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Supporter Spotlight: Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria

By: Seth Johnson

While they may be known for dishing up delicious Chicago-style pizza, Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria is also a business built on giving back to the community.

Staff and students from ISBVI’s STEP program pose with staff from the Lou Malnati’s Broad Ripple location. The group appears to be standing in front of a large mural that’s been painted on a wall, which prominently features the Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria logo.In 1971, co-founders Lou and Jean Malnati hosted their first annual charity event to raise a scholarship fund for a local athlete. Ever since then, the much-loved pizza chain has worked to serve the community however it can — hence why Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria is a strong supporter of the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation.

“We like to continue the vision of Lou and Jean,” says Jennifer Trenner, grassroots marketing and sales specialist with Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria. “We’re all about community.”

Since first having a conversation with IBCF executive director Laura Alvarado last January, Trenner and her Lou Malnati’s team have donated pizza on multiple occasions to IBCF functions, while also treating students and staff on the TOCAF Bright Lights, Big City, Chicago Extravaganza to a multi-course meal. Additionally, the Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria in Broad Ripple has offered career development opportunities to ISBVI students as part of the school’s Student Training and Employment Program (STEP).

“We did that last summer, and I’m sure we’re going to do it again this summer,” Trenner says of the pizzeria’s involvement with STEP. “That was really beneficial for all parties.”

In reflecting on their partnership with IBCF, Trenner says she and the Lou Malnati’s team have simply enjoyed all the interactions they’ve had with students, staff, and teachers.

“You guys have such a great group of people over there,” Trenner says. “When we first started talking to Laura, it just felt like a good foundation to be a part of. The school is right there near Broad Ripple. The kids are wonderful, and the teachers are great.”

Esteemed Pianist Visits with ISBVI Students

By: Seth Johnson

Rachel Chen can best be described as a piano extraordinaire.

A student is seen sitting at a piano in the ISBVI piano lab with both hands on the piano. Behind him, Rachel Chen appears to be giving thoughtful instruction with a hand on the student’s right shoulder. Currently pursuing her doctorate in Piano Performance at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, Chen started her piano studies at the Levine School of Music in Washington D.C., where she received a “From the Top” scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. In 2007, she represented Taiwan in the 40th International Piano Competition in Usti nad Labem of the Czech Republic, before making her Carnegie Hall debut just three years later.

Having earned her Master of Music in Piano Performance and Pedagogy and her Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance at the University of Michigan, Chen also has a passion for teaching piano to students with special needs, which is why music teacher Sean Bradley invited her to work with piano students at ISBVI.

“While I was studying at IU, Rachel and I were panelists on an Inclusive Music Teaching Panel put on by the Music Teachers National Association piano chapter at IU,” Bradley says. “While preparing for the panel, I learned that she has spent a lot of time teaching, researching, and better understanding how to teach students on the autism spectrum. Although she didn’t have prior experience working with students who are blind or have low vision, I knew that her experience teaching students with other disabilities would make her a great fit.”

On Feb. 1, Chen came to ISBVI, giving middle and high school students some individualized piano instruction. Although she had never worked with blind or visually impaired students before, Bradley says Chen quickly picked up on how to be accommodating.

“One of our middle school students couldn’t believe that was her first time teaching students who are blind,” Bradley says. “He came up to me afterwards and said, ‘Mr. Bradley, Ms. Rachel has worked with blind students before, right?’ After I told him that was her first time, he exclaimed, ‘No way! She knew exactly how to work with us — doing things like hand over hand — and she was polite to always ask before coming up behind us and letting us know she was nearby.’”

While the students were impressed with Chen as a professor, she admits she was also impressed with them as aspiring pianists.

“I was really impressed that they learn by just listening. That’s incredible,” Chen says.

On February 28th, Chen will return to ISBVI again, this time leading students in a masterclass before treating them to a recital in the school’s historic auditorium.

“She will be performing one of her final doctoral recitals at IU on March 2, so it’s all the more reason to have her perform for our students,” Bradley says.

Both of Chen’s visits to ISBVI were made possible with support from the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation.

ISBVI Alumni Spotlight: Kathy Nimmer

By: Seth Johnson

Note: In celebration of ISBVI’s 175th anniversary, we’re catching up with alumni to learn more about the school’s impact on their life. Kathy’s is the first of several alumni we plan on spotlighting in the coming months.

Kathy Nimmer is seen sitting on playground equipment as she poses for a photo with her guide dog Tate. Positioned on a platform behind Kathy, Tate is a black dog with big, droopy ears and a friendly face. As an educator of three decades, Kathy Nimmer admits it was the teachers she had at Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) that led her down the path she’s on today.

“I took pieces from all of those teachers at the Blind School, and then used them in who I am now,” Nimmer says. “People were not just surface-connected down there. It was a lot of care, compassion, and support that went into the experience at the Blind School.”

A 1987 graduate of ISBVI, Nimmer taught English at Harrison High School in West Lafayette for 29 years before transitioning into her current role as SEEDS program director with the Tippecanoe School Corporation (SEEDS is a mentorship program for new teachers in the district). In addition to being an ISBVI alumni, Nimmer has also served on the IBCF board since 2020.

After starting school in her hometown of West Lafayette, Nimmer eventually transferred to ISBVI in 1980 as her visual impairment continued to worsen due to cone-rod dystrophy. Before attending ISBVI, Nimmer remembers that she and her family were impressed by the student-led tour they received of the school.

“That was impactful because to that point I actually knew nobody who was visually impaired,” Nimmer says. “Having someone with low vision take us around was influential to all of us.”

While attending ISBVI, Nimmer had a few teachers who really made an impact on her. One of those was her piano teacher, Linda Francisco, who helped Nimmer to fully realize her talent as a pianist.

“She was a game-changer for me. We clicked really early teacher-to-student, and we’re still friends now,” Nimmer says. “I just had a lot of grief that I was dealing with, but piano was that oasis for me. And then, once I discovered I was actually good, it became so fulfilling.”

Another teacher that really made a mark on Nimmer was science instructor Becky Heck.

Kathy Nimmer (right) poses for a photo with her former ISBVI teacher Linda Francisco (left). “We dissected frogs, and we did all kinds of interactive things that they would have absolutely waved me from or had me just be passively involved in at public school,” Nimmer says. “I was highly aware that that was unique and impactful.”

Like many students who travel from across the state to attend ISBVI, Nimmer lived in the on-campus dorms from Monday through Friday and would only visit home on weekends. Through living in the dorms, she learned some important life lessons.

“I just remember that whole structure of learning about humans you’re living with,” Nimmer says. “Some of them you like, and some of them you don’t like. It helped me to be more flexible and open-minded about all different kinds of people. Some of the house parents were fantastic too. I loved some of them to the moon and back.”

Ultimately, Nimmer couldn’t be more thankful for the ways that ISBVI staff influenced her life.

“The Blind School wasn’t the first time I had great teachers, but people like Linda Francisco and Becky Heck demonstrated to me what that personal connection was like,” Nimmer says. “Because the classes are so small by default, there’s a lot of one-on-one time and a lot of relationship building. That mattered, and I wanted to be for them what they were for me.”


Congratulations 2023 Braille Challenge Participants

By: Seth Johnson

We at the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation would like to congratulate the winners at this year’s Indiana Regional Braille Challenge and Cane Quest!

Made possible with support from the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation (IBCF), the annual competition developed by the Braille Institute returned to its regular in-person format this year at Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI), after two years of going virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The in-person return of the Indiana Regional Braille Challenge demonstrated the need for children and families impacted by vision impairments to gather once again for this daylong. fun-filled program that motivates youth with vision impairments to engage in braille studies,” says IBCF executive director Laura Alvarado. “While this program motivates youth and their families to support their children's braille studies all year long, the Braille Challenge brings children and families together to learn, laugh, and connect in deep, meaningful ways that transcend the competition. Friendships and bonds are formed between fellow students and families, creating a tight-knit community who can rely on one another for support and guidance now and for years to come.”

Below are the results from this year’s Indiana Regional Braille Challenge. (Note: Students’ last names are excluded to honor their privacy.)

Braille Challenge Results

Several high-school aged students sit at desks as they type on braillewriters. All the students are wearing light blue t-shirts and appear to be deeply concentrating.Apprentice (Grades 1-2)

  • 1st Place: Lucille

Freshman (Grades 3-4)

  • 1st Place: Willow
  • 2nd Place: Georgia

Sophomore (Grades 5-6)

  • 1st Place: Emma
  • 2nd Place: Michelle
  • 3rd Place: Kallin

Junior Varsity (Grades 7-9)

  • 1st Place: May
  • 2nd Place: Jazmine
  • 3rd Place: Matthias

Varsity (Grades 10-12)

  • 1st Place: Mattix
  • 2nd Place: Kylah
  • 3rd Place: Leah

Cane Quest Results

Trailblazers (Middle School and High School)

  • 1st Place (Tie): Jazmine and Emily
  • 2nd Place: Dylan

Scouts (Elementary School)

  • 1st Place: Matthias
  • 2nd Place (Tie): Michelle and May

Congratulations to all our participants for a job well done!


Looking Back on the 1st Year of TOCAF Grant Magic

By: Seth Johnson

From Nov. 30-Dec. 1, ISBVI students and staff traveled to Chicago as part of the Bright Lights, Big City, Chicago Extravaganza — a trip made possible by the Toula Oberlies Creative Arts Fund (TOCAF). Now, thanks to the wonderful work of 12 Stars Media, you can relive the magic of this engaging theater excursion through a digital photo journal recapping each and every part of the adventure.

ISBVI students mingle in front of “The Bean” in Chicago’s Millennium Park.A multi-faceted theater adventure, the Bright Lights, Big City, Chicago Extravaganza fit several theater experiences into a limited amount of time, as ISBVI students took part in a half-day improvisational workshop at Second City Chicago, attended an accessible Broadway Chicago production of The Lion King, and toured DePaul University’s Theatre School. Over the course of the trip, the group of high school students had a multitude of “Ah ha” moments, as they learned more about expressing themselves and pursuing their creative interests.

“Our students are awesome, and I know that each of them has a bright future,” says ISBVI teacher Janelle Pivec, who imagined the Chicago theater experience along with ISBVI teacher Josh Baxter. “This experience opened up a whole new world of possibilities for them to seize new adventures because they now can understand how people make their career in theater a reality. Our students have shown great depth in their acting since the trip, and I have seen more creativity and talent emerge.”

An easy-to-digest and fully accessible digital product, the Bright Lights, Big City, Chicago Extravaganza photo journal serves as a great way to commemorate the first-ever TOCAF grant experience, explains the TOCAF grant’s namesake.

“As you read through the journal that was created, you will understand the importance of the experience that the students had and the impact it had on them,” says Toula Oberlies. “The fund not only supported the project that was created by the teachers but motivated the creation of a new theater program at ISBVI. This coming year will be the second project, and I’m very, very excited to see what that turns out to be.”

In the coming months, IBCF will provide teachers with a TOCAF presentation that includes updates on the 2022 grant award and experience, while also talking through the 2023 TOCAF application process. Applications will launch in March with the TOCAF committee reviewing applications in April. The 2023 TOCAF grant award will then be announced in May.


Braille Challenge Celebrates In-Person Return

By: Seth Johnson

After two years of going virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indiana Regional Braille Challenge and Cane Quest returned to in-person competition at Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI), welcoming students and their families to the ISBVI campus from Jan. 28-29.

Braille Challenge participants stand in a row across the ISBVI auditorium’s stage, ranging in age from elementary school through high school. ISBVI director of outreach Cara Kennett speaks at a podium to their right. Behind them, red curtains serve as the backdrop along with various monster-themed cutouts.Developed by the Braille Institute to motivate students to practice and hone their braille literacy skills, Braille Challenge is an annual competition open to students grades 1-12 who can read and write braille. Braille Challenge contestants are divided into five categories and tested on fundamental braille skills that include reading comprehension, spelling, speed and accuracy, charts and graphs, and proofreading.

Regularly held at ISBVI, the 2023 Indiana Regional Braille Challenge was made possible with support from IBCF and those who made donations to our foundation through the Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credit Program (NAP).

An eleventh-grade student at Warsaw Community High School, Kylah first started competing in Braille Challenge back in third grade. For her and her family, Braille Challenge is something to really look forward to every year.

“It’s different from normal weekends. We have things to do. We have places to be,” says Kylah, whose sixth-grade brother, Kallin, now competes in Braille Challenge too. “We also don’t get to go down to Indy very often.”

While they always enjoy seeing the event’s theme every year (The 2023 theme was Where the Wild Things Are), Kylah and Kallin’s parents also really appreciate the way their family is treated at the Indiana Regional Braille Challenge.

“They treat them [the students] like kings and queens — they pull out all the stops,” says Kylah and Kallin’s father, David. “They set you up in a hotel. They give you these great meals. They work really hard, and they have this amazing banquet for the kids.”

While the kids are competing in their Braille Challenge events, parents and guardians are also invited to attend educational workshops, ultimately giving the whole family something to look forward to.

“A little one-night-away thing at a hotel is always fun when you have kids,” says Kylah and Kallin’s mother, Amanda. “I’m always excited to see what the family sessions are going to be too. I think it’s just as much fun for us as it is for the kids.”

At the end of the day, Amanda and David simply love how much their children are embraced at the Indiana Regional Braille Challenge every year.

“They remember our kids, even though they aren’t there [at ISBVI] all the time,” Amanda says. “That means a lot to us as parents because it’s like, ‘These people care!’”


Supporter Spotlight: Little Eyes Pediatric Eye Care

By: Seth Johnson

From the moment they started caring for patients, Little Eyes Pediatric Eye Care has been a dedicated supporter of the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation.

Dr. Schuetz and Dr. Wilson pose for a fun photo with fellow members of the Little Eyes team. Everyone in the photo is seen jumping in the air with arms outstretched, as they smile gleefully.“We wanted to make sure we had a partnership with the community when we started off, and we thought, ‘Well what better way than making a donation on behalf of Little Eyes to your awesome organization for every pair of glasses that’s sold.’ Since the very first pair of glasses we ever sold, we’ve been contributing to you,” says Dr. Jeremy Ciano, whose 4-year-old son inspired him to start Little Eyes.

As Ciano explains, Little Eyes makes a donation to IBCF with every pair of glasses they sell. At the end of every month, their office then writes a check to IBCF in support of the foundation’s cause

“We had a passion for kids, and then once we learned about the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation, we wanted to make sure we were doing something that also promoted you guys,” says Dr. Katherine Schuetz of Little Eyes.

Over the years, Little Eyes staff members have attended several IBCF events, which have given them an even greater understanding of the lives their impacting.

“The ability to go and tour the school is always super profound and powerful,” Schuetz says. “Having a better understanding of the practical challenges the students have makes us all the more fervent in trying to fundraise and support IBCF. There’s a lot of need for very specific tools for these students, and we want to do our part to help them get through in whatever way we can.”

While raising funds for IBCF, Little Eyes staff have also volunteered their time to the foundation. As a matter of fact, Little Eyes Dr. Hannah Wilson joined the IBCF board just last summer.

“I just wanted to do more and become more involved as I learned more about IBCF,” Wilson says. “The mission is so great and something we at Little Eyes are passionate about.”

As he reflects on Little Eyes’ longstanding partnership with IBCF, Dr. Ciano ultimately explains that the foundation aligns perfectly with his three main passions.

“You really hit on the three biggest passions in my life: supporting local, children, and the eyes,” Ciano says. “To be able to support a local organization that’s helping children with visual impairments really hits all three of those major categories. It’s just awesome to partner with you guys.”

Little Eyes Pediatric Eye Care is located at 1372 S. Rangeline Rd. in Carmel. Learn more about their pediatric optometry services by visiting

ISBVI Students Embark on Chicago Theater Adventure Thanks to First-Ever TOCAF Grant

By: Seth Johnson

On a brisk day in late November, ISBVI students and staff exit a Miller Transportation bus just outside of Chicago’s iconic Millennium Park, as they make their way towards Cloud Gate a.k.a. “The Bean” for a class photo. For many of these students, this marks the first time they’ve ever been to a big city — much less Chicago. As the next 24 hours unfold, however, the group makes the Windy City its oyster, while learning a lot in the process.

On Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 15 ISBVI high school students, along with ISBVI and IBCF staff, made their way to Chicago as part of the Bright Lights, Big City, Chicago Extravaganza. Dreamed up by ISBVI teachers Janelle Pivec and Josh Baxter, this trip was made possible through the Toula Oberlies Creative Arts Fund, an endowed fund in honor of the legacy of long-time IBCF board member, Toula Oberlies, that provides ISBVI students with once-in-a-lifetime creative arts opportunities.

As part of the Bright Lights, Big City, Chicago Extravaganza, students worked with Second City Chicago in a half-day improvisational workshop, experienced an accessible Broadway Chicago production of The Lion King, and toured DePaul University's Theatre School. While taking part in these engaging arts experiences, the students gained a wealth of knowledge on the multi-dimensional world of theater performance, as they explored everything from acting games to set and costume design.

Upon learning of the TOCAF grant opportunity, Janelle Pivec and Josh Baxter quickly got to brainstorming an experience that would impact ISBVI students.

“When I first spoke with [IBCF executive director] Laura Alvarado about the grant, I started thinking about all the opportunities that I have experienced in the arts over the course of my schooling, and I knew that this was the way to have those same eye-opening experiences for our students,” Pivec says. “I instantly started thinking about how the grant would allow our students to get closer to the performing arts and artists, and that proximity would make those experiences so much more meaningful.”

As Baxter and Pivec began to consider a potential destination for their theater adventure, Chicago eventually emerged as the frontrunner.

Three high school-aged women sit in a row on the left, next to a man on the right who appears to be prompting an audience to give them applause. The man’s mouth is open, as he smiles with an exuberant expression. All three of the women are smiling too.“Chicago seemed like the Hollywood of the Midwest to us, and we knew we could organize a big city experience for our students,” Baxter says. “After researching the rich theater scene in Chicago, we knew we had picked the right place that had multiple options for all our needs.”

After visiting The Bean, Baxter and Pivec took their students to The Second City for the first leg of their immersive Chicago theater experience. While at the historic improv comedy destination, the students engaged in a myriad of improvisational games, while exercising their acting skills.

“The guy that was working there was named Nick, and he got everyone from the group involved in these neat improv games that we played and could take back with us,” says ISBVI student Nate of the group’s time at Second City. “Those got us interacting with people in our class and were just fun engagement games.”

While at The Second City, Baxter and Pivec were also impressed to see their students using some of the skills they’ve worked on in theater class at ISBVI.

“Our theater class was at times intentionally shaped around providing the students with the improv skills we would need to be prepared to have a great Second City experience,” Baxter says. “Although it would have been fine if we hadn’t known much about improv or acting beforehand, it was noticeable that our students were more than prepared to enjoy Second City at a higher level due to their practice with theater and improv fundamentals. Second City was a great way for our students to work towards getting comfortable with acting through the semester and put it on display at a world-class theater institution. They were impressive educators who were as entertaining as they were informative. Second City was more than we expected it could be.”

Following their Second City workshop, the students briefly returned to the hotel to freshen up before heading to an accessible Broadway Chicago production of The Lion King, where students accessed audio description, the narration of the visual elements on stage, via audio description headsets.

A group of ISBVI students and staff stand under the theater marquee for Broadway’s “Lion King,” posing for a photo. Behind them, city lights shine in the Chicago night’s sky.“They had people come in from the audience to go on stage, which was pretty cool,” says ISBVI student Tyler. “You don’t normally see that down here in Indianapolis — you usually see it in the big ole fancy cities.”

This awestruck reaction to The Lion King  production was ultimately one that Baxter and Pivec observed from all their students throughout the show.

The Lion King  is known for its innovative, immersive experience, and we knew that the students would be enveloped into the show,” Pivec says. “The moment the first animal walked past our students, their smiles never left their faces.” 

To close out their Chicago adventure, the ISBVI students were treated to an immersive tour of DePaul University’s Theatre School. After engaging in a panel discussion with DePaul University theater students, the ISBVI students were led on a tour of the five-story Theatre School, with stops in the woodworking shop, costume room and more.

“I think that was just awesome because you never really think about that when you’re watching the play itself,” says ISBVI student Cory of the DePaul Theatre School tour. “But then, when you go behind the scenes and look at all that, it’s like, ‘Wow! There’s really so much hard work that goes into everything that they do.’”

To close out their time at DePaul, the students took part in a workshop led by voice/speech teacher and dialect/vocal coach, Sammi Grant, who in addition to speaking to students about her career was able to relate to the students as a student and theater professional with a visual impairment

“Showing our students what it took to put together what they had been to the night before really brought everything home for them,” Baxter says of the overall experience at DePaul. “From an actors panel, to wigs, costumes and makeup, to vocal direction, DePaul opened our students’ minds up to how many ways there are to enter into the world of theater.”

A high school-aged man stands amidst a crowd, as he examines two small planks of wood that are used in designing theater sets at DePaul University.Having now had some time to reflect even further on the trip, both Baxter and Pivec couldn’t be happier with how everything went.

“Trips with large groups of students, even fun ones, can be tiring, and have their issues. This trip was fortunate to escape pretty much anything negative,” Baxter says. “It was seamless and had an energy with the whole group that sustained everyone there. Whenever something goes really right in life, it has a feel to it, and this trip had that feeling.”

As the students head into their second semester of theater class at ISBVI, Baxter and Pivec hope they continue to expand upon the knowledge they picked up while in Chicago.

“I hope that our students continue to hone their skills of storytelling and character development as we continue our work in theater class,” Pivec says. “The experience in Chicago pushed them to think more about creating a story and less about going for the funny punchline.  I also hope that the students continue to be open to the possibility of participating in any and all aspects of theater in their future.”




IBCF and ISBVI Team Up with Mapt Solutions for Strategic Planning Process

By: Seth Johnson

The Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation (IBCF) and Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) are currently in the joint process of putting together carefully crafted strategic plans, with the help of locally based strategic consulting firm Mapt Solutions.

Mapt Solutions co-founders Steven Tyler (left) and Brittany Krier (right) pose for a photo, seated on a short flight of cement steps that lead up to a building’s doorway.

Having experience with several other education-related organizations, Mapt Solutions focuses on working with ambitious leaders who see the potential for better. Headed up by Brittany Krier and Steven Tyler, the firm was approached by IBCF and ISBVI in early 2022 to begin constructing separate-yet-aligned strategic plans for both entities.

“Both recognized the need to do strategic planning for their own organizations, and they also recognized the benefits that could come from aligning their planning processes together,” Tyler says. “Because while they are two organizations that have their own plans, their missions are complimentary and reliant on each other in many ways.”

To facilitate the planning process, Mapt Solutions is using a three-phase approach with IBCF and ISBVI, beginning with what they call a landscape review.

“A landscape review is used to fully understand the current situation that the organization is in, both their internal operations and their unique position in their field,” Tyler says. “So how they compare to other similar organizations and how they fit in as one nonprofit in their community.”

To gather information for this review, Mapt Solutions conducted over 50 interviews with ISBVI board members and staff, as well as ISBVI parents, students, IBCF board members and staff, as well as stakeholders. This information was then synthesized into a written document, known as the landscape review.

“The document helps everyone involved in the process build a shared understanding of where the organization is and what opportunities are in front of them.” Tyler says. “Then, we can collectively make choices on how to move forward.”

Now that the landscape review is complete, Mapt Solutions will begin the second phase of its strategic planning process with IBCF and ISBVI. Tyler refers to this phase as “an exercise in making choices.”

“You’re saying, ‘There are many options on the table. But where do we think we can make the biggest impact? What’s most aligned with our mission, and where are we uniquely positioned to succeed.’ To help answer these questions, we work with leaders through a series of exercises.” Tyler says.

Lastly, Mapt Solutions will guide IBCF and ISBVI through phase three of their strategic planning process, which focuses on implementation.

“In phase 3 we help organizations create an implementation plan to jumpstart the rollout of the new strategy,” Tyler says. “Generally focused on the first 6-12 months, the implementation plan sets the organization up for success to build momentum behind the new strategy and not let it become a dusty document on a shelf.”

As Mapt Solutions continues working with IBCF and ISBVI through this three-phase strategic planning process, Tyler says it’s been awesome getting to know all the passionate people affiliated with both entities.

“Every person that we meet is dedicated to the kids, cares deeply about the mission and only wants to see their impact expand further,” Tyler says. “No matter how good it is, they want to see it get better and are invested in making it better. There’s no one here coasting — everyone is here to push forward.” 

Another Jolly Year at the Holiday Tree Sale and Family Event

By: Seth Johnson

An outdoor snapshot from the Holiday Tree Sale and Family Event shows several people taking part in various activities. On the left, for example, individuals enjoy hot chocolate and cookies, while on the right, people weight in line to purchase their holiday trees and wreaths.On Saturday, Dec. 3, the Holiday Tree Sale and Family Event returned to the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, welcoming community members young and old to kick off their holiday season with a fun-filled day at ISBVI.

In keeping with tradition, hundreds of pines, firs, and spruce trees were available for purchase from ISBVI’s two-acre tree farm, along with a selection of pre-cut firs, plants, and wreaths. As families browsed the wide array of holiday greenery on hand, they were also invited to enjoy a made-to-order breakfast in Churchman Cafeteria from 8 to 11 a.m. benefiting IBCF. Throughout the day, Santa Claus made his rounds as well, while ISBVI carolers and classical guitarist John Alvarado provided the proper holiday soundtrack.

An ISBVI tradition that dates back to 2001, the Holiday Tree Sale and Family Event was initially started by former ISBVI teacher Dave Schnieders, who still plays a big part in the event to this day.

Dave Schnieders poses for a photo in the ISBVI tree farm. Dave is wearing a red winter coat, blue jeans and a winter hat, with a big smile on his face.“We planted 100 white pines along the fence back there by the Monon Trail,” says Schnieders of the tree farm’s origins. “Those were fifth graders who did that. We said, ‘By the time you’re seniors, those trees will be big enough that you can sell them.’”

Considering the sale’s humble beginnings, Schnieders has enjoyed seeing the Holiday Tree Sale and Family Event transform into something that brings out the whole community.

“It brings the neighborhood onto the ISBVI campus, and they get to see how cool it all is,” Schnieders says. “It’s definitely a big community event, and I’m excited and pleased that it’s become that.”

As the Holiday Tree Sale and Family Event has blossomed into what it is today, Schnieders says he still has students who keep coming back to it decades later.

“Now they show up with their wives and families, which is really cool,” he says. “They laugh and say, ‘Wow. When we put these trees in, I never thought it would turn into this!’”

Supporter Spotlight: National Charity League – Carmel Chapter

By: Seth Johnson

For Debra Wilson, Geri Imler and their daughters, volunteering at Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation events is truly a joy.

“Selfishly, I think we get even more from it than you guys get from us,” Wilson says with a laugh.

A group of mothers pose with their daughters in ISBVI’s Churchman Hall ahead of IBCF’s No Limits Celebration. All around them, tables are seen, decorated with black tablecloths and red bows.All a part of the National Charity League – Carmel Chapter, Imler, Wilson, and their daughters have volunteered at several IBCF and ISBVI events, including the No Limits Celebration in July, the NCASB Conference Championship Track Meet in September, and the Holiday Tree Sale and Family Event on Dec. 3.

As a multi-generational philanthropic organization of mothers and daughters, the National Charity League (NCL) donates close to three million hours annually to over 6,000 charities in the United States. Consisting of about 200 mothers and their daughters, the NCL’s Carmel Chapter was thrilled when they first found out about IBCF and its mission.

“When you guys came up, I instantly jumped on it,” Wilson says. “You’re dealing with a foundation for blind and visually impaired children, and it’s special. It just warmed my heart.”

Once a high school English teacher, Imler has since shifted her focus to volunteerism since having twin girls. Through NCL’s Carmel Chapter, she’s enjoyed being able to share her passion for helping others with her three daughters.

“I’ve always been a volunteer and my kids have seen that,” Imler says. “But then, when I came across this, it was a way for them to volunteer with me, see why I do it, and look into other worlds. Carmel can sometimes feel like a little bubble of blessing for everybody here, so I wanted them outside of that bubble to see that sometimes it’s not always as easy as people make it look. And to feel that type of gratitude when you’re able to help somebody who has it a little bit harder than you.”

Through volunteering with IBCF, Imler hopes her daughters can gain some meaningful perspective.

A group of mothers and their daughters pose with Santa Claus and his sleigh at the Holiday Tree Sale and Family Event.“I want them to be able to see that there aren’t just financial challenges. There are also other challenges that people face, and they’re able to overcome them while still being positive in life,” Imler says. “So when they [my daughters] come up against a challenge that they’re not used to in their own lives, they can maybe draw on that experience of seeing how other people do it with such grace and such joy and realize that it’s not the end for them.”

Looking forward, NCL’s Carmel Chapter is especially excited to volunteer at the 2023 ISBVI summer camps, which are made possible with support from IBCF.

“I cannot wait for when you guys do the summer camps and our girls get to help there,” Wilson says. “That’s going to be huge for them.”

Promethean Boards Provide ISBVI Teachers with New Classroom Potential

By: Seth Johnson

ISBVI elementary math teacher Ali Ardaiolo has noticed an immediate difference in terms of student engagement since she first started using the newly installed Promethean board in her classroom.

“It’s been like night and day in here,” says Ardaiolo, who teaches third, fourth and fifth grade math at ISBVI. “The kids are so engaged in lessons now.”

Middle school math teacher Linda Baker is seen using her Promethean board. Linda appears to be speaking with a hand outstretched, as a geometry problem appears on the board’s digital display.In late October, Promethean boards were installed in 20 instructional classrooms at ISBVI, providing teachers with a new realm of possibilities when it comes to interactive instruction. Made possible through the work of the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation (IBCF), this initial round of 20 Promethean boards was funded by 2022 Through the Looking Glass Gala attendees, Nina Mason Pulliam Trust, Arthur Dean Family Foundation and Frank Andrews. We at IBCF are now actively working to have 13 more Promethean boards integrated into the remaining instructional classrooms at ISBVI by the end of February 2023.

The acquisition of the Promethean boards is the next step of ensuring ISBVI students have access to the most modern technology at all times. This commitment was made by the foundation when the pandemic hit, and it will continue to be a strong focus of our fundraising in the future.

With an enlarged display, Ardaiolo has found it much easier to work through math problems as a class, especially thanks to the Promethean board’s zooming capabilities.

“For a math worksheet, I can share it on the screen from my computer and blow it up,” Ardaiolo says. “Then, I put it in the Whiteboard app, and I can write on it. When it’s on the screen and everyone can see, it’s amazing.”

Like Ardaiolo, middle school math teacher Linda Baker has already gotten busy with integrating the new Promethean board into her classroom.

“I can put a PDF of a worksheet on here, and then I’m able to annotate it,” Baker says. “I can have the kids come up to the board, and we can do it all together.”

Baker has also found that her students enjoy when she displays visuals on the board, considering how large the screen is. At the beginning of each class, for example, she likes to display a math-related cartoon or meme for her students to enjoy before the day’s lesson.

“One of the nice things about the Promethean board is that it’s a living bulletin board, for lack of a better word,” says Baker, who adds she’ll sometimes even treat her students to a math-related music video on the Promethean board from time to time.

Since having her Promethean board installed, ISBVI art teacher Leslie Walsh has already started thinking through potential interactive opportunities she can provide her students with.

“In my head I’m thinking, ‘Maybe we could even contact an artist virtually, or see if there’s someone at a museum who we could talk to about something,’” Walsh says.

Additionally, Walsh has simply enjoyed having the capability to show her students enlarged examples of art.

“They’re able to see the examples that I have in a much larger way,” Walsh says. “They can go up really close to it, as opposed to my phone or my iPad, which have tiny screens.”

