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Hadley, BVA Forge New Partnership


The Blinded Veterans Association and The Hadley School for the Blind have formalized a new collaborative relationship designed to help both organizations better fulfill their designated missions and offer improved services to the blind and visually impaired throughout the United States and overseas.

The terms of the agreement, signed by The Hadley School President Chuck Young and BVA Executive Director Tom Miller just prior to the latter's retirement, are for a three-year period beginning May 1, 2012 and ending April 30, 2015.

"The two agencies recognize that through a formal partnership, working together, they can expand their influence and impact on behalf of those served," the agreement states.

Both BVA and Hadley are committed to serving veterans who are blind or visually impaired, whether they are service-connected for blindness or experiencing age-related vision loss due to a medical condition. Their commitment to veterans extends to veterans' families.

On Veterans Day 2011, Hadley launched its Blinded Veterans Initiative, geared toward educating and inspiring blinded veterans to pursue their personal and professional goals and to help support their families.

"We are thrilled to be working with our friends and colleagues at the Blinded Veterans Association to get the word out about this important new project," said Hadley President Chuck Young. "I cannot think of a better partner to support our efforts."

Judith B. Castellini, Board of Trustees Chair for The Hadley School for the Blind, signed the Memorandum of Understanding for Hadley while BVA Director of Government Relations Tom Zampieri signed the agreement for BVA.

The BVA-Hadley partnership will result in cross promotion of each other's programs and services, expanding the reach and influence of both organizations. Details of the partnership include linking the websites of each organization; outlining the features and benefits of each on the websites, in publications, and through social media and email messages to organization members and constituents; publicizing the partnership at the BVA 67th National Convention; and announcing news about each other's initiatives and events in their respective publications.

The mission of The Hadley School for the Blind is to promote independent living through lifelong distance education programs for individuals who are blind or visually impaired, their families, and blindness service providers.

The school is the single largest provider worldwide of Braille education and distance education for the blind community. It serves 10,000 students in all 50 states and more than 100 countries. The institution relies on contributions from individuals, corporations, and foundations to fund its programs.

The Hadley School was founded in 1920 by William A. Hadley, a former high school teacher who lost his sight at age 55, and Dr. E.V.L. Brown, an ophthalmologist and neighbor. Hadley taught himself Braille so that he could continue to enjoy reading but was frustrated to find that there were few educational opportunities for blind individuals. He and Brown conceived the idea of teaching Braille by mail so that others could acquire skills to foster independence.

Awards Presentation Continues PA Regional Group Tradition


BVA of Pennsylvania Regional Group President Wanda Grover represented the BVA of Pennsylvania Regional Group as she presented stipends to two graduating seniors at Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia. The awards for academic achievement occurred May 25 as part of the school's Student Recognition Day Program.

BVA of Pennsylvania Regional Group President Wanda Grover presents Braille flag to Gerald Kitzhoffer.
BVA of Pennsylvania Regional Group President Wanda Grover presents Braille flag to Gerald Kitzhoffer.

Overbrook Director Gerald Kitzhoffer noted that Pennsylvania members had been presenting the cash stipends to two graduates of the school as a tradition since 1970. Several longtime regional group members, including current and past national officers Neil Appleby and Sam Huhn, have been involved in the presentations for nearly two decades.

Overbrook School for the Blind, founded in 1832, offers programs from early childhood through high school. The school's mission is to develop and deliver education that enhances the options available for persons with visual impairment so that they have the greatest opportunity to experience active and fulfilling lives. Its building and grounds are modeled after an old Spanish mission.

BVA Founding Member Featured in Miami Herald


Neighbors, a regular Sunday supplement of the Miami Herald, published excerpts from an interview the publication conducted with Leonard Sperrazza, now one of only three members of BVA who were present at the meeting that inaugurated the Association on March 28, 1945.

The feature, which included a photograph of Leonard with his white cane, appeared on May 27 (Memorial Day weekend). Excerpts of interviews with three other veterans were also included in the article.

On June 6, 1944, Leonard was one of thousands of Allied soldiers who landed on the shores of Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. Only 19 at the time, the article reported, Leonard was a Sergeant in the U.S. Army's 29th Infantry Division. Before D-Day, there were 200 men in his division. After D-Day, there were only about 10. His injuries that day left him with shrapnel in his left leg and a bayonet wound in his left shoulder.

