IBCF Receives Grant from Dollar General Literacy Foundation!
The Dollar General Literacy Foundation recently awarded the Indiana Blind Children's Foundation a grant to support youth literacy. This grant is part of more than $3.4 million the organization awarded to 915 recipients on August 28, 2018 to programs in 44 states. The School will use the award to purchase additional refreshable Braille display devices for the high school Braille reading classes. We're deeply appreciative Dollar General's deep commitment to access to the gift of reading for all students.
Wow! IWIT Rocks!
This past August, the Indy Women in Tech (IWIT driven by group1001) hosted the IWIT Championship at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Brickyard Crossing Golf Course, a major LPGA event. For the second year, they collaborated with the Octagon program called The Eureka! Exchange (TEE), which is an opportunity to engage school students in important aspects of STEM learning in a non-intimidating way. This year, in a collaboration coordinated by IBCF, ISBVI 8th graders were invited to spend the morning in various STEM activities, especially selected for our students because of their emphasis on tactile and auditory experiences. Along with their ISBVI math and science teachers, our students were mentored and encouraged by volunteers from the tech-focused organizations Codelicious, Nine13sports, Rolls-Royce, and IUPUI's Indiana University School of Infomatics and Computing. Students rode bikes attached to output simulators, constructed small electrical circuits, built simple machines, and tested flight paths for different aerodynamically shaped planes.
And at the end of the morning, each student had a chance to practice learning how to swing a golf club from one of the LPGA players. After a delicious lunch provide by IWIT, students came away excited and empowered. Thank you to all these organizations who gave so much to our students!
STEP - The Result of Businesses Who Care
To be sure, we are fortunate to have Judy Reynolds as director of ISBVI's Student Training Employment Program (STEP). But the intensive 4-week summer program wouldn't happen without the additional support of the many businesses in our area who care deeply about helping to prepare our students with 21st century workplace skills. Everything from the local organizations who hire our students as interns, to the generous financial support from individuals and foundations to cover costs of support staff and transportation, to those who make additional valuable learning opportunities available to our students. This year's special additional opportunities included an incredible visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), where the generosity of IMS staff made vintage Indy cars available for our students to experience tactilely, as well as a private presentation by local Indy driver Ed Carpenter. And then in July, IBCF partnered with Regions to provide STEP students with a day of learning more on how to research, prepare for, and apply to jobs they are interested in, as well as participate in individual mock interviews with Regions staff.
Our warm thanks especially to Regions employees Kim Borges, Kathy Lovell, Schiela Pena and Steve Beres (also this year's Gala speaker) for coordinating this incredible day at the Regions downtown Indianapolis location. As Steve says so eloquently, "Just because you happen to be blind, don't let anyone make you think you should lower the bar for what you think you can do." Thank you, Regions, for helping to give our students these specific tools and the confidence to succeed! And thank you to ALL of the businesses who support our students in so many positive ways!
Donate to IBCF and Receive NAP Tax Credits
The Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation has been awarded the ability to distribute $10,155 in tax credits to eligible Indiana resident taxpayers - which enables IBCF to earn $20,310 in contributions towards its mission and educational programming at ISBVI. Donors who purchase the available tax credits can then deduct these credits from their overall tax liability while supporting necessary educational programming for children with visual impairments. For example, if you donate $500 towards this program, $250 will come off your total 2018 tax liability if you donate before December 31, 2018. This year's NAP donations will support the 2019 Braille Challenge, a one day family event designed to reinforce the importance of Braille literacy for blind children.
Click here to learn more about this program and if you are eligible to purchase these tax credits!
Giving Thanks for Community: It's All About Partnerships
As we head into the holiday season, what stands out is the extraordinary "village" that surrounds our students at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) as well as supports the efforts of the IBCF on their behalf. Our recent Gala, which generated over $195,000, was certainly a result of the hard work and deep caring of many people - not least of which was our wonderful new relationship with the Women's Department Club of Indianapolis. Because of their generous match, our Fund-a-Need portion of the program generated an additional $25,000. But - at the same time - donors in the audience (many who were first-time donors to IBCF) pledged $43,000 in support. And thus, together, we raised a total of $68,000 to support next summer's Expand Your Horizons Summer camp for children who are blind or have low vision. A beautiful example of many people working together to make this world a better place - thank you!
Thank you to all of our guests, sponsors, speakers, volunteers, and supporters in the community who made this event such a success!
Expanding Your Horizons
We rounded out the 2nd quarter of 2018 by supporting ISBVI's annual summer camp, Expanding Your Horizons (EYH). This unique camp is designed specifically for children who are blind or have low vision, EYH is a week-long overnight camp for students aged 10-15 to participate in a adventure camp that builds confidence and self-esteem through activities like horseback riding, sleeping in tents for a week, canoeing, archery, and zip-lining – just like their sighted peers do. Here is what some of the 30 campers served by this year’s camp had to say:
“People who are visually impaired … might not think they could do a rope course,but they can!”
