Hurricane Relief Fund Established for Vets
The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), a national Veterans Service Organization exclusively dedicated to serving and representing the needs of the approximately 130,000 blind and visually impaired veterans and their families nationwide, seeks to help the more than 1,800 such veterans currently living in one of the worst tropical storm flood zones in American history.
“As rains finally dissipate and floodwaters subside, many of our veterans will still be caught in the aftermath of this crisis for quite some time,” said BVA Executive Director Al Avina. “We are already aware of several of them who have been displaced from their homes and communities while some of them may need medical services that are currently not readily accessible.”
Avina said that many of the veterans with vision loss are also seniors who live in rural areas. Accordingly, BVA has set up a Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund to help the veterans who are currently struggling.
“We are asking all of our supporters throughout the nation for donations of any amount so that funds will be available to assist veterans in Puerto Rico, Texas, and Louisiana who are Blind, visually impaired, or with disabilities that are in addition to their vision loss,” he said.
Donations can be made through Network for Good by visiting https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/1436199?code=HarveyRelief.
Now in its 73rd year of service and chartered by the United States Congress, BVA was founded by a group of 100 World War II veterans blinded in combat. Its mission is the creation of opportunities for blinded veterans to help one another. The organization offers a wide range of services to help veterans and their families meet the challenges of blindness. For more Information about BVA and its services, call toll-free 800-669-7079 or visit bva.org.
Life Membership Dues Amounts Returned to Previous Rates
A promotional life membership rate available to all prospective members of the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) throughout much of the organization’s Fiscal Year 2017 expired on August 1, 2017. The membership dues rates have returned to their previous schedule based on age and membership type.
Delegates appointed by their respective regional groups to the BVA 72nd National Convention narrowly defeated a proposed bylaw amendment on August 18 that would have extended the discounted rate into the future. A similar proposed bylaw amendment, passed in August 2016, offered life membership to all blinded veterans at a rate of $20.
The Life and Associate Life Membership rate prior to August 1, 2017, now restored and effective immediately, is $100 for veterans 44 years or younger, $88 for veterans 45-54 years of age, $75 for veterans 55-60, $63 for those 61-65, and $50 for veterans 66 and older. Annual membership dues, temporarily suspended last year, also return to the previous rate of $15 per year while a complimentary honorary life membership is available to World War II veterans.
Application forms in several formats, accompanied by an explanation of the qualifications for membership among the various membership types, are attached. An explanation of the acceptable supporting documents is also provided and attached.
As part of the application process, just as was the case during the promotional dues period, the membership form sent to BVA must be accompanied by the following items on official Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) letterhead or through Visual Impairment Services Team (VIST)/Veterans Health Administration examination notes:
- Branch of Service
- Beginning and Ending Dates of Services
- Name of VIST Coordinator
- Confirmation of meeting standards of blindness as follows—
- ICD-9-CM Diagnosis Code 369.4 legal blindness, or
- Visual acuity of 20/200 or worse in the better eye with corrective lenses, or
- Visual field restriction to 20 degrees diameter or less in the better eye.
For more information about BVA membership, please contact Membership Coordinator Cecilia Montenegro at the organization’s National Headquarters, 202-371-8880, Ext. 315, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blinded Veterans Select a New National Chaplain
BVA is pleased to announce it has selected its new National Chaplain, Bishop Jay L. McLeod from Hampton, Virginia. Mr. McLeod is licensed and ordained as a Bishop and Chaplain and is a FEMA certified Chaplain and able to go into disasters when called upon. He is also one of the original founders and the first Chaplain of Alpha and Omega World Ministries. Chaplain McLeod is an honorably discharged disabled Army Veteran and has chosen to make a difference through ministry, chaplaincy, and advocacy.
The role of the BVA National Chaplain is to provide spiritual guidance and support to the blinded veteran membership at special events such as the national conventions, conducting devotional exercises such as invocations and benedictions during individual business meetings and formal social events. Chaplain McLeod hopes to enhance the duties for the Chaplain position and to recruit and train other Veterans and Chaplains to build a National BVA Chaplains program to serve veterans across the country.
Chaplain McLeod will also be composing a bi-monthly Chaplain’s Corner to be placed in each issue of the organization’s official publication, the BVA Bulletin. The purpose of the Chaplain’s Corner will be to promote unity and generate both motivation and enthusiasm to Bulletin readers. All National Board of Director positions within BVA are voluntary and uncompensated. The National Chaplain position is a Board position that does not include voting rights. Travel and accommodations to the annual national convention are the responsibility of the individual.
The legendary position of BVA National Chaplain was occupied by renowned blind rehabilitation pioneer Father Thomas J. Carroll, who helped lay the foundation for BVA’s now more than 72 years of service to the nation’s blinded veterans and their families.
Blind Hockey Visits St. Louis
BVA Blind Hockey coach Bruce Porter and blinded veteran Jim Sadecki.
BVA Hockey is hard at work after a successful Try Blind Hockey event in St. Louis last month. Coach Bruce Porter flew to St. Louis with 10 sets of hockey equipment, blind hockey pucks and other gear to be donated to the new Blind Hockey team. Blinded veteran “Big Jim Sadecki” flew in from Connecticut for the event that brought together the top visually impaired veterans and athletes from around the St. Louis metro area.
