central Florida that will help Mikayla become more independent and help her learn daily living skills. They not only taught this little shy eight year old girl to do things we didn’t even think she would be able to do, but also helped us as a family. The staff at Lighthouse taught her to have confidence that she was capable of doing anything she set her mind to. Lighthouse of Central Florida understands the importance of getting these children ready for the real world. It was very critical that Mikayla be ahead of the game. For example, they taught her how to do things from typing on a computer and teaching her to do things more efficiently so she wouldn’t fall behind in school. The staff at Lighthouse not only taught her the skills to be able to live and do things on her own, but they also gave her the confidence to know that she can live a very successful and independent life. Lighthouse of Central Florida is a beacon of Light to so many children that need vision services. I am proud to be able to advocate and be a part of their team vison to continue to provide services for school age children.
Review from #MyGivingStory
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to help tour a group of approximately twenty visually impaired students from Lighthouse Central Florida, across the main campus of the second largest university in the nation- The University of Central Florida. A majority of the students were in high school at the time and were planning next steps after graduation. This experience was meaningful to me because I attended UCF with vision loss, and graduated in 2014 with honors. There was a sense of pride in showing the students that they can accomplish anything, despite any perceived limitations.
For the guided tour, it was important to orientate the students with the knowledge they would need, if they decided to attend college. The program staff and myself guided the group to popular student areas, such as the student center, housing and Library. It was also very important to address resources available, and is particularly useful to students with special needs, such as the campus health center, accessibility office and how to identify and use security stations. As someone who had functioned on that campus, with and without vision loss, I can tell you first hand that the standard freshman orientation sessions are much different and would not have included as much in-depth content and helpful Insight.
I am inspired to give back by supporting and encouraging others to be their best self. For the students that attended the tour, I was able to share my experience and knowledge of going to college with vision loss. Going to college can be difficult, and even more so for someone whom society labels as “disabled”. This experience was meaningful to me because it was an opportunity to highlight the possibilities of looking beyond vision impairment.
Review from #MyGivingStory
Lighthouse Central Florida, Inc. has received accreditation from the National Accreditation Council for Blind and Low Vision Services (NAC). NAC is the only accrediting body that solely focuses on standards and best practices for blind and low vision services with the consumer in mind. Lighthouse Central Florida has demonstrated that it meets or exceeds the standards set by NAC for delivery of blind and low vision services. The determination for accreditation is a rigorous process that involves self-examination by the organization, an on-site peer review to verify processes and procedures by a team of professionals serving in the field and a review of the findings by the NAC Accreditation Committee. NAC congratulates Lighthouse Central Florida on its accredited status.
Review from Guidestar
I am the supervisor of 2 supported employment clients. Lighthouse provided training and extensive support for these employees, and they are some of my best employees. Anytime there is an issue, the job coaches are always there to address it.
I was a student in a hospitality training program, which was partnered with the National Statler Center. Working with Lighthouse has been a good experience for me.They have been very supportive in my job developement. When I needed something for my job, Lighthouse came through to help me.
I am a student in the Hospitality Training program. The experience has been great! Anything I need, you guys are there.
I was former client in the transition program at the Lighthouse Central Florida. The skills I learned in the transition program that helped me become more independent and to develope a resume and interview skills. The combination of the skills has helped secure a job at Disney, and I attend classes regular at the University of Central Florida. I very thankful for the skills and training I received from the Lighthouse, in an effort to give back to the transition program I mentor on occassion at their events in the community and during their summer program at UCF.
My son, Joe, (who is blind due to extreme prematurity) and our family have been clients off and on since 1984. This organization saved our family's life and has greatly benefitted Joe over the decades. I have had the privilege of serving as LCF's CEO for 10 years now. I am very proud of the work the LCF Team (board members, staff, volunteers, investors and donors) has accomplished; humbled by the courage of LCF clients and the generosity of our supporters; and finally, compelled by what we have left to accomplish over the next decade. This is an awesome organization.