On Dec. 6, ISBVI teachers and staff will receive their first official Promethean board training, allowing them to get an even better grasp on the many ways this technology can be used in the classroom. Going forward, be sure to stay tuned to the IBCF newsletter and social media channels for future updates on how these Promethean boards are making an impact on the teachers, students and staff at ISBVI.

“Nothing About Us Without Us” Campaign Results Reveal Several Successes

By: Seth Johnson

On Thursday, Nov. 17, the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation (IBCF) held the “Nothing About Us Without Us” campaign wrap-up at Half Liter BBQ in South Broad Ripple, in celebration of the many positive outcomes that came from the digital awareness campaign.

Kyan, EJ, Nikki and Samantha pose for a picture against a brick wall backdrop. Kyan (top left) and EJ (top right) stand, while Nikki (bottom left) and Samantha (bottom right) sit, all four smiling.As part of the celebration, campaign ambassadors were invited to enjoy a delicious meal, while learning more about the campaign’s successes from IBCF partner 1909 Digital. Through this event, ambassadors were also given the chance to interact with “Nothing About Us Without Us” campaign leaders Samantha, Kyan, Nikki and EJ, who were all in attendance as well.

Below are just a few of the successes that came out of IBCF’s “Nothing About Us Without Us” campaign. Again, we would like to thank all of the ambassadors who made this campaign a success, including the wonderful teams at 1909 Digital and 12 Stars Media. Additionally, we would like to thank the Arthur Dean Family Foundation for their gracious support in making the “Nothing About Us Without Us” campaign become a reality!

Campaign Successes

  • 171,499 total video views across all IBCF social media channels.
  • The campaign landing page was viewed an outstanding 6,966 times.
  • Ambassadors were engaged and posted weekly for six weeks. This tactic led to a large amount of localized awareness as evidenced by over 1,000 clicks attributed to ambassador and organic posts.
  • An Instagram reel highlighting Samantha's cooking aspirations was watched more than 3,000 times.
  • A Facebook ad highlighting Kyan's musical aspirations was viewed 131,938 times.
  • Local publication Indy Maven featured Nikki and Samantha as “Mavens in the Making,” shedding light on their goals for the future.
  • An image of EJ was the campaign's most shown Google Ad. The image featured a dark, side profile photo of EJ and challenged viewers to learn about people living with visual impairments.

Acclaimed Beadwork Artist Visits ISBVI Through IBCF’s Partnership with Eiteljorg Museum

By: Seth Johnson

A class of second and third grade students makes their way into the elementary art classroom at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI), as they prepare to embark on another creative adventure. This isn’t just any other Tuesday in art class, however, as Leslie Walsh’s students will have the unique opportunity to learn from nationally acclaimed Haudenosaunee raised beadwork artist Karen Ann Hoffman, who’s set to lead them in an interactive beadwork activity.

“What I do is put different shapes and textures together to make something out of beads,” Hoffman tells the class.

Karen Ann Hoffman (seated to the right) sits across the table from a young, white male student (seated to the left), both with intent looks on their faces. Hoffman appears to be speaking with the student about some of her beadwork, which sits in between them on the table.A citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, Hoffman creates beautiful decorative pieces following the traditions of Iroquois raised beadwork. Honored by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in 2020 as one of their National Heritage Fellows, she produces two to three large pieces each year, with some in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, the Field Museum, the Iroquois Indian Museum, and the Oneida Nation Museum.

Hoffman’s visit to Mrs. Walsh’s art classes at ISBVI was again made possible through a partnership between the Eiteljorg Museum and the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation (IBCF) that dates back to April 2019. Through this partnership, high school students at ISBVI also met with former Eiteljorg artist in residence named Emily Guerrero in October, who led them in another hands-on activity. Additionally, the No Limits Leadership Club at ISBVI continues to advise the museum on the accessibility of its galleries, in an effort to make its galleries more enjoyable for all.

Through her residency in particular, Hoffman says her hope was to show the students at ISBVI, along with all the other community groups she met with, that the Eiteljorg Museum welcomes everyone with open arms.

“We want to expand that notion that everybody can come and visit this amazing art,” Hoffman says of her Eiteljorg residency. “That’s what we’re really trying to demonstrate to the community.”

The Hot Room Yoga Studios Continue Supporting IBCF Through NAP Credit Program

By: Seth Johnson

Much like the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation (IBCF), The Hot Room and their yoga studios are all about creating a more inclusive world for all.

A man of South Asian descent (Ashish Kalgaonkar) stands in front of the front desk at The Hot Room’s Downtown Indy location. Ashish is wearing a gray hoodie with white drawstrings which reads “Peace,” “Love” and “Yoga” in arched, white font over top of a white droplet illustration and “The Hot Room” in white font. Ashish is smiling and in a relaxed pose, with one arm leaning on the desk.“We really want to make yoga a very diverse place,” says Ashish Kalgaonkar, who co-owns The Hot Room with his wife Hye Jin. “I think yoga studios may have this perception of only being for a certain type of individual, and we really want to open that up, being that we’re both people of color. We’re trying to get different bodies — different shapes, sizes and orientations — in here so that people can really experience what yoga can offer them. The mindfulness and focus on breathing are so essential, just from a day-to-day perspective.”

Founded in 2013, The Hot Room now has five locations in Indiana and Illinois where they teach over 90 Original Hot Yoga, Baptiste-inspired Hot Power Vinyasa, Inferno Hot Pilates and Yin classes every week. At each of these facilities, Ashish and Hye Jin hope to share the healing power of yoga with as many people as they can.

“We really, truly believe that spending some time on yourself — even if it’s just an hour a day to breathe — is one of the most therapeutic things that you can do for your life,” Ashish says.

Fittingly, Ashish and Hye Jin first met IBCF executive director Laura Alvarado when she came in for a class at their 96th Street location. After striking up a conversation with Alvarado, The Hot Room co-founders discovered they share a similar passion for making the world a better place.

“We just think everything the foundation is doing is so critical to providing pathways to people,” Ashish says. “That aligns with our mission and vision as well. If we’re creating community, it has to be for everybody.”

For this reason, The Hot Room supports IBCF financially each year through the Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credit Program (NAP). Through this program, IBCF has been awarded the ability to distribute $11,100 in tax credits to eligible donors allowing IBCF to earn $22,200 in contributions towards its mission and educational programming at ISBVI. This year's NAP donations will benefit the 2023 Braille Challenge, a one-day event designed to support and reinforce the importance of braille literacy among children with visual impairments.

To learn more about how you can support IBCF by making a NAP tax credit donation, be sure to visit this link. Currently, IBCF has $2225 left in tax credits to distribute, allowing us to raise an additional $4450 before December 31.


Eiteljorg Museum and IBCF Continue Partnership Rooted in Accessibility

By: Seth Johnson

Less than a week after visiting Conner Prairie to give the living history museum feedback on the accessibility of its Headless Horseman Festival, members of ISBVI’s No Limits Leadership Club file into the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art as part of another after-school trip. The students are met by Alisa Nordholt-Dean, who gives them a warm welcome while also discussing some of the accessibility improvements the museum has recently made.

Members of the No Limits Leadership Club stand in an art gallery at the Eiteljorg Museum, chatting with museum staff.“We had the wonderful opportunity to work with the previous Leadership Club [from 2019] and loved that those students brought so much information to us and were so passionate about the museum and what we do,” says Nordholt-Dean, vice president of public programs and Beeler Family director of education at the Eiteljorg. “So we’re very excited to hear what you have to say.”

Specifically, Nordholt-Dean and the rest of the Eiteljorg staff are seeking the students’ feedback on updates the museum has made to their newly remodeled second-floor Native American galleries. In addition to making the galleries more spacious, the Eiteljorg Museum now also has audio descriptions for 21 pieces of art featured on the second floor. These detailed audio descriptions were done by local audio describer Jen Anker and can be accessed for playback by scanning a QR code next to each corresponding piece of art.

“As you’re going through and exploring that space, if you encounter anything that you’d like to share with us on what we can do better, please let us know,” Nordholt-Dean tells the students before they venture into the galleries. “We really value your feedback.”

Dating back to April 2019, the Eiteljorg Museum and IBCF have worked together on several initiatives to make the museum and its artistic experiences more accessible to all. After a number of visits to the museum, both mediated and non-mediated, the 2019 Leadership Club worked closely with staff members and key volunteers at the Eiteljorg to provide strategies and solutions to increase access at the museum overall. While the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily halted some of the progress on these items, it did not deter the Eiteljorg Museum from moving forward in specific areas, such as web accessibility and the addition of audio descriptions of artwork in both its permanent and temporary exhibition galleries.

Students experience Michael Naranjo's "Please Touch" gallery alongside Naranjo himself.With the encouragement and support of their partnership with IBCF, the Eiteljorg Museum was able to bring renowned Santa Clara Pueblo ceramic artist Michael Naranjo to the museum in February 2020 as an artist in residence, and host a fully touchable exhibit of his work, Please Touch: The Art of Michael Naranjo. Both the exhibit and Michael’s residency were years in the making and incredibly worth all the time and effort that went into the planning phase.

“He [Michael Naranjo] was phenomenal to work with, and that was absolutely because of the partnership that we have with IBCF,” Nordholt-Dean says.

Now that COVID-19 restrictions have lessened, IBCF looks forward to continuing this enriching partnership with the Eiteljorg Museum, as more and more in-person opportunities become available. While the No Limits Leadership Club continues to identify ways that the museum can be more accessible, IBCF and the Eiteljorg have also worked together to bring Eiteljorg Museum artists in residence to ISBVI, where each artist in residence leads a special activity in Leslie Walsh’s art classes.

Emily Guerrero poses with high school students in Mrs. Walsh's classroom behind the marigold flowers they constructed.Recently, on Wednesday, Oct. 5, for example, Eiteljorg artist in residence Emily Guerrero led students in an activity where they crafted a marigold flower out of several sheets of colored tissue paper. A storyteller and folk artist of Mexica indigenous ancestry, Guerrero explained how the marigold flower is native to the Americas but now holds its own significance in various other cultures.

“People know the name of a marigold, but they don’t know that it was carried over to Europe and Africa. It became another tradition for people there,” Guerrero says. “India uses them for celebrations because they feel they’re radiant. We use them for the Day of the Dead, for calling spirits home. So the same flower, which traveled like a sailor or a migrant, went over the ocean and became new again, and that’s who we are as people. We might leave Indianapolis, go live in Columbus, and we pick up new traditions and stories. So I’m looking for common ground with how we each are unique but also belong to community. We grow where we’re planted, and then we get transplanted.”

Next month, Eiteljorg Museum artist in residence Karen Ann Hoffman of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin will visit ISBVI and lead Mrs. Walsh’s art classes in learning about traditional Iroquois raised beadwork. Looking ahead, IBCF executive director Laura Alvarado looks forward to continuing the foundation’s partnership with Eiteljorg, ensuring ISBVI students are granted engaging arts experiences while also helping the museum to be a more accessible place for all.

"The No Limits programming is a win for arts organizations and our Leadership Club students,” says IBCF executive director Laura Alvarado. ‘Arts organizations learn how to be more inclusive of individuals with visual impairments directly from young people who experience both physical and social barriers on a daily basis. Our students gain the confidence to voice their concerns and ideas for a more inclusive environment for people of all abilities. Through these partnerships, relationships are formed between the arts organization staff and our students. The barriers take on a new meaning to the arts staff because they are no longer an abstract issue for someone they don't know; these barriers now hold a direct obstacle for the students they have come to know and bonded with. This is when the real change or motivation for increased inclusivity happens."


NAP Tax Credits to Benefit 2023 Braille Challenge

By: Seth Johnson

The Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation (IBCF) is proud to share that we’ve received the State of Indiana 2022/23 grant award from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) through the Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credit Program (NAP)!

BrailleChallenge2022BThrough this program, IBCF has been awarded the ability to distribute $11,100 in tax credits to eligible donors allowing IBCF to earn $22,200 in contributions towards its mission and educational programming at ISBVI. This year's NAP donations will benefit the 2023 Braille Challenge, a one-day event designed to support and reinforce the importance of braille literacy among children with visual impairments.

The only academic competition of its kind, Braille Challenge was developed by the Braille Institute to help motivate students to practice and hone their braille literacy skills, which are essential to academic and employment access. Every year, blind and visually impaired students from first through twelfth grades compete in the Challenge, which tests them on fundamental braille skills like reading comprehension, spelling, speed and accuracy, proofreading, and graphs and charts.

After being virtual the last few years, Braille Challenge will return as an in-person event in 2023, making it even more special for students to compete in the event this year.

How NAP Credits Work

For every dollar donated, the donor receives 50 cents or half that amount in tax credits. For example, if you donate $500 towards the IBCF NAP Tax program, you will receive $250 worth of tax credits which comes directly off your total tax liability. 

Eligible Donors

Eligible donors reside in Indiana and must be an Indiana taxpayer in good standing. Individuals, organizations, or corporations are eligible to contribute to the Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credit Program. IBCF is now accepting cash contributions of at least $100 or more until we meet our benchmark of $22,200 in donations received/$11,100 in tax credits distributed. Contact Laura Alvarado, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 317-554-2742 to learn more and support this program. IBCF is able to give out $11,100 in tax credits to ELIGIBLE DONORS ON A FIRST COME, FIRST SERVE BASIS.

ISBVI Students Find Serenity in School’s New Sensory Room

By: Seth Johnson

For Jenna Malson and her second and third grade students, the newly constructed sensory room at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) has truly become a sanctuary of sorts.

“If the kids are having a bad day or are stressed out, it brings them calm,” Malson says.

A young child sits inside of a white, 3D cube in the middle of a room with gray, carpeted floor.A sensory room is a therapeutic space with a variety of equipment that provides students with special needs a personalized sensory input to help them calm and focus themselves so they can be better prepared for learning and interacting with others. In recent years, ISBVI has experienced a growth in its population of visually impaired students with additional sensory and mobility challenges such as autism, ADHD and other sensory processing disorders. Due to this population shift, it became apparent through numerous discussions with ISBVI leadership that the creation of a sensory room for children ages 3-11 was necessary to meet the diverse learning needs of students in the pre-school and elementary grades at the school.

Upon learning of this need, the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation assembled a small committee made up of ISBVI education staff and IBCF board members who started meeting monthly in late 2019 to figure out ways to make the sensory room a reality. Through this process, IBCF eventually connected with design-build firm Custom Living, who graciously volunteered to help devise and execute a renovation plan, select the appropriate equipment based on students' needs and assist in IBCF’s fundraising efforts. Thanks to Custom Living and their network of community partners, ISBVI’s sensory room came to fruition in 2020.

Now that COVID-19 restrictions have lessened and ISBVI students are back to in-person learning, the sensory room is utilized on a daily basis by elementary students at ISBVI. For Jenna Malson’s students, the sensory room is now a crucial part of each school day.

“They know the routine,” Malson says of her students when they come to the sensory room each day. “They walk in, and they can choose whatever they want to do. It’s quiet. It’s serenity.”

In the comfort of this serene setting, Malson says she can teach her students in ways she never could before.

“They talk and they laugh,” Malson says. “Sometimes they’re not even aware that they’re learning. We’ll do math problems and things like that, but they just think it’s so fun because they’re in here. So I love it. It’s just peaceful.”



Heather Holland Is Helping ISBVI Students Master Their Braille Skills

By: Seth Johnson

A student works on her braille writing skills as ISBVI teacher Heather Holland sits next to her at the table giving instruction.Heather Holland has a deep-seated passion for teaching braille. “I think braille is the coolest code ever,” she says.

Having taught at ISBVI since 1994, Holland worked as part of the school’s Short Course program (now known as L.E.A.D.S., a series of free, quarterly workshops focusing on Extended Core Curriculum areas) for several years, where she first discovered her love for braille.

“My favorite piece was when we team-taught [in Short Course],” Holland says. “Everyone could have their specialty, of sorts. I liked math, I liked Nemeth, and I liked braille, so those were my specialties, while other people might have been stronger in science or English.”

