Legislative Committee Attends Capitol Hill Briefing
Members of BVA’s Legislative Committee, already present in the Nation’s Capital for the mid-winter Board meetings, the annual Congressional testimony, and meetings with Members of Congress and their staffs, stopped in at a March 21 Military Eye Trauma Congressional Briefing hosted by the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research and co-sponsored by BVA, the Eye Bank Association of America, and the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
Left to right in Rayburn House Office Building, Kevin Corcoran, Executive Director of the Eye Bank Association of America; Dale Stamper, Joe Parker, Paul Mimms, Mark Cornell, and Clinician/Scientist
Mark Greiner, M.D. Photo courtesy of David Epstein, National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research.
Mark Greiner, M.D., Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, was the featured speaker. Dr. Greiner is a clinician-scientist specializing in corneal surgery, and who studies ways to improve outcomes after corneal transplants.
Dr. Greiner’s research is supported in part by funding from DoD’s Vision Research Program for which BVA has taken an active advocacy role. The briefing illustrated the critical need for such research funding.
The focus of Dr. Griener’s research is the identification of individuals with the greatest risk of developing complications and poor outcomes after transplantation, and later improving the quality of transplant tissue.
Christine Patterson Recognized by MARG
Those who serve the best and most are frequently those who least desire the thanks or even the recognition for their efforts.
Such is the case with Christine Patterson, wife of Herb Patterson, president of the Richmond Chapter of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Group.
Against her wishes, Christine was presented with a gift basket and a certificate of appreciation from regional group president Doris Jones at the group’s semi-annual (spring) meeting April 9. The award was given for Christine’s loyalty, selfless service, and dedication to BVA at all levels.
“I attempted to put her in for a national award that she could have received at the convention,” said group secretary Michaun Harrison. “Although she found out about it and asked that we not nominate her, we had to find some way to let her know how much we appreciate her.”
Christine Patterson, left, receives Certificate of Appreciation and large gift basket from Doris Jones, who made the presentation on behalf of the entire Mid-Atlantic Regional Group.
BVA HQ Saddened by Don Haynes Passing
Sadness was felt in various BVA settings in late April as news spread that Don “Donnie” Haynes had passed away in Winston Salem, North Carolina on April 15.
Donnie was an employee in the BVA Field Service Program in the mid-1970s following an industrial accident at General Steel that left him severely injured and totally blind. Soon thereafter, Donnie learned Braille and ambulatory skills that allowed him to earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Elon College and pursue a position with BVA out of Richmond, Virginia that assigned him to travel throughout the southeastern United States.
Emerald Coast Regional Group President Darryl Goldsmith comes up for a break from his diving efforts to help clean up a national park fishing area in Northern Florida.
Following his employment with BVA, Donnie returned home to the City of Eden, North Carolina. He owned and operated a convenience store in nearby Reidsville. He later sold the business and resumed his service to BVA as a counselor at the Durham VA Medical Center. He was the first president of the North Carolina Regional Group and has held almost every other position.
Florida Vets Dive at Earth Day Pensacola
Darryl Goldsmith and Paul Kaufman, officers of the Emerald Coast Regional Group, engaged in a little scuba diving on April 22 in an effort to clean up the Fort Pickens National Park underwater fishing area in the Florida Panhandle.
The two dove with the 3rd Coast Dive Club and the Veterans Dive Locker. According to Handicapped SCUBA Association guidelines, they needed a third buddy to help in an emergency and that help came in the form of 3rd Coast Dive Club Master Laura Ericsson.
“We had a wonderful dive,” said Paul. “Darryl is very proud of the broken glass bottle he found, telling everyone that it would have cut a swimmer’s foot wide open!”
Clean-up of the fishing area was the more challenging part of Earth Day Pensacola for divers like Darryl and Paul. Earth Day Pensacola is an annual event in which Northwest Florida residents gather to celebrate the Earth in a family friendly atmosphere. There was live music, a sustainable art show, food vendors, an expanded children’s area, and information booths on how community members can live more environmentally conscious.
New Dublin Chapter for Georgia Regional Group
An increase in both numbers and enthusiasm has brought about the inauguration of a new chapter within the BVA Georgia Regional Group.
The Dublin Chapter was officially recognized on April 19 after a two-month outreach effort to blinded veterans in the area served by the Dublin VA Medical Center. VIST Coordinator Helen Donner assisted in the effort by making available BVA literature and promotional items.
The City of Dublin itself, located in the center of Georgia some 135 miles southeast of Atlanta, has a population of approximately 16,500.
In NY, the Best in Friendship And Conquering Obstacles
Blinded veteran Jeffrey Steele, New York Regional Group, was featured on the New York Harbor Health Care System’s Homepage in early April for his love of boxing and the camaraderie that accompanies the sport.
Only a week later a second article appeared about another blinded veteran within the same health care system, in this case Miguel Davis-Dacio, Vice President of the New York Regional Group.
Jeffrey’s story was considered unique since he cannot see the fights he attends at the Brooklyn Barclays Center due to loss of sight from glaucoma and diabetes. Jeffrey is a veteran of the Marine Corps who did some boxing of his own during his time in the military.
Jeffrey chooses to focus on the things in life that can never be lost or taken away unless they are allowed to by the one holding them. It isn’t the boxing he’s passionate about but the friends with whom he shares the events.
Jeffrey has attended the VA Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Center at West Haven and receives ongoing medical and vision care follow-up at the Brooklyn VA Medical Center, largely through the efforts of VIST Coordinator John Collins.
“Hey, it wasn’t that long ago when boxing was only heard on the radio and few complained as long as they could be in a comfortable chair and be with their family and friends,” he is quoted as saying in the article.
Jeffrey considers the updates he gets from his fellow vets seated next to him at the Barclays Center to be more than enough to enjoy the fights, which he considers to be about strategy rather than trying to hurt an opponent.
“I can’t say it enough—these guys mean the world to me,” he said. “I continue to have the love of my family and friends and have meaningful experiences each day despite my vision loss.”
The feature about Miguel Davis-Dacio chronicles his road to recovery from physical and mental health challenges of which sight loss is but one. Past crises he has faced include homelessness, racism, and physical/psychological abuse.
At this year’s Winter Sports Clinic, Miguel experienced his first-ever sensation of skiing, which was “exhilarating in many ways and symbolic of the natural highs he has experienced” after attending VIST Support Group meetings organized by VIST Coordinator Natasha Mlotok and taking advantage of other services available to blinded veterans. He also participated in scuba diving and goalball at the Clinic.
New BVA Membership Types Announced
BVA has announced the addition of a series of new membership types across the spectrum of the organization’s current and future stakeholders.
The categories added, which are effective immediately, include individuals and organizations that offer rehabilitation services, technology, and other types of support to veterans with vision loss. The memberships are categorized under three major affiliate names: Veterans and First Responders Affiliate, Occupational Affiliate, and Organizational Affiliate.
“The addition of these new categories will allow BVA to expand its outreach far beyond what it has been previously,” said Al Avina. “We are confident that these additions will also increase public awareness of America’s blinded veterans and strengthen our networks of support across the country.”
Examples of Occupational Affiliates are health and human services personnel such as medical staff, social workers, VA Blind Rehabilitation Service staff, Department of Defense staff, local community leaders, and researchers. Organizational Affiliates are small businesses, small nonprofit organizations, and Fortune 500 companies and other corporations.
Affiliate members will receive the BVA Bulletin as well as the monthly e-newsletter and regular legislative updates. They can register for the annual national convention at the regular membership rate.
For additional information on how to become an affiliate member, visit bva.org.