Around BVA

Blind Vet Not Letting Injuries Get in His Way

This feature is based upon a story from KKCO11 News, Grand Junction, Colorado
By Chet Curtis

Army Specialist Steven Baskis lost his sight in the War in Iraq. But he hasn't let that stop him from enjoying life.

BVA member Steve Baskis while on active duty in Iraq.

"I always said to family and friends and strangers growing up that I wanted to see the world and travel the world," Baskis said.

You can see that Steven Baskis has turned dreams into reality. But the sight of him moving around with a white cane is also a reality.

Specialist Baskis joined the Army several years after 9/11 and was sent to Baghdad where he was part of a personal security detachment on May 13, 2008.

"While on the ground there my vehicle I was in was hit with an IED," Baskis said. "I lost a good friend and I woke up pretty much half a world away from the battlefield."

Specialist Baskis sight was gone. Multiple shrapnel injuries to his head, neck, arms and legs also caused him to lose his sense of smell, some hearing, and nerve damage to his left arm.

But he didn’t let the injuries stop him from living life to the fullest.

"A lot of them were things I was dreaming about when I had sight," Baskis recalled. "I've pursued mountaineering, for instance, all over the world."

BVA member Steve Baskis tests his skills at snowboarding.

His sense of adventure and giving back brought him to Montrose a few years ago. He was helping two organizations in town, and it peaked his interests.

"The warm reception from people here in the town," Baskis said. "They had their arms open and I've fallen in love with the western side of Colorado."

Now the community, and a group that helps wounded vets, is giving back to him. Homes for Our Troops, a national non-profit, is building a specialized home for him in Montrose.

Whether he's climbing 14ers, riding bikes, or rowing downstream, it's easy to see how Specialist Baskis sense of adventure has helped him overcome not having the sense of sight. And how his vision is inspiring others along the way.

"I tell people I'm quite literally guided through life," Baskis said.

BVA member Writes Book

By Chet Curtis

Dr. Paul Ellner, longtime BVA member, has written a book entitled, “And Evil Shall Come.” The book is about a young female reporter, who accidentally comes upon terrorist training camp within the United States. She enlists the help of an FBI agent and together they fight to overcome an evil organization.

Dr. Ellner taught medical and graduate students and post-doctoral fellows at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons where he became professor of Microbiology and Pathology. On four occasions, the medical students voted him “Teacher of the Year” and “Outstanding Lecturer.” This experience contributed to his ability as a storyteller and upon his retirement started to write fiction. He is deaf and has been blind for the past 15 fifteen years.

His novels include Stranger in Time, And Evil Shall Come, Marika, Incident in Geneva, The Ebola Connection and most recently a collection of short stories, Bight Figures Sinister Shadows.

This thriller is available as paperback or eBook from, from
​ BVA member and author Paul Ellner

Louisiana/ Mississippi R.G. News

Like everyone else the Louisiana / Mississippi Regional Group is recovering from the extremely cold weather in early 2018. Those of us who live in south LA and South MS are not use to the white stuff or that slick frozen water, but fortunately it has all gone north (where it belongs). Now that spring is near we are preparing the gardens and getting the lawn equipment ready. With Spring comes the Group’s annual banquet. We are planning on having it in Henderson, LA (in the heart of Cajun country) on April 28, 2018. Once again entertainment will be provided by the Harris Family Band which plays French and Cajun music while we network with other veterans and members of other blind organizations. During the dinner we will have guest speakers and exhibitors explaining their latest and greatest products. A brief BVA Regional Group meeting will be held after the dinner to elect new officers and delegates to the national convention. If you are tired of the ICE AND SNOW come and join us.

Wisconsin R.G.

The Wisconsin regional group of District 2 of the Blinded Veterans Association will hold its second annual National Blinded Veterans Day luncheon on Wednesday, March 28, 2018 at the American Legion Post 434 in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The American Legion Post along with the Oak Creek Lions organization will host the event and provide volunteers. The Legion associates will provide the catered sit-down luncheon and the Legion will post the Colors.

Invited guests will include the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council for the Blind; the Executive Director of ABLE (the Wisconsin Audio Braille Literacy Enhancement organization along with the Director of the Wisconsin Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled. Three County Veterans Service Officers will be present and a special award will be presented to the VIST (Visually Impaired Services Team) Coordinator, Leon Haith, who will be retiring next month after serving 51 years with the VA. The Zablocki VA will be represented by Assistant Director James McLane from the facility where Mr. Haith and the offices and treatment clinics are located.

The BVAWI President John Carter will MC the event. The gathering will start at 11:00 with an hour of meet and greet and lunch at noon. The entire event is sponsored by the Wisconsin BVA group.

BVA Partners with SmithBucklin Corporation

By Chet Curtis

The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) has selected SmithBucklin Corporation to provide Financial Management and Accounting Services.

Founded in 1945, the mission of the Blinded Veterans Association is to operate as a not-for-profit corporation exclusively for charitable, educational, patriotic, and civic improvement purposes; to promote the welfare of blinded veterans so that, notwithstanding their disabilities, they may take their rightful place in the community.