In 2020, Holland transitioned into her current role as braille instructor at ISBVI, teaching middle and high school students how to read and write braille. Considering all ISBVI students have different needs determined by their Individualized Education Plan (IEP), Holland constructs her curriculum to meet each child where they’re at. For this reason, some students may even begin by feeling shapes on a page, before Holland introduces them to braille letters.

“I have students who are just beginning, and I start with hand positioning, tracking skills and orientation of the page — all the important, basic things to get your fingers moving in that direction [of reading braille],” Holland says. “I might start with shapes. I might even say, ‘Are these shapes the same, or are they different?’ You just literally want them being confident that their fingers can do what we’re asking them to do. That’s the beginning.”

After students pick up on page orientation, Holland then begins teaching them to read individual letters and words. While progressing through their individualized goals, they are also introduced to braille contractions, which are used as shorthand for common letter groupings (like “ar,” ch” and “ing”) and commonly used words (like “and,” “but,” “can” and “do”).

According to Holland, reading and writing braille tend to go hand in hand as well when it comes to her course’s curriculum.

“I think they’re both really critical pieces,” says Holland of the balance between reading and writing instruction in her class. “A lot of times, even if there’s just a straight reading/fluency goal, we would still do both. I think it helps reinforce all the contractions by brailling it as well as reading it.”

As students move forward in her course, Holland makes sure to keep them updated on the improvements they’re making, which she ultimately finds joy in.

“They’ll be like, ‘How many words per minute did I get?’ They want to achieve and get faster,” she says. “It’s so fun when these kids learn their code — you just see the excitement.”

At the end of the day, Holland finds that her love for the braille code tends to be reciprocated by ISBVI students as well.

“I’ve got a lot of really great students,” Holland says. “I think they’re all really excited about learning braille for the most part. Hopefully, I can build on that.”



In Memory of Carrie Ellen Cole

Donations will honor Carrie Ellen Cole's life and memoryThe Indiana Blind Children's Foundation is a philanthropic foundation that supports the unique work and programs of the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Your donation today will honor Carrie Ellen Cole's life and memory. Thank you for impacting children with visual impairments so each child will thrive in school and daily life. 




Preliminary Work Begins on Colocation of ISBVI and ISD

By: Seth Johnson

To design a building for deaf children and blind children, one must first understand the children it serves. Individually, architects Chris Downey and John Dickinson are responsible for designing state-of-the-art structures all over the globe, from Dickinson’s expansive work in the realm of DeafSpace and accessible education facilities to Downey’s involvement in projects like the four-block-long Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco. But it is their distinct lived experience with deafness and blindness that gives them the unique expertise that makes them perfectly suited to design for these children.

Now, in partnership with RATIO Architects and American Structurepoint — both with impressive resumes of their own — the pair of accessibility experts are making history in Indiana, as they work closely with the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) and Indiana School for the Deaf (ISD) to reconstruct a new colocation campus on Indy’s northside.

Currently in the preliminary planning stages, ISBVI and ISD will coexist as separate entities on the longstanding grounds of ISBVI off 75th Street and College Avenue. As the team of architects begins laying the groundwork for this historic endeavor, their primary goal is to construct a world-class model for education, purposefully designed to meet the unique needs and develop the unique strengths of deaf children and blind children.

“The design team created several important goals for the project, including protecting the safety of the students, as well as creating one campus with two separate identities on the campus — we can’t forget that,” says Dickinson, an internationally prominent deaf architect. “In order to understand that, we have to understand each of their perspectives. I tell people, ‘It’s not ours — it’s theirs. We’re just here to design their vision and create spaces that embrace DeafSpace and other multisensory elements that distinctly meet their needs and unique way of life .’”

Over the past month, Dickinson, Downey and the rest of the Colocation team have met with students and staff at ISBVI and ISD to fully understand the needs of both student bodies. In doing this, the Colocation team has found that the two schools are approaching this project with mutual care and consideration for each other.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of adjustment to the idea of sharing a campus with a group of students with different needs and opportunities,” says Downey, one of the world’s leading blind architects. “But what’s been most surprising has been the level of collaboration and mutual respect from both sides towards the identities of the students at each school. So it’s been surprising, reassuring and a good harbinger for the whole proposition.”

In these early conversations, the Colocation team has established key pieces of the historic ISBVI campus that will not be altered in the process, such as the clock tower. According to Downey, another important feature of the 60-acre campus is its topography.

“Topography adds to the knowability of the site,” Downey says. “You can recognize where you are based on topography and slopes, and it helps build in some transitions on campus. If it’s all flat, it’s at risk of all feeling the same. Having this topographic difference across the site really breaks down what could be a large, overwhelming campus into three knowable zones.”

While maintaining the campus’ natural beauty, however, the Colocation team also sees this project as an opportunity to make the grounds even more accessible than they already are.

“The high school students we spoke with want more opportunities to be outside, and I feel that myself,” Downey says. “That dynamic exterior environment is so key. It’s just a beautiful site, and we’re going to try to leverage that and improve upon it.”

In reflecting on the unique task they’re faced with, Downey believes this Colocation team can set a standard for how project such as this are handled going forward.

“There’s really a wonderful opportunity and the team has a commitment to setting the standard for best practices in a context that actually elevates the experience for both [the deaf and visually impaired],” Downey says. “It’s a great opportunity, and I think we have a great team to do that.”

And while the task at hand may seem rather daunting, both Dickinson and Downey say ISBVI and ISD have already been great to work with.

“Any project requires great clients, and we feel that with the leadership of these schools,” Downey says. “So all the pieces are there for a truly wonderful demonstration.”

Stay tuned to IBCF’s social media channels for more information on the next Colocation Town Hall Meeting.



Learn More About White Cane Safety Day and O&M Training at ISBVI

By: Seth Johnson

With White Cane Safety Day coming up on Oct. 15, we at the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation wanted to provide some additional information on the history of the white cane, as well as some things that people should know about Orientation and Mobility (O&M) instruction at ISBVI.

A young woman uses a white can while walking through Indy's Broad Ripple neighborhood and receiving instruction from ISBVI O&M instructor Jessica Hunt.As VisionAware points out, the white cane is no longer just a tool used by travelers with vision loss — it is a symbol for members of the community who are blind or visually impaired. Established in 1964, White Cane Safety Day is observed annually on Oct. 15 to recognize the many achievements of blind and visually impaired citizens, while promoting both the white cane and guide dog as tools for independent travel.

Peoria, Illinois, was the first community to pass a special ordinance for white cane travel in 1930, which granted travelers with a white cane the right of way. Five years later, Detroit passed a similar law, later adopted by the state of Michigan. Then in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson officially declared Oct. 15 to be White Cane Safety Day after a joint resolution of Congress was enacted. (For more in-depth information on the white cane and its history, visit this link.)

Orientation and Mobility Training at ISBVI

VisionAware defines Orientation and Mobility (O&M) as a profession specific to blindness and low vision that teaches safe, efficient and effective travel skills to people of all ages. In further breaking down the term, “Orientation” refers to the ability to know where you are and where you want to go, while “Mobility” refers to the ability to move safely, efficiently and effectively from one place to another.

Each school year, many students enrolled at ISBVI, beginning in preschool, receive individual O&M training from one of the school’s three O&M instructors (Jessica Hunt, Kristen Pierski and Megan DeWester). Students are introduced to using the white cane in the school building, with O&M instructors giving them guidance on how to navigate the school’s hallways and get from one classroom to the next. Once they have this down, individuals gradually advance to different levels of travel outside of the school.

“We slowly start introducing them to neighborhood travel, so crossing the street when you don’t hear any cars coming and that kind of thing,” says Jessica Hunt, O&M instructor at ISBVI. “We then take them to areas like Broad Ripple with small business travel, where they have to cross over driveways and small streets. From there, we’ll progress up to lighted intersections and then public transportation travel. It’s just getting all the kids ready for independent living after school.”

Students at ISBVI progress through O&M training at their own rate, allowing them to fully master the skills they’re taught.

“If you’re a really fast learner, then we adapt the curriculum to that,” Hunt says. “It’s nice because you don’t have a classroom full of kids that are all at different levels. It’s always one on one.”

Stay tuned to IBCF’s social media channels throughout the month of October for more information on the importance of the white cane.

IBCF Board and Staff Begin DEI Training with Tanorria’s Table

 IBCF board members and staff stand around a kitchen counter, preparing ingredients for the night's roasted chicken dinner.

On Saturday, Sept. 17, Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation board members and staff met with Tanorria Askew for the first of many Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) training sessions.

A passionate home cook-turned-chef, Askew was a 2016 contestant on MasterChef hosted by Gordon Ramsay, ultimately finishing in fourth place on the show. Having since moved on to pursue her passions, Askew is currently a personal chef, food creative, public speaker, podcast co-host and racial injustice change-maker who works to amplify the intersection of food and social justice through her business, Tanorria’s Table.

Upon arriving at the home of IBCF board member Stephanie Jackson-Colbert for Saturday’s DEI training session, IBCF board members and staff were given a walking/descriptive tour of the house, before enjoying some light refreshments. Next up, IBCF board members and staff split up into pairs and got to work on preparing the night’s main course – roasted chicken with herby parmesan risotto — under the guidance of Askew and her team.

Tanorria Askew stands on an outdoor patio as she addresses IBCF board members and staff.While the main course cooked, Tanorria led IBCF board members and staff in a DEI discussion, clarifying the definitions of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, while also laying out the groundwork for what individuals can expect in future DEI training sessions with Tanorria’s Table. Following this introductory conversation, IBCF board members and staff then enjoyed the main course they had prepared, before topping the night off with a delicious desert of pumpkin bread pudding.

The IBCF board and staff are working to engage in open DEI discussions to better understand racial injustice, implicit bias, and inequities related to our mission and the community we serve. We are excited to continue working alongside Tanorria Askew to become more inclusive and ensure equity is at the forefront of all our decision making now and in the future.

Thanks to the following supporters for supporting IBCF's capacity building efforts which include strategic planning and DEI trainings over this next year. 

- The John and Shirley Woerhle Fund, a fund of the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana
- Edward Jones
- Steven and Linda Crane
- The Carmel F. Klein Charitable Fund, a fund of the Indianapolis Foundation



Piano Lab Updates Broaden Musical Horizons for ISBVI Students

By: Seth Johnson

ISBVI students are now more in tune than ever with the vast capabilities of music technology thanks to the school’s recently updated piano lab.

ISBVI students sit at their pianos in Piano Lab class. On the left, Minnie reads sheet music as music teacher Sean Bradley stands behind her giving instruction. On the right, Zavier uses an iPad.After previously using keyboards that required a floppy disk to track progress in the course, ISBVI music teacher Sean Bradley now has six brand new Yamaha Clavinovas in his classroom, bringing his piano lab into the 21st century of music. The Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation recognized the need for new pianos and worked strategically over the last year to engage its community of supporters in a variety of fundraising efforts ranging from individual donation solicitations to the fund-a-need at the 2022 Through the Looking Glass Gala, raising over $30,000 in support. Local music store, Piano Solutions, worked in partnership with IBCF and the ISBVI music department to identify and install the right pianos and technology at ISBVI.

“The Yamaha Clavinovas all operate with iPads plugged into them,” Bradley says. “There’s a proprietary Yamaha app that works with it. You can change to a number of different instruments and sounds. There are tons of songs pre-programmed in that students can practice along with. The app is also voice-over accessible.”

While the Yamaha Clavinovas present all sorts of new opportunities for sound exploration, Bradley also believes they serve as a great way for ISBVI students to learn more about the latest and greatest in technology.

“The students can just open up their songs — they can record and save on their own as well,” Bradley says. “Not only are they able to do it on their own, but it’s practicing their assistive technology skills. To me, that’s been incredible.”

A sophomore at ISBVI, Minnie has personally enjoyed using the iPads in the piano lab to explore music-making through GarageBand.

“I love writing songs and making music,” says Minnie, a music enthusiast who is also currently in the process of learning bass in the ISBVI band. “That’s why I love GarageBand so much — I want to create songs with it. So that’s mainly why I’m doing piano is because I want to be able to create better music.”

Like Minnie, ISBVI freshman Zavier has found great joy in the new piano upgrades. First and foremost, he’s grateful to finally be rid of the floppy disks.

“Floppy disks are easier to lose. Especially as someone who’s visually impaired, I know how easy it is to lose things like that,” he says with a laugh.

Learning Life’s Lessons: A Look Inside ISBVI Track and Field Practice

It’s an unusually mild summer afternoon, as ISBVI students make their way down to the track for after-school practice. On this particular Thursday, Coach Dave Brown has his team of 18 students (Grades 7-12) working on endurance, as they go back and forth between running laps and doing various other exercises.

Coach Dave Brown and the ISBVI track team stand in a circle with their hands in the air, celebrating the end of a successful practice.“I’m going to push you today,” he tells his team of athletes at the start of practice before they break up into smaller groups.

Now in his second year as ISBVI track and field coach, Brown has prepared his team for two big meets in the month of September, including a trip to Jacksonville, Ill. for a day meet with the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired on Sept. 21. The school’s track and field season will then come to a momentous ending when ISBVI hosts 11 other schools on its campus for the North Central Association of Schools for the Blind (NCASB) Conference Championship from Sept. 30-Oct. 1.

Heading into the season, Brown wanted the ISBVI track and field team to make strides both individually and as a group.

“Our overall goal is to bring home a Conference Championship,” Brown says. “We also hope to have athletes improve their running times, shot put distances, and jumping distances and heights.”

In looking at the grander scheme of things, Brown also hopes he can prepare the ISBVI athletes participating in track and field to be in shape for any of the other sports they’ll be competing in the rest of the school year.

“Track is a springboard into winter sports, which many of the same athletes participate in,” Brown says. “So by getting in shape in the fall — not only physically but mentally — it will help us continue to succeed in goalball, wrestling, cheer and swimming.”

As someone who took part in middle and high school sports growing up, Coach Brown ultimately sees athletics as a way to teach bigger life lessons as well. For this reason, he hopes his 2022 team can grow both on and off the track.

Corey takes part in the triple jump event,  where competitors  jump off of one foot three times (such as left/left/right or right/right/left).“I am a strong believer that an athlete should not only be athletic, but [that they] should carry a full package of positive attributes,” Brown says. “I want each athlete to not only learn and understand the value of athletic competition, but also the value of solid grades and a good education, as well as a positive character, helping those in need, and never putting anyone down, especially those who are trying their best in a tough situation.  I like to tell my athletes that people will remember you for your character much more than they will for how you competed.”

Now in her senior year at ISBVI, Corey says competing in track and field has strengthened her self-esteem.

“I’ve learned that if you tell yourself you can, then you’re more likely able to,” Corey says. “I’ve gained a lot of confidence, and it’s helped my mental health a lot.”

Much like Corey, Dylan can also speak to the positive impact competing in track and field has on his overall well-being.

“After the day is done, it’s a good way to clear my mind,” says Dylan, also a senior at ISBVI. “You can get out on the track and have all those thoughts just float away.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Corey hopes to improve upon her personal records in the 60-meter dash, shot put and triple jump events. In reflecting on the 2022 ISBVI track and field team as a whole, she believes all the athletes genuinely lift each other up, just as Coach Brown has taught them.

“I love the people that are on this team,” Corey says. “We all really encourage each other. We all get along well. It’s just a really great team overall.”


No Limits Arts Series

No Limits Logo: no limits is written in all lowercase font with orange, green and blue quarter inch lines above the letter "o" in the word "no" giving an impression of eyelashes.

August 26, 2022

The WHY behind the “Nothing About Us Without Us” Campaign

"Nothing About Us Without Us" has historically been a motto for people who wanted a say in how they were governed. Adopted by the disability rights movement fifty plus years ago, it is also echoed by the No Limits Leadership Club, a weekly after-school program comprised of 10-12 high school youth at ISBVI, spearheaded by IBCF. The Club’s discussions are focused on youth leadership, self-advocacy, problem solving skills, and disability culture and rights.

