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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.