“I don’t worry about being the only one with vision problems.”
“I can talk to other blind kids about things I can’t talk about with other kids.”
“It is meant for people like us!”
We are so grateful to this year’s EYH sponsors: Brave Heart Foundation, Indiana Design Center - LUXE Design Event, Delta Gamma Foundation, 12 Stars Media and Finish Line Youth Foundation – and to Genesys who provided additional adult volunteers. We are pleased to let you know that this year’s Gala Fund-a-Need will be EYH Camp 2019 – so join us this October 6th for a fun-filled evening with great food and the chance to support next summer’s EYH, as well as all the other ways the IBCF supports the students served by the ISBVI.
Together We Can Make a Difference
Genesys Volunteer Fair
In May, IBCF was again invited to participate in the annual Genesys Volunteer Fair. As part of their mission, Genesys, a company specializing in call center platforms, tries to “build a better world by making a positive impact in the communities where Genesys employees live and work.” Their corporate social responsibility program, Make A Difference, was founded in 2007 and encourages employees to spend time outside of work volunteering for a worthy organization that can use their help. Many thanks to director, Lea Durbin, for organizing a great event and for all the Genesys staff who stopped by during their lunch hour. And an especially grateful thank you to those Genesys employees who have volunteered again this summer to help with ISBVI’s summer camp Expanding Your Horizons (EYH), a week-long overnight camp for children who are blind or have low vision that serves students from all across the state of Indiana.
Check out pictures of our EYH campers and Genesys volunteers zip lining!
Learn more about the Expanding Your Horizons summer camp!
“I wanna do something that matters … “
On May 25, the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) celebrated the graduation of 9 young people. Graduation is also a proud day for us at the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation (IBCF), since supporting our students on their path towards independence and living their fullest potential is the reason we exist. This group of graduating seniors brought the number of graduates the IBCF has been privileged to serve since 1993 to a total of 323. Commencement speaker, Steve Beres- Service Members and Veterans Affairs Manager for Regions, who served in the U.S. Army Special Forces all over the Middle East until he lost his sight during combat in a traumatic accident.
Because this is IBCF’s 25th anniversary year, the ceremony seemed especially moving. As always, as the ISBVI band played “Pomp and Circumstance,” each student walked proudly – individually and alone – up the steps on the left and across the stage to receive their diploma, stopped to shake hands with members of the School leadership, and continued to the right side of the stage, down the steps, and back to their seats. Then the choir sang “I Was Here” by Lady Antebellum, the song chosen by this year’s seniors:
… You wait and see / Maybe I'll write like Twain wrote
Maybe I'll paint like Van Gough / Cure the common cold
I don't know but I'm ready to start 'cause I know in my heart
I wanna do something that matters …
I wanna do somethin' better, with the time I've been given
And I wanna try to touch a few hearts in this life
And leave nothin' less than something that says I was here …
When it came time for Steve Beres to speak, he, too, reiterated the theme of making something special of your life. “Don’t let anyone tell you no, or that you’re unable to do something,” he said. And to drive the point home he gave an unmarked envelope with a card in it to each graduate … except that one card said “winner.” That student, he explained, would have the opportunity to do a tandem sky dive alongside him – each of them accompanied on the jump by a professional parachutist. And the winner Christian – who (along with his mom, former Air Force) was thrilled! The jump is scheduled for July 12. Stay tuned! In the meantime, celebrate with us as each of these 9 new graduates strives to “do something that matters … with the time I’ve been given.”
Special thanks to Regions Bank - Commencement Speaker Sponsor
A Year in Review
Written by Laura Alvarado, IBCF Executive Director
It is 2018! We are excited for what 2018 will bring and so very thankful for the increased community support that we experienced in 2017. As we look forward to this new year we thought we would highlight some of the movement and excitement of 2017.
IBCF, Regions Bank and nine13sports joined forces to bring the Kids Riding Bikes program to the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. This partnership brought in coaches from nine13sports, once a week for four weeks, and provided every student on campus the opportunity to be active using stationary bicycle simulators as a part of their physical education class. Being connected to a large screen monitor with software that not only tracks each student’s progress but motivates each student to go further made students feel like they were a part of a video game experience. This program couldn’t have taken place without the support and dedication of Regions Bank, also a new partner in 2017. The students and staff loved this program so much that it is now an annual partnership in January/February. Check out the news story on Fox 59 for more about this program and its impact!
IBCF partially supported the 2017 Braille Challenge with a grant from the Junior League of Indianapolis. The Indiana Regional Braille Challenge was hosted by the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired on Saturday, February 11, 2017 with 25 students in grades 1-12 who competed in this first stage of a two-staged national contest. Students received braille tests focused on reading, writing, spelling and comprehension throughout the morning, competing in his or her appropriate grade range. During the testing day, 125 family members of Challenge participants broke up into four separate groups that rotated between four workshops and sensitivity inspiring simulations that encouraged reflection on how they engage their family member who is blind in everyday activities. Check out the blog post from our very own ISBVI student who won the national contest!