While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990 to prohibit discrimination based on disability in several areas including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications, and access to state and local government’ programs and services, individuals with disabilities continue to face social bias limiting access to a wide range of opportunities.


  • According to the Prevalence of Visual Acuity Loss or Blindness in the US, a new report cited by eye health and safety organization, Prevent Blindness, “More than 6 million people with uncorrectable visual acuity loss and 141,000 persons with blindness are under the age of 40. Those under 40 make up 13% of all persons that are blind. This is significant since this is the first national estimate of permanent visual acuity loss for people younger than 40.”
  • The unemployment rate for individuals who are blind or visually impaired is over 70%.
  • According to the Conversation, a nonprofit, independent news organization, “In several studies conducted between 2012 and 2017 with almost 1,000 employers, employer attitudes and knowledge about how people who are blind can perform basic job functions showed 67% of employers could not identify how blind or visually impaired persons perform any of the typical job tasks. Employers need education and workplace training.


A portrait of a woman with dark brown hair. A few short, loose tendrils curl around her forehead. Her head is pointed slightly to the right as her eyes point upward. Her smile is toothy, and the left corner of her mouth quirks up just a little bit more than the right side. At least eight small, rectangular, or square bins sit on two wooden shelves behind her, each labeled with writing too blurry to read. She’s wearing a camouflage shirt that’s a range of grays. To the left of her, a quote reads, “Don’t judge a blind person just because they can’t see. We could do certain things just as well, or maybe better, than people with vision.” – Samantha 


Meet IBCF Communications Manager Seth Johnson

August 25, 2022 

A man with wavy blonde hair smiles, light shining behind him. My name is Seth Johnson, and I am the new communications manager with the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation.

An Indianapolis native, I discovered my love for writing in high school and interned for the Indianapolis publication NUVO, before attending Ball State University. After graduating with a journalism degree, I moved back to Indy’s Fountain Square neighborhood and quickly began working as a freelance journalist, covering arts and culture for a myriad of outlets including The Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis Monthly, NUVO, Visit Indy and more. In my years as a journalist, I’ve interviewed everyone from Grammy award-winning artists to the Indiana Pacers’ starting five, sharing their stories with the public through my own unique lens.

As someone who is visually impaired, accessibility is also a huge passion of mine. For this reason, I was drawn to my current role as communications manager at IBCF, where I plan to use my storytelling skill set to help in lifting up the voices of blind and visually impaired children living in Indiana. To keep up with my communications efforts, please be sure to follow the Indiana Blind Children’s foundation across all social media platforms, while also continuing to read our monthly newsletters.

IBCF Kicks Off School Year with “Back to School” Backpack Drive

August 25, 2022

IBCF was able to provide ISBVI students in need with new backpacks this school year, thanks to the gracious support of individual donors, Regions Bank and Hensley Legal Group. Volunteers at Target’s Glendale store location also helped in stuffing each of these backpacks with grade-level-appropriate school supplies, ensuring ISBVI students have all they need to start this school year off right and succeed in the classroom.

We at IBCF want to once again say how grateful we are for our wonderful community partners and all the work they do to support our foundation’s initiatives.


Looking Back on Another Successful No Limits Celebration

Aug. 19, 2022

On Saturday, July 23, bluegrass all-stars Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper visited ISBVI’s historic auditorium for the 2022 No Limits Celebration.

A Grammy award winner, Cleveland led the band through an hour-long set of electrifying tunes before taking part in a post-show Q&A with IBCF board member Kathy Nimmer, where he shared stories and perspective on his journey as a visually impaired individual.

Prior to Cleveland’s performance, Indy jazz pianist and ISBVI alum Steven Jones also treated No Limits Celebration attendees to music in Churchman Dining Hall, as they enjoyed delicious pre-concert food and beverages from the Jazz Kitchen and Sun King Brewing.

Following the 2022 No Limits Celebration, IBCF sent out a survey, asking attendees to reflect on their experience at the event. Below are a few examples of the great feedback we received.

“This event - from start to finish - inspired me to be more watchful of ways that I can help make our world a more accessible place.”

“Very welcoming and inclusive event. I enjoyed my experience and look forward to checking in regularly to see what other events will be planned for the future!”

“Your efforts are noticed and appreciated. I hope you all continue to bring events like these to ISBVI.”

Stay tuned for more information on next year’s No Limits Celebration via the IBCF website, and don’t miss Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper when they return to Indianapolis on Sept. 24 for a show at the Hi-Fi in Fountain Square. 

You can also revisit the 2022 No Limits Celebration via a beautiful photo slideshow, courtesy of Grant Michael

Click here to view the slideshow


Special Thanks to our Official No Limits Sponsors



Cathy Clady empowers ISBVI students through literacy

Aug. 12, 2022 

Wearing a green ISBVI shirt, Cathy Clady stands in front of a bulletin board in her classroom, surrounded by three elementary-age students sitting in comfortable chairs. The bulletin board in Clady’s classroom displays the words “Rockets Read” in sparkling gold letters over a space-themed background and is surrounded by various pictures of books

ISBVI teacher Cathy Clady truly loves teaching literacy.

“Literacy is my passion, and in some small way it’s maybe even the start of a superpower,” she says with a laugh.

After teaching at IPS School 34 for a total of 34 years, Clady decided it was time for a change, joining the staff of the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in 2021 as a third and fourth grade teacher.

“I knew another teacher that had come to ISBVI a year before who talked about it being a place where teachers who love teaching can really teach again,” Clady says.

In her first year at ISBVI, Clady quickly realized she was where she belonged.

“Within the first week of coming here, there were things I noticed that I hadn’t had in a really long time,” she says. “I noticed that I wasn’t holding everything in my shoulders. Multiple times a day, I caught myself just giggling with my students. I would stop, close my eyes a moment and think back to when I started teaching. I had the same awe, wonder and gratitude as I did back then.”

Now heading into the 2022 school year, Clady will work as an elementary school literacy teacher, making the most of her “superpower” to equip ISBVI students with the literacy skills they need to succeed.

“I always try to teach children of their power,” Clady says. “You have incredible power, and that power comes from your brain and your use of our language. That is power. That’s why literacy is so important to me at all levels.”

Stay tuned for more ISBVI teacher profiles throughout the 2022-23 school year.

2022 Through the Looking Glass Gala

June 13, 2022

The 2022 Through the Looking Glass Gala did not disappoint! We are happy to share that this Great Gatsby inspired event generated over $220,000 towards our mission and programs! This is the highest revenue grossing TTLG Gala event in our 10-Year History! It was a beautiful evening mixed with excitement and rekindled connections after a two year in-person hiatus due to the pandemic.

Approximately 330 guests joined the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation on Saturday, March 26, 2022, at the Renaissance Indianapolis North Hotel in Carmel, IN for this fundraising event featuring a silent and live auction with over 100 unique auction packages, an inspirational speech from special guest, Craig MacFarlane, a Fund-A-Need moment supporting the five IBCF investment areas at ISBVI, and casino gaming for prizes with the Sertoma Club of Broad Ripple

Special guest, Craig MacFarlane, widely recognized as the World’s Most Celebrated Totally Blind Athlete, shared his stories of competing on both national and world stages, winning more than 100 gold medals in wrestling, track and field, water skiing, water ski jumping, and golf. More amazing, this extraordinary athletic success is little more than the backdrop to an even more astonishing life in the world of business. MacFarlane delivered a unique perspective with a charismatic style that inspired every attendee to give big to the IBCF investment areas at ISBVI that help students with vision impairments thrive. Over $57,000 was generated for the arts, assistive technology, career development, family engagement, and health and wellness programs at ISBVI during the Fund-A-Need portion of the evening.





Check out this year’s gala video by 12 Stars Media.

The following video features audio description and open captioning. 


Through 2022, the Through the Looking Glass Gala has generated over $1,000,000 in financial support towards our mission. Thank you to all the Gala supporters throughout the last 10 years for making this financial support possible. We hope to see everyone back on Saturday, October 7, 2023, for another great event!

Big thanks to the 2022 Through the Looking Glass Gala committee, Lindsey Jordan- Chair, Teree Bosso, Jill Cline, Dr. Diana Fisher, Linda Francisco, Dr. Stephanie Jackson-Colbert, Michelle Freeman, Sharyle Hardymon, Mary Kelley, Amanda Madore, Dr. Melissa Melott, Audrey Nelson, Missy Parrish, Christy Shepard, Francene Thomas, Jade Wallace, and Dr. Hannah Wilson.

Thank You 2022 Through the Looking Glass Gala Sponsors


2022 ISBVI Graduation

June 13, 2022

Graduating from high school is never easy, but for many of the 16 seniors who graduated from the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) on May 27th, ISBVI has played an important role in their lives for nearly 18 years. As ISBVI Valedictorian, Zach Allen, stated, "One of the most important lessons that we have learned here at ISBVI is to be kind. 'Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.' We have learned through our years here at ISBVI that it costs nothing to be kind, and that no matter what life throws at us, kindness always prevails."

ISBVI is a second home to so many students. It is a community that embraces difference and encourages students to discover who they are and who they can be. The last two years of the pandemic have been especially challenging, but as Zach Allen reminded his peers and their families, “change is their normal.” This class of 2022 was born in the aftermath of 9/11, they started school shortly after the economy collapsed in 2008, and their vision loss has put them in a “state of constant change.” The pandemic only made this class recognize “collateral beauty” in ways never before. Zach continued to define this phrase as the “good things in life that happen because of the bad stuff.”

It is this outlook and perspective that continues to awaken the generosity in the IBCF community. “I have watched students at ISBVI remind supporters that even in the wake of hard times, there is a constant determination to rise above it all and find beauty and purpose here,” says IBCF Executive Director Laura Alvarado. While graduation feels like the end of an educational journey, it is really the beginning of a new adventure.

The IBCF Board and staff believe that the students should be celebrated for finishing this wonderful academic achievement and what better way to celebrate students than gifting each graduating senior with items that reflect their passions and/or equip them for their next chapter.

In 2020, IBCF started sponsoring senior baskets made up of items that each student loves. In the last two years, the senior baskets have grown because of the generosity of volunteers who act as “senior sponsors,” receiving a wish-list and shopping for special items for each senior. Teachers and staff at ISBVI are also invited to join in on the fun and add whatever items they like to the baskets as well. All the items are taken over to IBCF community partner, A Taste of Indiana, located at 62nd and Binford. Items are artfully arranged and put together for each student, IBCF adds the finishing touches with chocolates and goodies from A Taste of Indiana before everything is wrapped up in cellophane and tied up with a bow.

The senior baskets were provided to each graduating senior at the ISBVI Senior Banquet the evening before graduation. The Senior Banquet is an opportunity for all the families of graduating students to gather, break bread together, and marvel in stories about each senior that highlights their unique personalities and character. The following photos feature each student receiving his or her senior basket on Thursday, May 26th.


Thank you to A Taste of Indiana and all the senior sponsors who made this year’s senior baskets so special: Eye Surgeons of Indiana (Indy Clinic), Surgical Care Center (Indy Surgery Center), Eye Surgeons of Indiana and Advanced Surgery Center (Lafayette clinic and surgery center), the Leadership Team and Doctors at Eye Surgeons of Indiana, Regions Bank- Jenny Lurkins and Danielle Turner, Becca Hopson, Kristina Davis, Michael Parent, Amanda Black, Stephanie Jackson-Colbert, Kim Borges, Kathy Nimmer, Walter and Bridgette Burtner, Chris and Kelly Munoz, David Thomas, Kelly Alexiou, Toula Oberlies, Selina Ho, Judy Reynolds, Leslie Walsh, Janelle Pivec, and participating ISBVI teachers and staff. 

Strategic Growth and Expansion

June 13, 2022

The Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation has embarked on a strategic planning effort, in parallel to the strategic planning underway at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI), to identify ways to support the long-term direction of ISBVI while also identifying other educational and enrichment opportunities for visually impaired students across the state.

IBCF has engaged MAPT Solutions, an Indianapolis-based strategic initiatives firm, to help us create the foundation's next strategic plan. MAPT Solutions is working alongside the Board and staff to examine the current philanthropic landscape and consider the range of options that exist for our strategy and growth moving forward. This process will take place in three phases: a landscape review and current-state analysis, strategic visioning and road-mapping, and finally a first-year execution plan. These efforts will culminate into a 3-5 year plan by September 2022 which will be shared publicly with IBCF supporters later this fall.

In late March, Governor Holcomb announced the co-location of ISBVI and the Indiana School for the Deaf on the ISBVI campus at 75th and College Ave. We are excited to welcome the Deaf School staff, students, and their families. The co-location of both schools will be a top conversation priority during this strategic planning process and beyond. Current conversations with ISBVI leadership suggest the co-location of both schools will take 5-7 years to complete. The schools will operate separately on the campus, sharing a few common spaces such as the pool and track. IBCF is dedicated to providing communication regarding this process and will be sharing more information in the coming months to keep everyone informed of the timeline and progress. Feel free to send questions regarding the co-location of schools to IBCF at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Inaugural TOCAF Award


June 13, 2022

Last November, IBCF launched the creation of the Toula Oberlies Creative Arts Fund (TOCAF), an endowed fund named after long-time IBCF Board Member, Toula Oberlies. Supporters from around the world helped IBCF reach a 6-month fundraising goal, enabling a first-year grant distribution which was generously matched by Jeffrey and Cassandra Short.

In early May, ISBVI teachers were invited to dream big and to submit grant proposals requesting funding from TOCAF to support unique creative opportunities benefiting their students on or off campus. The applications were reviewed by the TOCAF grants review committee in mid-May, and the inaugural TOCAF award was presented by Toula Oberlies on May 25th in front of a school assembly made up of ISBVI students and staff.

As Toula shared from the podium, "This was no easy decision, each of the applicants showed great passion and dreamt up some amazing opportunities." It was a difficult decision that required hours of conversation and review. However, we are happy to announce the 2022 Toula Oberlies Creative Arts Fund award of $9000 will support Bright Lights, Big City, Chicago Extravaganza, a collaborative experience imagined by ISBVI Teachers, Janelle Pivec and Josh Baxter.

The TOCAF grant will enable Ms. Pivec and Mr. Baxter to take 15 high school students from the newly created ISBVI theatre program that launches this fall for an overnight/two-day Chicago Extravaganza this November to:

  • The Second City Chicago, the world's premier comedy club, comedy theater, and school of improvisation, for a half-day improvisational workshop. 
  • An accessible evening performance of Broadway Chicago’s Lion King where students will not only experience a world class Broadway show but will engage with actors following the performance through a Q and A.  
  • A tour and theater/film demonstration with faculty and staff at DePaul University.  
  • Additionally, funds will support film equipment and a theatre prop kit that the theatre class will use throughout the year to make films and create a performance of their own.  

IBCF will be working alongside Ms. Pivec and Mr. Baxter to support and document this experience. Stay tuned for more exciting news stories to come!              

Thank you to all the Toula Oberlies Creative Arts Fund applicants and supporters! Special thanks to the Crosser Family Foundation- a fund of the Hamilton County Community Foundation, Richard W. Averill Foundation, Janet C. Hohnholt, the John and Shirley Woerhle Fund- a fund of the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana, Jeffrey and Cassandra Short, Pete and Anne Schroth, and Don and Tricia Stogsdill. We are thankful to the TOCAF grants review committee and IBCF finance committee for all their efforts to bring the TOCAF fund and award to life: Toula Oberlies, Nick Oberlies, Sara Oberlies Brown, Jim Durst- ISBVI Superintendent, and IBCF Board Members- Becca Hopson, Kristina Davis, Kathy Nimmer, David Thomas, Michael Parent, Amanda Black, and Chris Munoz.

Toula Oberlies Creative Arts Fund

Toula Oberlies Creative Arts Fund

November 16, 2021

The Toula Oberlies Creative Arts Fund (TOCAF) has been established to honor long-time Indiana Blind Children's Foundation board member, Toula Oberlies. Beginning in 2022, this fund will provide students ages 3-22 at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) with once in a lifetime opportunities to uniquely experience creative arts, including but not limited to music, art, writing, dance, and theater. Because creativity opens the hearts and minds of both participants and audience members and because Toula's life has exemplified an enormous passion for both the creative arts and the students of ISBVI, this fund is a fitting tribute to her and a promise to current and future ISBVI students that their lives will be enriched by experiences that spark, sustain, and inspire creativity for generations to come.