In choosing SmithBucklin, BVA believes the company’s experience, knowledge and skills will provide new resources and opportunities to support BVA’s members and advance the association’s mission to serve and support blinded veterans.

“Partnering with SmithBucklin suits our business needs well”, said Joe Parker, BVA President. “SmithBucklin offers both flexibility in terms of solutions available, and, by combining the technology with expert technical and operational services, allows BVA to focus on our core competencies. We’re looking forward to growing the relationship well into the future."

With a reduction in membership, we need to be better stewards of our fiscal assets. This means we must use the best management practices available to attract and develop additional resources to support our mission of assisting our Blinded Veterans.

The Fund-Raising Committee, chaired by Dr. Thomas Zampieri, PhD, together with BVA National Treasurer, Daniel Wallace, USA, Ret and BVA National President, Joe Parker, USN, Ret. worked diligently in searching and selecting a company that not only met the needs of BVA and its members, but will also take BVA into the future.

“We’re proud to be chosen by BVA after their thorough review process which illustrates their belief in our ability to provide best in class service. We believe clients see the unique benefit available from our outsourcing services, said Brian Teague, Vice President of Financial Management and Accounting Services.

Founded in 1949, SmithBucklin is an association management and services company headquartered in Chicago that offers full-service management and outsourced services to trade associations, professional societies, technology user communities, industry consortia, charitable organizations, corporations and government institutes.

Film Production Will Aid Blinded Veterans Association

YouTube Channel Features Nevada Motion Pictures
By Chuck Baker

“Lights, Camera, Nevada!” is the name of a weekly YouTube show in which the hosts discuss motion pictures that were filmed entirely, or at least partially, in Nevada. Or, even on a sound stage that pretends to be in Nevada. Additionally the show will also promote the non-profit Blinded Veterans Association, a deserving charity chartered by Congress that the producers feel does not receive enough publicity or public support.

For many years author, filmmaker and long-time journalist Chuck N. Baker has been collecting DVD and VHS copies of motion pictures that include Nevada scenes. “I’ve even collected films that were supposedly shot here, even though the scenes were shot in Hollywood. Some even took place in East Coast locales. But if the script says it’s in Nevada, it counts!”

The format of each show begins with a discussion of one or two Nevada-centric films. The actors, directors, studios and other contributors to the films will be named and their work discussed. In some cases, a brief moment or two of the Nevada scenes will be shown on a monitor. The YouTube show is hosted by Baker and Tana Vece. A portion of any profits from the show will be donated to BVA.

Baker works in print, radio and television. (He currently is on air in Las Vegas producing and hosting “That’s America to Me” every Sunday at 7 a.m., on 97.1-FM and affiliated Lotus Broadcasting stations.) The show highlights individuals and organizations that help the local community, and often features veteran’s organizations.

Beginning in 2015, Baker began volunteering his services as a film maker to the Blinded Veterans Association. He produced several documentaries for in-house distribution, and wrote several news releases promoting their activities. In 2016 Baker met with BVA President Al Avina. They discussed Baker’s idea to promote the BVA via an exclusive YouTube show. “It took awhile to come up with a format, but it has finally seen fruition,” Baker said. “Using motion pictures as a stepping stone is so very appropriate, in that it is a visual medium that is often not available to those without sight. And yet that situation is often overcome through the use of descriptive video,” Baker continued, “where films are played and a narrator voices the action in between the scenes in which the actors speak.” Baker added, “My admiration for the members of the Blinded Veterans Association knows no bounds. There is very little that its members are unable to accomplish.”

Baker first visited Las Vegas in the late 1960s, and moved there in 1989 working as a section editor for the daily Review-Journal newspaper. Later he founded and published Nevada’s Veterans Reporter newspaper for 14 years prior to selling it. He currently writes about veterans issues for several local publications and is an avid collector of Las Vegas history. He boasts several storerooms full of Nevada films and other memorabilia.

Tanya Vece is a writer and public relations executive specializing in various facets of the entertainment industry. In Nevada she has worked with such companies as Caesars Palace, The Palms, Brennan Theaters, CineVegas and Dam Short Film Festival. She has also been a regular contributor to Full Metal Rock magazine, the Horse Chronicles and, currently, the Boulder City Review newspaper, where her columns discuss motion pictures. She is dedicated to making the world a better place, and is fond of quoting journalist Tom Brokaw: “It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.”

On her upcoming YouTube show “Lights, Camera, Nevada!”, she hopes to make a difference by promoting programs that help blinded veterans.

Save the date

Get ready to celebrate BVA’s 73rd National Convention in Reno-Sparks, Nevada. This coming August 13-17 you are invited to join friends new and old at BVA’s convention. Official registration packets for the convention will go out the first week of May. Be on the lookout for more information coming soon to your email account! So mark your calendar now for August 13-17, 2018 and feel free to email Dawn Jakutowicz at HQ with questions and ideas about how to make the convention most meaningful to you.

Audio Version of Around BVA