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Charity Spotlight: Foundation for Blind Children
The ability to see is something most of us take for granted — but for those who are blind, either because of how they were born, an accident or macular degeneration later in life, there’s The Foundation for Blind Children.
The organization provides a variety of programs to help those without sight navigate the world independently, from infants to adults. Services range from early intervention programming for those born blind to providing equipment to schools who educate and employers who hire The Foundation for Blind Children’s clients.
The organization has a clear mission — to help create a world where vision loss is a diagnosis, not a disability.
“We have a strong philosophy here that we have to teach our kids to be self-sufficient and the only way kids can be taught self-sufficiency is if you learn how to do it on your own so that includes riding a bike and falling or playing sports and running into things or you know, trying and failing,” said CEO Marc Ashton. “It’s normal. It’s what every one of us went through as a child.”
This is an approach Ashton has applied to his own life as well, with his son Max, who was diagnosed with vision loss when he was just three months old. It’s an approach that’s worked too, with Max, who is now a college student, and with countless of the foundation’s other graduates.
“The expectations of the community have changed,” said Ashton. “We now expect our kids to go to work. We don’t expect our kids who are able to work to stay home and take a social security check. We want them and expect them to go to work and it’s working.”
This approach’s effectiveness is clear. Ashton reports that while the unemployment rate for blind adults nationwide is 70 percent, it’s only five percent for The Foundation for Blind Children’s clients.
The foundation even provides adaptive technology to employers to make this possible, all they ask is that business owners give their graduates a chance.
When The Foundation for Blind Children was established in 1952, children with disabilities didn’t have many options. Blind children weren’t even allowed to go to public school, and even if they had been, there were no teachers trained in educating the blind.
One family decided they wanted to change that, so in 1953, they recruited their first teacher for the blind community, enrolled four students and began the foundation.
Now, the foundation helps those of all ages and their families, not just children.
“We started out first needing services for infants so we expanded into infant services and then preschool and eventually all ages of K-12 and then our kids grew up and they needed some services after school so we started adult services,” said Ashton.
Sixty-five years later, incredible advancements have been made in allowing those who have experience vision loss to live normal, independent lives.
For Ashton, the next step is finding new ways to help those with multiple disabilities enjoy the same quality of life and giving hope to them and their parents.
“That’s our next frontier is measuring the most difficult children, but the ones with the most hope,” said Ashton.
Night for Sight began as a backyard function — hosting just 16 people and raising about a thousand dollars.
Sixteen years later, the event has raised $4 million to help fund The Foundation for Blind Children’s programs.
For about a decade it has take place at Dominick’s steakhouse in Scottsdale and this year’s October 28 event is no different.
“We make it very informal not a lot of fundraising,” said Ashton. “It’s just a simple program that we tell our story and some of our student’s stories and people are very generous and have a lot of fun.”
For more: seeitourway.org/nfs/