Toula Oberlies Creative Arts Fund Process

The TOCAF advisory committee made up of Toula Oberlies, her children, and IBCF board members, will review proposals in year one and annually to give children with visual impairments transformative creative experiences outside of traditional ISBVI classes. Proposed experiences or activities may be submitted by any ISBVI teacher wishing to bring creative artistic experiences to their students both on and off campus. 80% of what we learn is learned visually, creative opportunities outside of traditional classroom instruction allow students with visual impairments the ability to touch, feel, and listen to what they're learning about, which builds on the classroom instruction at ISBVI. These creative experiences will provide students with visual impairments a better understanding of topics, build cultural understanding, and expose them to worlds and people outside their own.

An application will be posted and made accessible to all ISBVI teachers in April 2022, teachers may submit an idea and budget through the TOCAF application for a proposed creative experience that will benefit their students. The proposed experiences will be reviewed, chosen, and announced by early May 2022. Granted experiences will be expected to be carried out in the fall and winter 2022 semesters with a final impact report due in late December.

Toula’s History & Impact

As a charter member of the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation (IBCF), Toula Oberlies was instrumental in growing IBCF from a small group of volunteers into a well-established organization that provides opportunities and experiences for staff, parents, and students, served at and through the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI). She served in virtually all capacities and offices since the early nineties. While volunteering for IBCF initially brought her to the ISBVI campus, her love for the students and providing them with experiences kept her coming back in other roles and capacities. She was influential in acquiring funding through IBCF from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust in its inaugural year of philanthropic giving for the creation of the school library as well as the accessibility upgrades years later. The school aquatics center also benefited from Toula’s leadership as she raised financial support and awareness for equipment and supplies necessary to maintain the aquatics program.

As a long-standing member of the Capital City Chorus, she established a collaborative partnership with ISBVI students singing alongside her talented fellow Capital City Singers both on and off campus. She helped the school choir acquire uniforms and the girls singing with the Capital City Chorus receive costumes so they would, in Toula’s words, “look their best.” The students cherished the experience while gaining a greater appreciation for organized singing, improving their musical abilities, and connecting with positive role models. Several of the students went on to perform with Capital City Chorus and one young woman became a member. Her love of the arts is profound and contagious.


Bridging the Gap:

How funders, volunteers and strategic problem-solvers are transforming technology for ISBVI students.

Date: 05.18.2021

Written by IBCF Board Member, Kim Borges

To some, it may look like just a tablet. But to Zoey Krier, it’s her passport to an unexplored world of discovery. A tool transporting her imagination to new places and introducing her to a host of new things.

“B is for baby,” Zoey says, focusing intently on the digital alphabet program.

Brittany Krier beams as she watches her kindergartener.

“She’s exploring letter and number recognition and tracing letters to practice handwriting,” said Krier. “The assistive technology is helping her to build literacy skills in ways that are engaging and empowering for her.” 

The past year has been an evolution for Zoey. It’s also been an evolution for the very technology she and other Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) students are using in mastering those skill sets. Brittany Krier is involved with both.

Krier and Steven Tyler are the co-founders of MAPT Solutions, an Indianapolis-based strategy firm specializing in innovation and problem-solving – two especially valuable qualities during a global pandemic that required ISBVI students and teachers to adapt to remote learning essentially overnight. 

“Our mission at MAPT involves doing good work that matters for our clients,” said Tyler. “We’re creative problem-solvers who focus on helping clients push past constraints and bridge the gaps they have.”

Those early days of at-home learning quickly revealed ISBVI faced a significant technology gap that limited both students and teachers from fully thriving in their educational experience. It was a challenge the school needed to rapidly address. And in a time unlike any other.

IBCF launched an emergency technology campaign, and within seven months, the Foundation had secured funding for all the students’ technology needs at the school. ISBVI Superintendent Jim Durst notes the unique, direct impact those contributions are making in supporting each student.

“One size does not fit all related to learning and technology at ISBVI,” said Durst. “The ability to address our students’ individual needs and learning styles through the outpouring of financial generosity from IBCF is momentous.”

The IBCF Board of Directors and Executive Director felt strongly about helping the school also address the obstacles that prohibited 1:1 student technology in the past. Now, with the dollars in place, people power was another valued project resource. A group of ISBVI staff and IBCF volunteers was recruited to form a Technology Task Force and analyze the complexities surrounding technology at ISBVI while offering insights and expertise.

“Without the pandemic, this wouldn’t have been a priority,” said Tyler, noting how big challenges often present their clients with bigger opportunities. “This project involved rethinking their entire technology infrastructure and creating a new technology roadmap, something we’d normally do in two-year period.”

Something they’d instead need to tackle in less than six months.

For Krier, the challenge involved her personal and professional worlds colliding. She was initially hesitant.

“This project was interesting and personal for me,” she said. “But it was also uncharted territory for us. We have experience working in technology and with education partners but addressing barriers to equitable access to technology represented a new challenge. We had to really ask ourselves, ‘Are we the right partners for this?’”

Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation Executive Director Laura Alvarado was convinced they were. 

“We needed to take a deeper dive of both the outside obstacles and inner processes at the school,” said Alvarado. “Both needed some reflection and new strategies to help the school be successful not only now, but for years to come. MAPT Solutions offered the perfect mix for us; Brittany and Steven had worked directly in both early learning and K-12 environments and designed solutions within their past roles that bettered those environments. I knew they could guide us through some difficult conversations to define new approaches as a team.”

Krier and Tyler met with each Technology Task Force member to learn more.

“It’s important for us to really understand all sides of the problem,” said Krier. “These were conversations where we put the good, the bad and the ugly on the table which can be difficult; however, everyone handled it wonderfully and honestly. We asked a lot of questions including, ‘How do we align technology with the school’s broader goals of student independence? How do we create a gateway for students to the rest of the world?’”

Tyler and Krier additionally sought out the knowledge and life experience of ISBVI teachers in their research. “Some of the ISBVI staff are blind or visually impaired,” said Tyler. “They also have empathy and understanding in working with the students. For us, it was important to have inclusion on both sides of the equation as we considered any barriers or constraints related to the technology adoption. We want the technology to complement the excellent instruction teachers are providing.”

All those conversations and research are today paying off, with students like Zoey leveraging new digital devices like her magnified tablet along with the traditional educational instruction her teacher provides. Brittany is grateful for both. 

“Zoey, just like her siblings, is expected to grow and become all that she can be in this world. I parent her with high expectations and seek educational environments for her that share in that vision. The ISBVI technology initiative is just one example of how the school sets a culture of heightened expectations for students with special educational needs.”

How does Durst view the evolution of this massive project executed in such a short amount of time?

“The ability to access information in a timelier fashion has been a significant gamechanger for students and our staff,” said Durst. “The opportunity to provide and receive instruction and share information, both virtually and in person, has improved the teaching and learning experience at ISBVI. And the commitment of all involved moved the experience forward at a level we could not have anticipated.”

Tyler and Krier also applaud the determination everyone has demonstrated in undertaking a project no one saw coming just one year ago.

“They have embraced this opportunity,” said Tyler. “They didn’t think about it being a problem and instead provided encouragement. They viewed it through a leadership lens and challenged assumptions. That’s leadership.”

Durst anticipates students and teachers will continue to leverage the new technology well into the future.

“The technology provided to the school has created a new normal,” he said. “Previously, many students shared technology due to the significant cost and availability, but this project has allowed the school to provide a 1:1 computing experience for all of our students. The new normal will include a more integrated technology approach both in and out of the classroom.”

Krier and Tyler also have lasting takeaways from the experience.

“Every ISBVI student deserves every bit of educational opportunity,” said Tyler. “This was about reimagining possibilities and leveling the playing field for students with visual impairments, so they have the opportunities and support to leverage technology in their educational experience.”

It’s that very support that will empower Zoey and all of her ISBVI classmates to keep learning and growing – no matter where they are. 

Community Cares Spotlight Blog #9 - Leigh Ann O’Neill - Lauth Family Foundation

Date 7.24.2020

Written by Braden Worrell

How does the Lauth Family Foundation identify organizations to support?

We look for causes that are near and dear to us as individuals. Our Board of Directors is made up of my family, which includes my parents and my siblings and their spouses. Each of us are charged with identifying causes that we feel we can support and are worthy of the support that we have to offer. Historically, we have focused on medical, arts, and education initiatives.

Growing up in Indianapolis I was always aware of the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI), but my more personal involvement came in 2016 through my sister who is an Optometrist. She was serving on the committee that plans the Through the Looking Glass Gala and asked if I wanted to get involved. I excitedly said yes, and I served on that committee for the next three years. Being a committee member for something like a Gala you naturally become financially involved, raising money to fill in some of the gaps that naturally exist for any type of school, but especially at ISBVI. It's just such an amazing school and it's done so much for children with visual challenges all over the state. They are doing the hard work here locally, and we’re happy to support them.


What highlights come to mind from your Gala committee experience?

Most of my interactions with the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation (IBCF) revolves around the Gala. One of the highlights of being at the event each year is always getting to listen to the children perform. Music is such a big part of the curriculum at ISBVI.  A variety of ensembles perform and it’s just incredible to experience the enthusiasm of the teachers and students, it’s just so infectious.

Other fun moments include preparing for the Gala. The past few years we’ve done a casino theme with gambling tables, but no money is exchanged, just chips are used to win tickets and prizes. We need to sort and count the chips and bag them up to give to the Gala patrons. Imagine a group of women, all in our athleisure, standing around a table at the school counting chips and inevitably losing count and having to start over again and again. It’s just a great “behind the scenes” social night with fun conversations and comradery.

I love that IBCF is a local organization and not some large national entity. I have comfort in knowing exactly where the funds are going. The Executive Director, Laura Alvarado, makes herself very available and is always open to having people over to the school. When I was growing up, there was barbed wire fencing around the entire school, and it set a tone that the school was separate from the rest of the community. When Jim Durst became Superintendent, he removed the barbed wire. I think that demonstrated an openness and a welcoming of the community into the school. I believe it’s really important for the community to reciprocate that.

Why do you continue to support IBCF?

I think the greatest reward in participating as a donor and in helping plan the Gala is just seeing that it's grown so much from a new start up event to where it is today. Seeing the progress that's been made and gaining traction in the community is the greatest return for me.

Today we have an enormous challenge with COVID-19 and funding the different technology needs of the students at ISBVI. You'll hear all sorts of parents experiencing angst with

e-learning, everyone is facing this challenge, but technology is crucial for children with visual impairments to be able to learn, now more than ever. If there will be interruptions in their in-person instruction, it's imperative that the technology is available to students to learn and their parents have the tools they need to assist them.

I can complain about my own challenges surrounding my kids but it's nothing compared to what a lot of ISBVI families are dealing with each day. The Lauth Family Foundation is extremely grateful to be able to contribute to the foundation and school that does so much to make sure that students with visual impairments are on equal footing with all other students in the wake of the pandemic.

Community Cares Spotlight Blog #8 - Dr. Herb Price - Drs. Price, Shepler, & Hall Family Eye Care

Date: 7.10.2020

At Drs. Price, Shepler, & Hall Family Eye Care, Dr. Herb Price is an independent primary health care provider who examines, diagnoses, treats and manages diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye and associated structures as well as diagnoses related systemic conditions. 

Written by Braden Worrell

What first drew you to Eye Care?

Ever since I was a young child I was interested in healthcare. My parents, both Holocaust survivors, encouraged me in that endeavor. In 1971, I graduated with a Doctorate of Optometry Degree. My first job was in Logansport at the Howard Clinic which was renting space from St Joseph Hospital. The nuns that owned the hospital closed the hospital and as a result the Howard Clinic closed as well. So I decided to go into private practice and opened my own clinic in Logansport. And I've been doing that ever since.

How did you first connect with IBCF?

Around 2011, I attended an event with Tom Sullivan as the keynote speaker and I was so impressed by his story, his love of life, and his message that it changed my life. He said he wanted his life to count for something, and he understood it was not enough to just make a living, but to do something to give back. I was so inspired by his words that I came back to my practice looking to provide hope and encouragement to my patients, many of whom were gradually losing their vision. His message that life can be a beautiful thing despite the challenges made me a better doctor because I could share that vision. It gave me a better appreciation of how I could communicate with my patients.

Later that year, we celebrated our 40th anniversary of being in business with a large event and over 400 people in attendance. I invited Tom Sullivan to come and share his story with everyone. That night we collected donations and donated all the proceeds to the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation.

As I became more involved with the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation, I was so inspired by the students at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. They face so many of their own challenges, yet the Foundation and the School provides them with so many opportunities to thrive. When I attended the Through the Looking Glass Gala, the school jazz band was there playing music and they played so well. I went up and spoke with several of the students and was so impressed with their skill level and passion. It just shows you that if you have the desire to do something, and if you have the encouragement, you can accomplish anything.

As an IBCF Board Member, what do you think is your biggest challenge ahead?

I think that technology is going to be more and more important for these students. I’ve been in contact with a company that has designed a pair of glasses that can scan text and read out loud the information to a person with visual impairments. It’s a great little device, but the technology is very expensive.

I think one of the most important things for people to understand is that when we're talking about the cost of technology for these children’s special needs it's very expensive. For example, if you're buying a regular laptop computer, you might be able to get a nice one for a thousand dollars, right? But when you're talking about a laptop or tablet for a child that's visually impaired, you're looking at six to ten times that cost. And I think that's what people need to understand so that they really appreciate the fact that their dollars are going a long way. I’m grateful we have fundraising opportunities like the Through the Looking Glass Gala and for the Lilly Endowment grant for the No Limits Arts Series. I think No Limits is a great title because we provide these students with the opportunity, and with the teaching at the school and the right equipment, there are no limits to what they can achieve.

These programs will enhance the students' lives so that they can be independent as they become older. As the students graduate from the school, we want to provide them with an opportunity to have no limits in their lives.

Community Cares Spotlight Blog #7 - Sertoma Club

Chuck Roach, President-Elect of the Broad Ripple Sertoma Club

This week, we spoke with Chuck Roach, President-Elect of the Broad Ripple Sertoma Club.

Sertoma International is a service organization, founded in 1912. Sertoma is an acronym for “Service to Mankind”. The Sertoma Club of Broad Ripple was chartered in 1958 and is now the largest club in the Nation at 134 members.The Sertoma Club of Broad Ripple is a 501(c)(3) dedicated to Serving Mankind through the fundraising efforts of Casino Parties that the club conducts year round.

Written by Braden Worrell

What is the Sertoma Club mission and how do casino parties support that mission? 

We’re a unique organization in that we've been around since 1958 and our main mission is to raise funds that we can turn around and give away to charities. We're not an organization that gets together socially to market businesses or our own business, instead we're looking for members who want to have fun, enjoy meeting and interacting with new people, and at the same time provide an opportunity for many charities to do some things that they could not typically do otherwise. There are over 800 clubs throughout the country, but we're one that has the unique way of generating funds through our casino parties. There aren't too many other clubs that approach the Sertoma Club mission in that way.

The casino gaming started shortly after our club was founded and was simply entertainment for the members at first. It went over so well that members started building upon the idea. It has done nothing but get bigger and bigger. The Broad Ripple Club has about 40 portable tables and gaming equipment and can now entertain parties of 70 to over 400 people. This past year we did about 45 Casino Parties and have had $140,000 dollars come in for charities. Since the Club’s inception we’ve given away $2.7 million dollars and we’ve had a lot of fun doing so.

How did the Broad Ripple Sertoma Club get involved with IBCF?