After a delay at the airport, Porter hopped in a large cab with all the equipment and met Sadecki on site for the start of the Try Blind Hockey program. There were lots of questions so they started with a meeting to explain the game, rules, history, and safety instructions. They helped the new visually impaired athlete’s suit up in hockey gear and headed for the ice!
The media was on hand for the event that was held in conjunction with USA Hockey, Leveling The Playing Field, and World’s Fair Park - St. Louis. An article with a video of the event is on CBS St. Louis website here: http://stlouis.cbslocal.com/2017/07/19/st-louis-plays-its-inaugural-blind-hockey-game/.
“The first 30 minutes Coach Porter ran an instructional clinic. Then with the help of Sadecki, and volunteers they organized the athletes into teams and played St. Louis’s inaugural Blind Hockey game! “St. Louis has the potential to have a successful Blind Hockey program,” Porter says.
“With our VA Adaptive Sports grant the Blinded Veterans Association will be playing Blind Hockey here for years to come.” Next month Porter, along with the BVA Blind Hockey players will attend the Blind Hockey Summit in Pittsburgh followed by another Try Blind Hockey Event in NYC. Everyone is excited about the showcase game after the NYC event on Oct. 28th at 7:30pm!
“Skating and playing hockey is one of the only things that I felt freedom,” Sadecki says. “I’m able to do it by myself, I don’t have to hold on to anybody and I have a blast doing it.” All of the hockey equipment, time on the ice, and coaching are provided for visually impaired veterans to learn to skate and play blind hockey through the VA grant. We hope to build four strong teams in the coming year as we train visually impaired athletes nationwide and select a national team to play in an epic USA-Canada match!
Soldiers on the Water
Eight wounded veterans gathered on a dock at Destin Harbor and talked jovially as a man sliced fillets from the white snapper and vermillion they caught during a fishing trip hosted by the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors. “I caught 21 snapper and I caught about eight or nine bait fish before that, and it was just another exciting day. Great crew, great boat and a lot of fun,” said Darryl Goldsmith, a former Marine who was blinded by gas during the Iran Hostage Crisis.
The 5th Annual Soldiers on the Water event was designed to better integrate permanently wounded veterans into the community. The four-hour trip in the Gulf of Mexico began at 8 a.m. and returned with a catch the veterans later ate at Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer, a restaurant abutting the dock. The veterans had their choice of fried, blackened or grilled.
“There was a bond there that was hard to fathom, and we found that for many of them they didn’t have to talk about their troubles; they didn’t have to do anything, except fish,” said Joe Morgan, the chairman of Soldiers on the Water. “And that really became the focus of it, making sure it wasn’t about us. It wasn’t a pity party. It was something we were doing for them to give them a good day.”
The veterans who joined the trip were primarily part of the Emerald Coast’s chapter of the Blinded Veterans Association. Others, like Vincent McClendon, an Army sergeant during the Gulf War, accompanied his brother-in-law. “It was great. I would love to do it again. I had a really good time with all these guys, and we really enjoyed ourselves. I caught about seven fish,” McClendon said.
“We want to get them back out on the water doing something they love. It’s engaging, it activates all of their senses because it’s tactile,” said Melinda Vazquez, a Realtor at Coldwell Banker in Destin. “The Emerald Coast Association of Realtors is everybody on the Emerald Coast from Panama City to Pensacola. It’s the whole board of realtors all the way across, and it started as a leadership development program. We decided that we needed to do something for our local community, especially combat wounded vets after the last couple of conflicts; that we needed to give back to our community. They buy houses here, they need services and this is just a way for us to give back to the community.”
Veteran Daryl Goldsmith, President Blinded Veterans Association Emerald Coast Regional Group, is all smiles as he steps off the Wind Walker II after a day-long fishing trip during the 5th Annual Soldiers on the Water event. The Emerald Coast Association of Realtors hosted the gathering. [Photos by Michael Snyder/Daily News]
Georgia Soccer Camp Prepares Georgia Vets
Five Georgia area blinded veterans attended the Clemson University Soccer Camp this past July 26-30. This was the first soccer camp of its kind to be held. The program consisted of individuals with TBI/PTSD as well as vision impairment.
Earlier this year, a message was sent to VIST Coordinators to disseminate to all veterans on their rolls. This was a first-come, first-accepted to the program. Luckily, regional group president Jesse J. Jones Jr, Secretary Elizabeth Holmes, and member Thomas Livingston were accepted to the program. The latter two are members of the BVA Columbus Chapter.
The United States Association of Blinded Athletes (USABA) started a new program aimed at visually impaired veterans to participate in local adaptive sports. This involved the local Parks and Recreation Community. Veterans are trained, licensed, and, with assistance from the local community, a program can be established.
USABA, in conjunction with Clemson University, then hosted the first adaptive soccer camp. The highly professional, motivated coaches taught on the field (hands-on) and in a classroom environment. They were very receptive to all needs of the veterans, regardless of disabilities. This was not an easy course. It was fast paced and highly motivating, leading all to do well.
The course consisted of classroom and field training. At successful completion of the course, the student received an F and E license to coach youths up through the age of 11.
“The camp was exciting and informative about other adaptive sports, and will lead to enriching the vision impaired child to new lengths,” said Jesse.
The camp was funded by Department of Veterans Affairs Adaptive Sports Grant. All veterans should take advantage of the adaptive sports program. Contact your VIST coordinator for information regarding other sports camps available.