Around BVA


Lady Vets Add Spice At Florida RG Convention


The change in venue from Daytona Beach to Orlando was not the only difference in the Florida Regional Group convention this past spring.

Regular attendees were treated to the registration and participation of three women blinded veterans, two of them veterans of the Korean War era who joined BVA in 2014 and had never previously attended a state or regional group convention. They were Virginia Vogel of Port Richey, Florida and Lillian Marrinan of Ocala. Gigi Mathis of Lakeland, a longtime active member in Florida and a peacetime era veteran, was a third female participant who has attended previous conventions and served the regional group for many years.


Longtime Florida Regional Group member Gigi Mathis, far left, joins Korean War era veterans Virginia Vogel, center, and Lillian Marrinan next to Florida Regional Group publicity banner at recent Florida convention.

Longtime Florida Regional Group member Gigi Mathis, far left, joins Korean War era veterans Virginia Vogel, center, and Lillian Marrinan next to Florida Regional Group publicity banner at recent Florida convention.


“The Florida Regional Group annual convention was an overwhelming success,” said group president Terry King.

Terry attributed the success to the City of Orlando, the hotel, speakers, and nature of the attendees.


BVA Member Donates Flag


Walt Peters, a member of BVA’s Georgia Regional Group, recently donated a Braille flag to the Jacksonville VA Outpatient Clinic.

The gift was publicized in a story by Joe Daraskevic that appeared on Jacksonville.com on May 31 shortly after a commemoration ceremony. The news website is managed by the Florida Times-Union.

In addition to Walt, the article quoted BVA members Mike Taylor and Paul Kaminsky, highlighting their independence and the ongoing training and benefits they have received from VA. It quoted VIST Coordinator Daria Wells and the challenges she faces in managing a caseload of 307 blinded veterans, including 11 women.

Paul mentioned BVA as the catalyst for VA programs and for helping veterans realize that loss of vision can be an opportunity and not the end of everything they have enjoyed doing in their lives. He also emphasized the Association’s upcoming national convention at the local Hyatt Regency Riverfront as a chance for the Jacksonville community to become more aware of the prevalence of sight loss, especially within the veteran community.


Georgia Regional Group Adding New Chapters


BVA’s Georgia Regional Group is on a mission to more fully empower blinded veterans in their local communities by establishing additional chapters, according to group president Jesse James Jones, Jr.

By the end of June the group had chapters in the cities of Atlanta, Columbus, and Dublin. The hope is to add a chapter in Augusta shortly after the national convention and an additional two in Savannah and Macon within the next few months.


Waco Flag Gift Brings TV Crew


Blinded veterans David Gray and Charles Smith joined VA Waco Blind Rehabilitation Center Director Chris Bosley in a television news segment run by News Channel 25 in Waco, Texas on May 19.

The occasion was still another donation of a Braille flag by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) to the BRC, a gesture that many DAR chapters throughout the country are adopting as they thank veterans with vision loss for their service. The flags are also being placed in other public areas such as parks, libraries, cemeteries, and state and local government offices.

The news segment focused on the veterans’ appreciation for the DAR gift. It also highlighted the work of VA residential BRCs such as the Waco facility and the training they provide to blinded veterans.

“They can’t give me back my vision but they have given me back my life,” said David Gray when speaking about his experience at the Blind Center.


BVA Saddened by Bob Campbell Passing


Robert Lee (Bob) Campbell, Director of District 2 from August 2006 to August 2011, passed away June 2 at his home in Prairie Village, Kansas. Memorial services were held on June 10 with inurnment to be scheduled for a later date at Arlington National Cemetery.


Bob Campbell, left, receives commemorative Buck Knife as symbolic thank you for his military service from Graham Crutchfield at 64th National Convention in Portland, Oregon (file photo 2009).

Bob Campbell, left, receives commemorative Buck Knife as symbolic thank you for his military service from Graham Crutchfield at 64th National Convention in Portland, Oregon (file photo 2009).


Bob graduated from Chaminade University in Honolulu, Hawaii, and received an MBA from the University of Chicago and a Master of Science from the University of Kansas. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Private and was medically discharged as a Captain. Bob served three tours in Vietnam and was awarded three Purple Hearts and the Silver Star.

His careers first involved banking and finance. He later did some teaching, which he continued while serving on the BVA Board of Directors. He is survived by his wife, Linda, a large extended family, and his beloved guide dog, Caesar.


Louisiana Members Reunite In Crawfish Town USA


The Louisiana-North Texas Regional Group has once again reported a successful annual meeting and banquet held at Crawfish Town USA in the City of Henderson. The event to which all BVA Louisiana Regional Group members were invited took place on April 29.