We have a sponsor committee of 10-12 people who identify groups for potential financial support. This committee asks these groups to present at Club meetings and share more about their mission and work. Around 2016, IBCF Executive Director, Laura Alvarado, gave a presentation to us one day about programs at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and shared more about the students’ needs. I think the thing that impacted me, and many of our members, was learning about the sensory approach to enhancing the students’ education and their learning process.

We have a lot of educators in our group, I was formerly the Principal of North Central High School here in Indianapolis. I think a lot of us were very interested in learning more about how the school is exploring technology and adding to the repertoire of educational tools being provided to the children. An interest of the National Sertoma Organization is in students who have difficulty hearing. I think because of that particular approach it was a natural progression into seeing what we could do with students and adults with visual impairments as well. The conversations with Laura have made an incredible impact on our group. We decided IBCF was an organization that we wanted to consider giving funds.

Today, we’ve done four Casino Parties at the annual Through the Looking Glass Gala. We provide blackjack, roulette tables, craps tables, Caribbean poker and Texas Hold ’em. We’re not pushing gambling because there is no money involved, we just provide chips that you can turn in for special prizes. It’s a great way to have fun, learn some new games from our guys if you’ve never played, and all in a low-pressure environment where you can’t lose.

We were so impressed with the organization and how the IBCF team works so hard to pull off such an event, that doesn't happen very easily. We work with a wide range of venues and different organizations, so we see a wide level of ability and to pull off an event of that magnitude is impressive. The Through the Looking Glass Gala not only helps IBCF, but it helps us to push ahead and continue with our mission as well.

Why does Sertoma continue to support IBCF and the students at ISBVI? 

We’re always hoping that a student will continue to improve and gain confidence in who they are and what they can achieve, even if they’ve been handed somewhat of a stacked deck against them. IBCF is a specialist in this area, and so we know the funds that we’re able to generate and turn back around to the school for special projects like the new Sensory Room, has great impact. We have the highest degree of hope that whatever funds are given to an organization, like IBCF, will have the greatest impact on students possible. I encourage all the students to never give up. If they work hard, believe in themselves and continually learn new things throughout their lives, then they’re going to be able to give back to society in an incredibly enthusiastic way.

Community Cares Spotlight Blog #6 - Huntington Bank

Elizabeth Sherwood, Vice President Community Development Relationship Manager

This week, we spoke with Elizabeth Sherwood, Vice President Community Development Relationship Manager at Huntington.

Huntington is a regional bank holding company headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, with $114 billion of assets and a network of 839 full-service branches, including 12 Private Client Group offices, and 1,434 ATMs across seven Midwestern states. Founded in 1866, The Huntington National Bank and its affiliates provide consumer, small business, commercial, treasury management, wealth management, brokerage, trust, and insurance services. Huntington also provides vehicle finance, equipment finance, national settlement, and capital market services that extend beyond its core states. 

Written by Braden Worrell

How did you first encounter the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation (IBCF)?

At Huntington we want to help where the need is greatest, and my role is to focus on underserved communities.

At first, I knew nothing about the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI). A colleague and I were invited to tour the school to discuss a potential partnership and see if Huntington could help the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation (IBCF). When we arrived, we were so knocked out by the beauty of the campus. It seemed like Indianapolis’ best kept secret. What really blew us away was when we went inside and saw what the school does for the students. I saw how the school really changes the lives of these students through individualized academic programs and comprehensive skill training.

I could see how the faculty and the staff truly care about the students; they had such a terrific relationship with them. The students have so much to contribute to society and just need some help in learning skills and getting an education - like any other kid in the country. This school is wholly prepared to help these students. Huntington’s culture is based on inclusion; our brand revolves around “Welcome” and that means ‘Welcome to All.’ I believe IBCF’s mission is the same.

The school has the same goal of inclusion and wants to give these students the knowledge, skills and tools to succeed. We want to help with that. That is why we chose to support the Student Training and Employment Program (STEP). The Student Training Employment Program (STEP) gives high school students who are blind or visually impaired an opportunity to develop valuable skills and learn the fundamentals of finding and keeping a job. 

What experiences have personally impacted you since supporting IBCF?

Last year I had a macular tear and had three eye surgeries in one year which involved a temporary partial loss of vision. I knew I would slowly recover my vision, but for more than a month, I could not see out of one eye. That experience was very scary: my depth perception was completely off, I could not drive, struggled to read and just go about my everyday life. This experience made it clear to me that supporting this Foundation and the School’s assistance programs is exactly what we need to do because it helps people who constantly live with visual impairments succeed.

We have many talented, dedicated and compassionate colleagues at Huntington who want to serve in their communities. One way they can do that is to serve on the boards of non-profits like IBCF. We have bankers with financial expertise who can assist non-profits with handling their accounts or fundraising. One of our colleagues, Michael Parent, is an IBCF Board Member and serves as the Treasurer.

Why do you continue to support IBCF? 

Corporations are looking for skilled employees who will bring value to the company. ISBVI is an untapped resource for employees who can add tremendous value to a workforce. Any business is better when different perspectives, voices and talent sets are included. These students are smart and have a lot to contribute. Companies should consider hiring them as interns or employees and supporting programs like STEP. These students deserve the best chance to be included in society and succeed. When you see behind the scenes at the school and meet these students, it becomes clear that, with some support and assistive technology, children with visual impairments can accomplish great things. A little corporate support can make this happen. I would encourage other corporations and individuals to support IBCF as well.

In This Together

Dear IBCF Supporters,

The last week has been a time for reflection for all of us at the Foundation. Our efforts as an organization over the last 27 years have always been focused on educational equity and inclusion for all children impacted by visual impairments. We represent a community of individuals of diverse abilities, races, ethnicities, and religion. Our hearts go out to the family of George Floyd and all black people who have suffered unjust violence and attacks. Now is the time to stand alongside the black community in solidarity. We hear you, we see you, and we are listening. Black Lives Matter.

Our efforts over this last year through our No Limits programming have been focused on empowering youth to lead and create improved access for those with visual impairments and disabilities throughout our community. However, now more than ever, race will play more of a role in how we move the conversation of inclusion forward. We believe that learning never stops. Education is a way to create change, but only if that education presents many viewpoints and experiences. We vow to ensure our Leadership Club students hear from black leaders in our community and that our black students have more opportunities to share their truth. We will invest in future programs and educational efforts at ISBVI that reflect and include diverse voices and approaches. We will continue our efforts towards diversifying our Board and staff.

While we understand that this is the beginning of our actions, we recognize as an organization that these efforts must continue to grow and evolve. A well-balanced education is key to our students’ success. However, learning must never really stop no matter your age. As I have forged conversations with my own daughters about the incidents of racial inequity and injustice brought on by recent acts of violence this past week, I find myself looking to resources that help facilitate the conversation. While I do not pretend to have all the answers, I know this. Our children are watching and listening. They have questions, some of which are difficult to answer. I realize now more than ever that we are on a journey together and recognizing that is a start towards a better more inclusive community.


Laura Alvarado
Executive Director

Community Cares Spotlight Blog #5 - A Taste of Indiana

Date: 5.29.20

This week we spoke with Mark Kolbus, Co-owner of A Taste of Indiana.

A Taste of Indiana is a locally-owned, family-run business. We love being able to offer over 170 products made in Indiana, which celebrate our great state. Our products are well-made and of the highest quality, demonstrating the pride that Hoosiers take in the state of Indiana and in their own workmanship.

Written by Braden Worrell

How did you and IBCF first meet?

One day Laura Alvarado came into our store to put together several of our gift baskets for their upcoming Gala event. When I found out she was with the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation, I immediately had a soft spot for the Foundation and the kids at the School. My late grandfather-in-law went blind later in life and was just the sweetest person and super nice to me. Occasionally at a get-together, I’d see him sitting by himself because others didn’t know how exactly to engage with a person with a visual impairment. I’d go and sit with him and talk about anything, fishing or golf, etc. You realize when you start talking to someone who is blind that they just want to be treated like a sighted person. He was a great man so I was happy to get involved with the Foundation.

What has your relationship with IBCF looked like since you met?

We moved here in the fall of 2017, so we've been helping out IBCF for about 3 years now. We’re all about creating beautiful gift baskets full of local foods and products.

It’s a fun experience putting together all the baskets. Laura and her volunteers will come into the store where we have these long assembly tables to organize all the basket items, food products, and decorations. We build each basket from the ground up and assemble them so you can see every product facing out towards the front, they look great. People really like to see the baskets “all dolled up” as we say and they make great gifts and fundraiser auction items for the Gala.

We’ve made baskets for two of the IBCF Galas now and most recently for the 2020 ISBVI graduating seniors who didn’t get a graduation ceremony because of COVID-19. We wanted to make these baskets extra special with crinkle, bows and ribbons and customized for each student. One basket had a lot of macaroni and cheese, I think someone is really going to enjoy that. To all the 2020 ISBVI graduating seniors: “Enjoy your baskets and good luck in all your future endeavors!”

IBCF turns around and helps us out during Christmas which is our busiest season by far. A few of the volunteers and IBCF Board and staff will come over to the shipping department and help us fulfill orders as a “thank you” for supporting the Blind School. We get a lot of interest in our baskets after the Gala event. People will call and say, “I saw one of your baskets at the Gala”. It always ends up bringing us more business, so it’s a great relationship.

Community Cares Spotlight Blog #4 - Horse Soldier Bourbon

Date 5.22.2020

This week, we spoke with Bryan Avery, Head of Sales and Marketing at Horse Soldier Bourbon. You can read more about their incredible story on the website.



Written by Braden Worrell

Horse Soldier Bourbon is ingrained with storytelling. From the eye-catching label design featuring the mounted soldier, to the fact that every ounce of their whiskey touches distilling equipment made out of repurposed steel from the World Trade Centers. When you see one of their bottles you instinctively want to learn more.

Bryan Avery receives weekly fundraising requests from 501c3’s asking for a bottle of their amazing bourbon to auction off. However when IBCF reached out, Bryan was drawn into IBCF’s own story.

“It’s part of our mission to do charitable work and to support the communities that we’re in where we can. As a small company, we can’t always just write a check, but we can give most people a bottle signed by some of the Horse Soldiers and then the organization can auction that off and make more than we ever could by writing a check.”

Bryan attended the 2019 Through the Looking Glass Gala and was able to visit ISBVI during his trip to get a behind the scenes look and experienced a shift in his perspective.

“When Laura took me on a tour of the facility and told me about the work that they’re doing, I was like, ‘Holy cow! Why wouldn’t we get involved?’ I don’t have a connection to anyone with a visual impairment, but to meet some of the faculty, understand what their mission is and where their struggles are financially, it drew me in personally. I now have a 180-degree different perspective. I love that when you get into the school, you see kids that are highly motivated. It’s just like when you meet a veteran who has unfortunately lost his leg or arm and they're working their butt off. It's inspiring and when you meet these kids that are pushing themselves to a point that the average person who is not sight impaired doesn't do, that's huge to me.”

“I feel a little bad about the way I used to think or judge others based on their appearance, and assuming things about how they handled their life, without knowing their story. Now I love hearing and learning about those stories. So if I can help support a cause to raise money for a new tablet for a kid that uses a different device, then I’m happy to support at whatever level we can, even if we never know how much that means to them.

My experience with IBCF has been eye-opening, no question about it. I love it and it makes me want to try to do more."

Stay tuned for a virtual “Whiskey and War Stories” event with a few of the Horse Soldiers benefiting IBCF.

Community Cares Spotlight Blog #3 - Regions and Emergency Digital Inclusion Funding


Introduction to Digital Inclusion

The COVID-19 crisis and the need for distance learning has exposed the technology disparity in school districts across the country. While this disparity isn’t new, the coronavirus has triggered a global movement to shift classrooms online which has prompted a new drive and motivation to resolve this disparity. Many school districts in the last ten years have tried to improve technology equity by providing Chromebooks, iPads, or tablets to youth in middle or high school grades. However, the device is only one part of the battle towards full inclusion.

Digital equity is the condition in which individuals and communities have the technical capacity to participate in society. This digital equity is necessary to provide all individuals opportunities at employment, education, and civic engagement.

The barriers to digital inclusion that currently exist at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) are many and as diverse as the students impacted by the school. While the common thread among our students is a visual impairment, each student has a varying degree of vision loss and acuity. Their vision ability is what drives the type of adaptive device and application that is most appropriate for the student to learn and communicate. This means there is not one type of device or digital application that would best serve all of our students as reflected in most school districts across the country. Many school districts hand out one type of device to all of its students and use one unified platform for students and teachers to utilize for instruction and learning. This type of approach just isn’t applicable at ISBVI.

IBCF, in partnership with ISBVI, is now seeking emergency funding of $69,852 to immediately provide full and appropriate technology support to 15 ISBVI students and families this summer. The idea is to pilot and test learning management platforms that are accessible and integrate well within technology serving children with visual impairments with a goal of then launching a full technology campaign that funds technology for all 128 full-time ISBVI students.

Regions Bank is the first donor to step up and generously support this effort, so we spoke with Kathy Lovell, Senior Vice President, Disability Services and Outreach Manager; Kim Borges, Vice President, Market PR Specialist; and Schiela Peña, Vice President Community Relations Officer; to hear more about the “Why” behind their support of this digital inclusion initiative.

Regions Financial Corporation is a bank holding company headquartered in the Regions Center in Birmingham, Alabama. The company provides retail banking and commercial banking, trust, stockbrokerage, and mortgage services. 

Written by Braden Worrell

Question: What is the relationship like between Regions and IBCF?

Kim Borges: This reflects so much more than just connecting at a surface level. Our relationship with IBCF is something that is truly an integrated partnership. I knew and worked with Laura Alvarado before she started as IBCF’s first Executive Director. We reconnected and became involved with ISBVI through the Nine13 Sports “Kids Riding Bikes” program, then it really just snowballed. In January of this year the school was gracious enough to welcome us to the campus for an Officer's meeting, and it was amazing to see our associates observe the culture of the school and experience the attitude towards independence in just an hour and a half. This is a place about what's possible.

How is this Digital Inclusion initiative going to help these students?

Kathy Lovell: We believe that this is an important community that hasn't always been included in the conversation, so providing this distance learning support gives ISBVI students the same opportunities that other students are given – which is really important. It's giving students the opportunity to advance and be independent. I fully believe that individuals with disabilities should be given equal access to develop their skill. Even though an individual may be blind or may have low vision, there should be no limits put on them as far as what they want to do with their life and how they want to live.

We have no idea where we're going with this COVID-19 future. These students don't deserve to be left behind. They need to have the same opportunities to grow and develop and be successful individuals in the future. By fostering this type of program, it gives individuals with visual impairments the opportunity to learn on their own terms and in the way that they learn best.

Considering this year marks the 30th anniversary of the ADA being signed into law, why is this year an important time to give to digital inclusion initiatives like this?

Schiela Peña: Regions is truly pleased to be able to make this contribution, especially as we look to the future and further advance our community partnership with IBCF. This donation demonstrates our commitment to advancing educational opportunities and helps ensure digital inclusion for ISBVI students. 

Kathy Lovell: I can’t think of supporting a more meaningful project than this in honoring the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, legislation that's devoted to promoting equal access for everyone. We look forward to having other corporate and community partners join us in supporting this effort to make technology accessible to all students at ISBVI. 

We have taken a very proactive approach in addressing the ADA. The one thing I'm most proud about at Regions is creating a culture of disability awareness. So, when we develop a new product or service, there’s no convincing our business group partners that it’s important, our teams embrace it as part of our culture. I think the technology piece is particularly important because of what we're going through right now with the pandemic. We've realized that we’re going to be relying more on technology, so ensuring that technology is accessible is key.

We’re looking for ways that we can be more accessible and work outside the box. I think one of the best ways to do that is forming these types of partnerships and listening to the individuals that are using the technology. You listen to the non-profits that are working with those consumers to make sure you're getting it right. It’s about spending a lot of time getting out into the community and developing relationships and partnerships so that we have a better feel for what we're doing and if we're on the right track. I think technology is the key to the future, especially with distance learning.

I also think that's the reason why this opportunity is the right time with our current environment and celebrating the 30th anniversary of the ADA in a unique way – but also realizing that there's more work to be done.

