February 13, 2006
More than one million Americans are legally blind and more than 100 live right here in our area. One organization is doing their part to make living in the dark a bit easier. The National Federation for the Blind has about 52,000 members, passionately motivating anyone who is blind to be independent. Although the local chapter only has about 15 members, that passion is just as strong.
"With the right opportunities and the right training, a blind person can live a normal life," said Gwen Beavers.
Those are the words spoken by Beavers who's a wife, mother and grandmother. She's also blind.
"I had cancer, when I was about 3-months-old they discovered it. It was called Retinal Blastoma," said Beavers. "They had to remove both of my eyes, I have artificial eyes now."
Gwen says just because she's blind, that doesn't mean she?s handicapped. She says her mother made sure that Gwen could always take care of Gwen.
"She was one of these no-nonsense moms. And she just wanted me to live as independently as I could," she explained.
That's the kind of motivation Gwen along the local chapter of the National Federation for the Blind, NFB, wants to instill in anyone living without sight. She says the local chapter is an advocate for those legally blind in our area.
"[They] provide opportunities for blind people in the areas of housing, education [and] employment," she said.
The organization has traveled to Richmond even Washington, D.C., fighting for rights and assistance they need. Right now they're looking to pay respect to Louis Braille. The art they use to read and write is named after him and have a stamp to honor him would mean so much Gwen and many others.
"2009 will be his 200th birthday and we want a coin commemorating his birth," said Beavers.
Independence is something many people take for granted, but as Gwen proves to herself and many others, seeing isn't always done with your eyes.
If you would like to help the local NFB (Blue Ridge Chapter), call Kathy Owens @ 434-293-3556.
To help with future endeavors, the Blue Ridge Chapter of NFB will hold a walk fundraiser at Monticello Trails on May 13th.