Highlights included French and Cajun music entertainment by the Harris Family Children group with the Arnaudville American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars presenting the colors. Also in attendance were representatives from the Affiliated Blind of Louisiana and the Alexandria VA Medical Center.


The Harris Family Band consisting of, left to right, Mary, Georgie Mae, and Peter entertained blinded veterans and their families and guests at the Louisiana-North Texas Regional Group annual banquet.

The Harris Family Band consisting of, left to right, Mary, Georgie Mae, and Peter entertained blinded veterans and their families and guests at the Louisiana-North Texas Regional Group annual banquet.


Past BVA National President Joe Burns (2001-03) was again the Master of Ceremonies and presented a brief history of BVA. Group Vice President William Gordy gave a welcoming address followed by a presentation by BVA member Frank Gafney on the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Program and the business opportunities it affords. Gertie Bias of the Affiliated Blind of Louisiana informed guests of rehabilitation opportunities at a school in the City of Lafayette. VIST Coordinator Marilyn Murry offered comments about rehabilitation opportunities through VA and successful teleconference meetings she is currently holding with veterans of Lafayette, Lake Charles, and Fort Polk.

The annual business meeting followed, resulting in the election of Winston Tuckerson as president, William Gordy as vice president, Gary Schoelerman as secretary, and Joe Burns as treasurer.

“A real benefit of this annual event is the opportunity to network with people from around the state, which allows us to get new ideas on training and also to make new friends,” said Gary.


BVA Continues Longstanding NAPS Publicity Campaign


BVA’s Communications Department continues its longstanding relationship with North American Precis Syndicate (NAPS), a public relations service with headquarters in New York City. NAPS distributes publicity in a variety of formats to 10,000+ newspapers, thousands of online publications, 6,500+ radio stations and 1,000+ TV stations nationwide.

Formats include CDs, postings on www.napsnet.com as downloadable files for editors with RSS feeds by subject, e-mails, Twitter feeds @NAPSnews, Facebook posts, social media, blogs, tapes, the NAPS YouTube Channel, and podcasting via iTunes.

Expected results are 100 to 400 placements in print, 500+ placements in online publications with each print release, 300+ on-air placements for each Radio Feature Release, and 100+ on-air placements for each Video Feature Release.

During Fiscal Year 2017 BVA produced two 3-column newspaper releases headlined “How Blind Veterans Help Themselves and Others to a Better Quality of Life” (Wade Davis’ Veterans Care Reviews) and “A Look at the Vibrancy of the Human Spirit” (blinded veterans participating in the Bataan Death March).

The organization also released five 60-second radio releases entitled “Technology Improving Lives,” “Veterans Helping Veterans,” “Veterans’ News and Notes,” “A New Way to Help Veterans” (advocacy work on behalf of beneficiary travel legislation), and “An Inspiring Trek.”

There was also one 30-second radio release entitled “Blind Hockey for Veterans” and two 30-second television releases with titles identical to those mentioned above for the other media: “Blind Hockey for Veterans” and “An Inspiring Trek.” Scripts and/or online links to productions of these releases are available upon request from Stuart Nelson at snelson@bva.org.


Columbus Chapter Walks For March of Dimes


Liz Holmes, Georgia Regional Group, had already participated in the March of Dimes walk for many years when she joined BVA and the Columbus Chapter in 2015.

“In BVA meetings we spoke often of community involvement,” she said. “What an idea to involve my chapter in this aspect of service and involvement in the community!”

The chapter decided to sponsor Liz in the 2016 March of Dimes local walk.

“Once that was accomplished, we decided among ourselves to walk as a group,” she continued. “It was a way to be involved in a great cause, get some exercise, and, above all, to get blinded veterans recognized as an integral part of Columbus.”

The BVA chapter signed up to participate as a group and has now donated $1,300 to the “March for Babies” over a two-year period.

“We all walked the two miles from Columbus, Georgia, through Phenix City, Alabama, and back,” said Liz. “Invigorating morning!”


Left to right following March of Dimes walk: Charles Alexander, Erma Bruce and granddaughter (not named here), Clifford Jones, Liz Holmes, Jonathan Barron, Erma’s grandson (not named here), Benjamin Holmes (partially blocked), and Williams Miles.

Left to right following March of Dimes walk: Charles Alexander, Erma Bruce and granddaughter (not named here), Clifford Jones, Liz Holmes, Jonathan Barron, Erma’s grandson (not named here), Benjamin Holmes (partially blocked), and Williams Miles.


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