The IBCF Board of Directors consists of fourteen highly dedicated community members who meet once a month to move our mission forward. In 2017 we added educational opportunities to our meetings to deepen our understanding and sensitivities towards those we serve. The Orientation and Mobility Specialists at ISBVI provided our Board Members with a better understanding of how to guide individuals who are blind by engaging us in a blind-folded simulation. Board Members were asked to wear a blind-fold and move throughout the school using a cane and/or being led by a guide.
The amazing team at Ossip Optometry and Ophthalmology surprised their 370 staff at the 2017 Ossip Expo with a beautiful performance from the ISBVI High School Choir. Following this performance, Dr. Scott Allison from Ossip surprised us with a check for $3500. This financial support didn’t end there as Dr. Allison challenged fellow Ossip staff to keep contributing throughout the day. Due to the financial support provided throughout the day, IBCF was able to assist ISBVI in purchasing numerous Bluetooth accessible laptops and MacBooks for the Assistive Technology Lab, making learning more accessible and efficient for students. Thank you to our friends at Ossip for making this support and awareness possible!
75 people joined together to walk in support of IBCF in the Walking for Dreams Event raising close to $5000 in support. Due to this support, we were able to bring in Playworks Indiana a few months later to engage 35 ISBVI staff in a Power of Play and Group Management training aimed at strengthening positive play activities that build social skills and inclusiveness during recess and free time.
June is both a happy and sad time around here at ISBVI. It is the start of the summer and the end of the school year. But for some, it is also the end of their time at ISBVI. While we are sad to see our seniors go each year, we know they are off to new horizons. In 2017, IBCF was happy to provide each of the twelve graduating seniors a small pocket scholarship.
The Expanding Your Horizons Summer Camp, the only week-long overnight summer camp for children with visual impairments in the state, engaged 23 children ages 10-15 throughout Indiana in experiences and activities tied to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) themed lesson plans and concepts. We are thankful for the financial and voluntary support from the Genesys Foundation, formerly the Interactive Intelligence Foundation, for making this camp such a success!
Dr. William Zeh participated in the Rainstorm Ride, a 660 mile bicycle ride in Southern Indiana, raising both financial support and awareness towards our mission. Dr. Zeh’s campaign, Roll for a Goal, brought in nearly $5000 in support from all over the country. We are thankful for individuals like Dr. Zeh who not only understand the importance of our mission but engage their network in learning about the work that we do.
The foundation received its first State of Indiana 2017 grant award from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) through the Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credit Program (NAP)! IBCF was awarded the ability to provide $4128 in tax credits to eligible donors allowing IBCF to earn $8,256 in contributions towards its mission and educational programming at ISBVI.
The 2017 golf event had some ups and downs due to extreme weather that caused a move in the date of the event but that didn’t stop the 90 golfers who stuck with us and played to support our mission on the July rescheduled date generating over $17,000 in support.
Playworks Indiana provided a training to 35 staff at ISBVI on the Power of Play and Group Management Techniques. The workshop was led by Playworks Pro-Trainer, Neetu Agrawal, who inspired staff to learn or strengthen activities that assist ISBVI students in connecting with other children, feel a sense of belonging, and become more active on the playground.
The Kendra Scott store at Keystone at the Crossing invited the foundation and four ISBVI students to join them in the store for an afternoon of jewelry making. Each of the four students created a piece of jewelry to take with him or her as well as a piece that was donated for our 2017 Through the Looking Glass Gala. The students and staff had a wonderful time and hope to go back this spring for another session.
The 2017 Through the Looking Glass Gala generated a record-breaking $150,000 in support of the IBCF mission. Of this total, $41,275 was raised towards the arts and music programs at ISBVI during the Fund-A-Need moment. Our special guest, Jim Platzer, inspired our audience to discover his or her sense of purpose no matter where you are on your journey. Emcees, Laura Steele and Barry Lantz, as well as our auctioneer, Mark Bisch, kept the audience entertained and on their toes all evening. Thanks to the Sertoma Club of Broad Ripple, our guests were able to enjoy casino games ranging from roulette to blackjack. Big thanks to the 2017 Gala Committee and Chair, Lindsey Jordan, for their support and making the evening such a success! Check out the photos from the 2017 TTLG Gala here!
We were thrilled to receive a phone call from our friend and local artist, Barry Lantz, sharing that he was chosen to be the LUXE Design Showcase event keynote speaker. As the keynote speaker he chose IBCF to be the charity beneficiary for the 2018 event on Friday, February 9th. Click on the following link for more details about the upcoming LUXE event!
This year’s annual holiday tree sale and family event was one for the record books! It was a non-stop day at each event area on campus. The IBCF pancake breakfast fed over 150 attendees in just 3 hours. We are thankful to all those who came to support this event that kicks off the holiday season here at ISBVI!