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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.