Leonard was blinded in Saint Lo in northwest France. As enemy fire flashed across the sky, Leonard dug a hole and ran for cover. While taking care of a scared buddy, a mortar shell exploded in front of him. The explosion left him totally without sight and broke his teeth. Now 68 years later, he still has shrapnel lodged in his face.

Leonard recovered in Valley Forge General Hospital in Pennsylvania and was later sent to Avon Old Farms Convalescent Hospital in Connecticut for blind rehabilitation training where he and approximately 100 other men attended the meeting that formed BVA. He later settled in North Miami Beach with his wife, Marian, and raised seven children.

Leonard's World War II service earned him a Purple Heart and two oak-leaf pins signifying that he had been wounded three times in the war.

To the knowledge of BVA National Headquarters, the only two other living BVA founding members are Michael H. Commini, also of Miami, and Nicholas J. Palermo of West Haven, Connecticut.

Terry Kebbel Receives Hamilton Relay Award


Terry Kebbel of Las Cruces, New Mexico, member of the Rio Grande Regional Group, is the New Mexico recipient of the Hamilton Relay 2012 Better Hearing and Speech Month Recognition Award.

Terry received the award from Hamilton Relay's New Mexico Outreach Coordinator Thomas Sena at a blinded veterans support group meeting at the Albuquerque VA Medical Center on June 19. He was also invited by VIST Coordinator Trudi Valdez to speak to the support group after receiving the award.

Established in 2010, Hamilton Relay's award is presented to influential community leaders in several states nationwide who are hard of hearing, late-deafened, or have difficulty speaking. Terry was nominated by his peers for providing a strong, positive influence within their state.

Hamilton Relay is a leading telecommunications relay and captioned telephone services provider. The company celebrates National Better Hearing and Speech Month each May by presenting the award Terry received. The company also awards scholarships to promising high school students who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have difficulty speaking.

Headquarters Honors Fallen Who Gave All


Rejuvenated by the experience but jet lagged from their return trip from Project Gemini less than 24 hours earlier, blinded veterans Steve Baskis and Tom Zampieri joined BVA Executive Director Al Avina in presenting the BVA Memorial Day wreath at Arlington National Cemetery May 28.

The ceremony occurred in black suit coats and 90-degree plus temperatures at The Tomb of the Unknowns. It followed the 144th Memorial Day Observance in the Cemetery's Memorial Amphitheater. Manager of Conventions Christina Hitchcock and Manager of Communications Stuart Nelson were also present.

The observance was highlighted by music from the United States Army Band and remarks by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and President Barack Obama.

An excerpt from General Order No. 11, issued by Army Headquarters on May 5, 1868 and included in the written program for this year's observance, captured the spirit of the occasion:

"Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence review our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the nation's gratitude."

Bulletin Audiocassettes Now Replaced by New Options


With audiocassettes fast becoming an obsolete technology after 48 years of mass production, the Spring 2012 BVA Bulletin, the organization's most recent issue, was the final one to be mailed to BVA members using that medium.

This does not mean that the Bulletin will no longer have an audio version. Each issue will continue to be professionally recorded and made available to members via a link to an mp3 file that can be downloaded from the BVA website. Members who wish to continue listening to the Bulletin without a computer can do so through a compact disk that will be sent to them through the U.S. Postal Service. The print version will continue to be sent to members and former members unless they have requested in the past not to receive it or will do so in the future.

To assure that blinded veterans and their families receive the Bulletin in the most convenient and accessible format beyond print, it will be available through one or more of the following means:
  • A compact disk mailed to a BVA member's home utilizing a process similar to that of the audiocassettes.
  • An email message sent with a link to the Bulletin webpage where the issue can be read via JAWS or other screen reader programs.
  • An email message sent with a link to the Bulletin webpage where the recorded audio file can be downloaded and listened to in mp3 format.
  • An email message with a PDF digital version attachment that will present the Bulletin exactly as it appears in the print version. 
  • An email message with a Microsoft Word 97-2003 attachment containing a narrative version of the Bulletin, including descriptions of photos and graphics. The content of this version will be nearly identical to the content of the mp3 and compact disk.
Please let BVA know your preferred format via postal mail, or by emailing Bulletin editor Stuart Nelson at, or by calling 800-669-7079. Those who have already requested an email version in the past and have been receiving it do not need to contact BVA National Headquarters again.