How has No Limits influenced Regions involvement with this Digital Inclusion donation? 

Schiela Peña: I’m the mother of two small children and we had the opportunity to have the kids go to the No Limits Matthew Whitaker concert last year. It was overwhelming to see how Matthew engaged with my boys. I have a child with a disability, he's on the spectrum, and had a hard time dealing with all the things that were going on, and Matthew and his whole band dialed into him. As a mother you think, here's somebody who has a disability who is reaching out to someone else to help them be strong. That's what Matthew said, “He's strong, you're fine, you're going to be great.” I look back at that and think that there's something more that these students and staff are offering that you know these kids would not get anywhere else.

Seeing how Laura and her team have worked so hard to make sure that they’re really knocking down those barriers and making sure they’re always considering what’s possible, it makes you think “oh my word.” It’s a way of flipping the script and having a different perspective on life and saying “there are No Limits.”

ISBVI students absolutely need the technology; the need is critical. It's helping to remove a barrier so the students can keep up and continue to learn. It was great that we have the ability to be an advocate. We have great partners throughout the bank that helped move things forward quickly. 

Interested in learning more about IBCF’s digital inclusion plan and efforts to ensure children with visual impairments have equal access and use of appropriate technology to learn? Contact Laura Alvarado, IBCF Executive Director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to start a conversation and learn how you can empower a child through technology today.

Community Cares Spotlight Blog #2 - Dr. Jeremy Ciano, RevolutionEYES/Little Eyes

Date 4.29.2020

The impact of IBCF and ISBVI would simply not be possible without the generous support of our supporters. Their generosity provides students with visual impairments the essential educational equipment, resources, and programs that are not available anywhere else in the state. As a way of giving back to our sponsors, we want to share the stories of the people who help us make impact.

This week, we spoke with Dr. Jeremy Ciano, OD, of RevolutionEYES and Little Eyes. 

RevolutionEYES thinks outside-the-box! When he was in his 3rd year of Optometry school, Dr. Jeremy Ciano envisioned a revolutionary new concept that would provide his patients with high-end customer service and exclusively unique products, while featuring the latest in modern medical technology. In 2007, that dream became a reality, when RevolutionEYES opened in Clay Terrace. 

The Little Eyes team strive to provide the finest in pediatric optometry services for children ages 6 months to 13 years old. 

Written by Braden Worrell 

Tell us about your company and how you first encountered IBCF. 

I came home one day and my four-year-old son said “Daddy, I want to be an optometrist when I grow up.” And I’m like, “oh man, that's awesome. I'll come work for you someday!” And my four year old son looked me in the eyes and said, “Daddy, you can't work for me, you're not good with kids.” And I thought, “Well, that's not cool, but he's pretty cerebral so maybe he's going somewhere.” So I asked, “What do you mean?” And he responds, “Well I'm going to have my own place someday and it's going to have little chairs and little glasses and I'm going to call it, Little Eyes.” I thought “that's actually brilliant” and we sat down and actually wrote it down right then and there on the spot and in August 2013 we launched, Little Eyes.

Right out of the gate we wanted to back a charity. We wanted to be able to make a donation to a certain foundation with every pair of glasses that we sell from day one. So we started doing some research and fell absolutely in love with the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation.

So how did you then become directly involved with IBCF? 

It really was just a real simple email to Laura, I said, “Hey, this is what we want to do. Would you mind if we wrote you a check every month? It's not going to be a lot in the beginning because we're ramping up this brand new business…” but she was so gracious to just have anything that we could contribute. We've grown over the last five years, our checks have grown proportionally and we've been absolutely honored to write that check every month. We’re excited to promote a small local business and we love they’re right here in our backyard.

What about IBCF’s mission captured your attention personally? 

Helping children when we have a pediatric practice goes hand in hand. Vision is the number one sense that we live our life through, so you couldn't ask for a more perfect fit for a pediatric optometric practice than with IBCF. It was almost too good to be true because it fits into every category of what we want to do: it's local, it’s vision, and it's children. It's a great organization that is doing something wonderful for the community. It's a match made in heaven.

And we let our patients know that too, that with every pair of glasses or procedure a portion goes to IBCF. And we don't do it as a marketing, we just do it because we want people to feel good. We want people to understand that we're part of the community. We want them to understand that there's a higher purpose than ourselves. It’s not only them making a purchase that supports a small local business, but that it's also going towards a local cause and we're part of the community.

Since becoming a supporter of IBCF and the students at ISBVI, how has your perspective on people with visual impairments changed?

When I visited ISBVI, one of the things that really stood out to me was how expensive technology is for these children that need it the most. Laura told us about the Braille Note Touch that has the magnetic braille keyboard and its six thousand dollars for a single tablet. That blew me away because I had no idea what the cost was. If we're trying to buy an iPad for the office, you're looking at between $500- $1000 dollars, right? That's your standard operating procedure. But, 12 times the cost, right? That's crazy. So really what it did is it opened my eyes that we need to step up our game from a donation standpoint. Now that we have a stronger business, we can give when we can. ‘You gotta do what you gotta do when you gotta do it’, that’s one of my famous quotes.

And why do you continue to support the Foundation today?

Honestly, the people that are involved in the Foundation have been just tremendous. Working with Ms. Alvarado is just an absolute pleasure. I wish that we had more opportunities to help people understand this time of need. This is the time that we need to really give the most and I would just love to help more in any way I can.

Community Cares Spotlight Blog #1 - Dr. Diana Fisher at 20/20 Institute Indianapolis

Date 4/24/2020

The impact of IBCF and ISBVI would simply not be possible without the generous support of our supporters. Their generosity provides students with visual impairments the essential educational equipment, resources, and programs that are not available anywhere else in the state. As a way of giving back to our sponsors, we want to share the stories of the people who help us make impact.

This week, we spoke with Dr. Diana Fisher, R.N., O.D., CEO and Clinical Director at 20/20 Institute. Dr. Fisher is also an IBCF Board Member.

20/20 Institute is proud to provide world class vision correction in a safe, innovative and welcoming environment and to be focused on accurate education to the patient about options for refractive surgery vision correction.

My first connection with IBCF was through Lindsay Jordan, who was a company rep. and IBCF Board Member. She said, “Hey, there’s this Gala that I do for the Blind School, would you be interested in going?” And said “Sure!” I attended and it just blew me away. It was over the top incredible. It was the best fundraiser I have ever been to in my life. And I was like, “okay, I want to get involved in this fundraiser.”

So I started working on the Gala and was then approached to go and tour the School. That was probably the moment when I became more acutely aware of the actual Foundation itself and that the Gala is just one way that the Foundation raises money. I didn't really understand that connection until I went to the school. When I toured the school, I cried the entire time, it was just overwhelming to see how amazing and dedicated the teachers and the staff were. I met the children and went into a classroom and saw the joy that the kids had. It was tears of joy.

It's like a family when you go there and I'm very family oriented, if you know my business it's all about family. And then I had this connection because as a child, I wasn't blind, but I started wearing glasses when I was two years old. So that's the main reason I became an eye doctor is that self-experience and wanting to help others, and so it just pulled my heartstrings.

So then I was invited by the Executive Director to become a part of the Indiana Blind Children's Foundation. And this amazing group of people ties into me as a person because I'm very professional, I own this business and I'm very systematic. The Foundation allows me this business part with the finance and the strategic planning. Because it’s a non-profit business, we’re always asking, “How is this business going to last so that these children are able to maintain an education and have the school for the rest of their lives and for future generations to help them to succeed?”

So as I became more involved in the Foundation, the awareness of the need for the children at that school was just compounded. I didn't realize that the school was funded like any other Indiana public school. They receive the same amount of money as any other public school and obviously these children have greater needs than what can be funded with that. So the Foundation is there to augment the school funding from the state because there's honestly just no way that they could survive and do everything that they do for these children without additional funding, it's just not possible. So that's what we're there for and that's what I'm so passionate about. These kids need so much more technology, training, and life skills and help to get a job.

As I became more involved in the Foundation, the awareness of the need for the children at that school was just compounded. They get the same amount of money as any other public school and obviously these children have greater needs than what can be funded with that.”

I went to the high school graduation last year and heard the valedictorian and the salutatorian speeches and it was probably the best high school valedictorian and salutatorian speeches I've ever heard in my entire life. These kids are going to Purdue and IU. They are highly intelligent, very capable human beings. They want to be social workers, they want to be engineers, and they can be all of these wonderful things if given the opportunity, but they have to be given the opportunity. People have to be aware of what they're capable of and I don't think as a society we even have a glimpse of that. So that's why I’m a part of the Foundation, it's not just about money, it's about making a future for these kids.

Now as a full time advocate, I have things all around my office that point to IBCF and ISBVI. For example, the students did this beautiful artwork for me that's displayed in the office hallways. The students also made these little artwork magnets. We hand them out to our patients as just a little give away. It’s about constantly having the awareness that most people don't really think about students with visual impairments. I’m constantly planting those little seeds by talking about what the school is, who's involved, and what they do there. So, I really am trying to get the word out there and I hope that other people and organizations can get involved.

Creating a Sensory Room

Date 4/15/2020

A sensory room is a therapeutic space with a variety of equipment that provides students with special needs a personalized sensory input; to help them calm and focus themselves so they can be better prepared for learning and interacting with others. Children with sensory disorders can often experience sensory overload triggered in numerous ways that can be frightening for them. A safe calming environment with the appropriate equipment can help children with sensory disorders understand how to strengthen coping skills that better prepare them for future incidents. Sensory rooms often have dim lighting, soothing colors, swings, and equipment like weighted blankets and vests. While some students need to calm down, others may need to recharge his or her "battery" through activities specifically designed for his or her abilities. The goal is to essentially stimulate each child's brain as he or she needs it, so that following their time in the sensory room the child is actively ready to learn and receive information in the classroom.

The Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) is a nationally recognized school known for its innovative programming and exceptional blind and low vision specialists who have expertise in educating students with visual impairments. However, the need to serve a growing population of visually impaired children with additional sensory and mobility challenges such as autism, ADHD and other sensory processing disorders, due to a recent population shift, prompted a big community effort this year. It became apparent through numerous discussions with ISBVI leadership that the creation of a sensory room for children ages 3-11 was necessary to truly meet the diverse learning needs of children in the pre-school and elementary grades at the school.

The Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation assembled a small committee of individuals who started meeting monthly in late 2019 to figure out ways to make this sensory room a reality. We are thankful to our sensory room committee members and friends at Custom Living for helping us devise and execute a renovation plan, select the appropriate equipment based on our students' needs and assist in our fundraising efforts. The following video showcases how local company, Custom Living, not only made a big difference in the lives of our students, but also leveraged business partnerships to assist in this significant renovation.


Thank you to our current supporters: Custom Living, Tom Lazzara, Nicholas H. Noyes Jr. Memorial Foundation, The JC Benkert Charitable Fund, The McCaw Family Foundation, Carmel Glass & Mirror, Jack Laurie Home Floor Designs, Lowe's, Sherwin Williams, Dr. Stephanie Jackson-Colbert and 12 Stars Media

We have $5000 left to raise to ensure our students have the appropriate sensory equipment designed for their needs. For those of you who are experiencing financial hardships of your own, we know that this is not the time to give. But for those of you who are able to help, any level of support makes a difference and is greatly appreciated.

Motivated by Custom Living and their efforts to leverage business partners? Share your thoughts about businesses in our community that might be able to help by participating in this short 5-10 minute survey. IBCF wants to learn more about our supporters, their reasons for giving and engagement, as well as align with future supporters to grow the community around our students.

Your Voice Matters

Date 4/8/2020


Thank you for supporting the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation (IBCF). Over the last five years, the foundation has experienced wonderful growth because of supporters like you who believe in the success of children with visual impairments.

Because of your support, the foundation has made a deep impact on children and families through some of the following efforts:

  • The expansion of the 3D Print Lab which now integrates students in the creation of 3D printed objects used as learning tools in the classrooms.
  • Funding a week-long overnight summer camp (Expanding Your Horizons Camp) each year dedicated to building confidence and self-esteem in children with visual impairments.
  • Supporting braille literacy and family engagement workshops on an annual basis that build sensitivity and strengthen family relationships through the Indiana Braille Challenge.
  • Year-round investments in access technology including the purchase of ten SMART Boards for classrooms, as well as the integration of BlindSquare technology and GPS App throughout the ISBVI campus which details points of interest and intersections for safe, reliable travel both outside and inside.
  • Integrated and maintained annual program partnerships with Nine13sports, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana, and Indy Women in Tech (IWIT)-The Eureka! Exchange to benefit the academic and social well-being of children with visual impairments.
  • Renovated the ISBVI Auditorium, with support from Lilly Endowment, Inc., with all new audio, lighting, video capabilities and access technology transforming ISBVI into a more welcoming community engagement space that hosts a wide array of performances and experiences for people of all abilities.
  • Most recently established a committee of community members and businesses to design and build a sensory room to help children ages 3-11 with sensory issues to increase coping skills, and improve focus and motor skills development.

We value your interest and commitment to the IBCF mission. In order to continue to develop the necessary tools and programs for success in partnership with ISBVI, IBCF wants to learn more about our supporters, their reasons for giving and engagement, as well as align with future supporters to grow the community around our students.

IBCF is partnering with a team of students from Indiana University to gather your input through a short online survey. All information you provide will be kept confidential, only a summary of responses will be provided to the foundation unless the supporter indicates wanting any follow-up communication. Please click on the survey button below to complete this short 5-10 minute survey to help us learn more about those who support our mission.

Braille Literacy Importance

Date 4/02/2020

Over the last week, ISBVI staff have had to get really creative on teaching students, utilizing a variety of tools to meet each student’s specific need. Many of our students do not have access to technology such as a BrailleNote Touch, iPad, laptop, internet or sometimes WiFi for that matter. Each student needs an individualized approach to learning at home dependent upon their need, as well as what tools they have at home.

ISBVI Outreach Vision Support Specialist, Margiy Outten, recently shared her adapted lesson plan on teaching braille remotely. Utilizing a muffin pan, tennis balls and Zoom, Margiy and her elementary aged student were able to practice braille skills remotely.

Braille is a system of raised dots that can be read with the fingers by individuals who are blind or have low vision. A braille cell is made up of six raised dots in two parallel rows, each having three dots. Sixty-four combinations are possible using one or more of these dots. The dot positions are numbered one through six. The left vertical column of dot positions are numbered 1,2,3 and the right vertical column of dot positions are numbered 4,5,6.

The muffin pan represents the dot positions while the tennis balls represent the raised dots. Margiy instructed her student to move the tennis balls into different dot positions, helping her student understand and feel how different letters may be created. This helps early braille learners learn the braille alphabet, but more importantly stay motivated to practice learning braille.

Why is Braille Literacy Important?

Louis Braille's invention of the six dot reading and writing system revolutionized the way people who are blind perceive and interact in the world. Even in today's technology driven world, braille is critically important. School leadership is often asked, why teach braille when there is so much audio driven technology out there? The response, would you stop teaching a sighted child how to read or write because of audio driven technology? The answer of course is no. However, the real answer is that braille and technology can go hand and hand. Technology can actually be used to teach braille in ways that have never been accomplished before.

Learning and mastering braille code opens doors for individuals who are blind. Children need to be literate, to be able to read, write, and count. Learning braille helps children develop grammar, spelling, and understand punctuation. These skills bring intellectual freedom, personal security, independence, and equal opportunities when they grow up. Studies continue to show that individuals who know braille are more likely to achieve academic success and obtain jobs.

It takes a supportive environment for children to learn braille. This is one of the numerous reasons the foundation supports the Indiana Braille Challenge each year. Not only does this competition bring children and families in from around the state to participate, it provides family members an opportunity to deepen their knowledge and learn new ways to support their child's needs. Each child is also celebrated for participating, motivating children to continue their studies and participate the following year.

The following video exemplifies how it brings families together while celebrating each child year after year. Enjoy!

Family Engagement through the Braille Challenge

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