See the Future programs from Lighthouse for the Blind-Saint Louis are provided at little or no cost and are open to blind and visually impaired residents in Missouri and in southwest Illinois.
"Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows." - Helen Keller
As the American author and essayist Charles Bowden wrote, "Summer time is always the best of what might be."
He may have been referring to the great "See the Future Programs" for kids and young adults sponsored by Lighthouse for Lighthouse Blind-Saint Louis every year since 2005.
Hundreds of youth who are blind or visually impaired are discovering new adventures and summer fun this year, thanks to the Lighthouse, a not-for-profit manufacturing enterprise founded in 1933 with a dedicated social service mission.
Lighthouse summer programs and activities focus on virtually anything that kids and young adults with visual impairments want to enjoy to broaden their experiences, skills and self confidence.
All of these "See the Future" programs are financed by revenues that the Lighthouse generates by manufacturing, packaging, selling and distributing products to businesses, consumers and government agencies.
John Thompson is president of Lighthouse for the Blind-Saint Louis, also known as LHB Industries, Inc. - http://www.lhbindustries.com
"Our 'See the Future' programs for young people who are blind or visually impaired are about much more than just having fun," Thompson says.
"Our programs also provide assistance in technology adaptations; skills development for activities of daily living; career development for professionals working in vision specialties; scholarships to attend educational and recreational camps; adult assistance with low vision aids; and a mobile low vision clinic."
"These programs share common goals to provide children and young adults who are blind or visually impaired with opportunities to learn about teamwork, gain self-confidence, build friendships and develop communication and socialization skills."
"We strive to help all of our program participants - and our in-plant employees - become independent and productive members of society," Thompson says.
"See the Future" programs managed or sponsored by the Lighthouse are extensive. They include these activities below:
Week long overnight summer camp located in Purdy, Missouri, that caters to children and young adults with disabilities, ages 7-25, and offers adaptive equipment so all children can participate in activities. LHB provides tuition and transportation for campers to attend the week for kids that are blind or visually impaired.
Provides kids 6-15 with one-on-one adaptive technology lessons and classroom lessons in Activities of Daily Living.
Monthly groups designed to challenge and inspire children with visual impairments to build friendships, gain independence, and participate in their community. GRADS participate in a variety of fitness, leisure, and arts activities and have fun while building friendships and community connections.
This program is operated by the Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments (St. Louis non-profit) and supported by the Lighthouse. Tandem Adventurers is a unique tandem cycling team for kids 10 years and up who are visually impaired. This group enjoys weekly rides from April through September when the kids share tandem bikes with trained captains to enjoy friends and the freedom that cycling offers.
Weekend overnight camp held at Webster University for visually impaired and blind youth ages 12-18. Provides children with an introduction to adaptive sports.
Space Camp for Interested Visually Impaired Students: Week long overnight camp in Huntsville Alabama. SCIVIS uses space to excite and educate students in math and science. LHB provides visually impaired and legally blind children ages 9-18 with scholarships.
Three week residential training program held at Webster University providing students who are legally blind, age 16-21, with one-on-one lessons in activities of daily living and prevocational training.
Provides qualified visually impaired adults with financial assistance to purchase a CCTV.
Financially assists cultural venues such as live theatre to help make them more accessible to the blind community.
Financially assists vision professionals to further their education through college scholarships and funding to attend conferences.
Provides visually impaired youth, ages 3-21, with low vision evaluations, prescribed devices and training in the use of these devices.
Provides visually impaired and blind youth ages in Springfield, Missouri, opportunities for group recreation and community activities.
Three weeks of education and instruction in Orientation & Mobility, Activities of Daily Living and Recreation & Leisure.
Teaches night travel skills commensurate with daylight travel experience.
Provides financial scholarships to fund adaptive equipment and college tuition.
The mission of the Lighthouse, which is a 501(c)3 organization, is to assist individuals who are legally blind maintain dignity and independence through gainful employment, education and support services.
As such, it is a not-for-profit entity operating like a for-profit company to advance its charitable social services mission. The organization has two plant facilities in St. Louis County, Missouri, where 48 legally blind employees produce medical kits; catheters; aerosol and liquid paints; aerosol and liquid cleaners; adhesives; eco-friendly products; and others for business, consumer and government customers nationwide.
In addition, the Lighthouse is one of the nation's top providers of emergency preparedness kits to help people survive earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, blizzards, floods, accidents, terrorist attacks and building lock-downs. The Lighthouse brand is Quake Kare/Emergency Ready - https://www.quakekare.com
The Lighthouse also owns and distributes the popular Tear Mender brand of non-toxic, all-natural adhesive and sealants for repairing clothing, fabrics, footwear, leather, upholstery, vinyl and other items for indoor and outdoor use - https://www.tearmender.com
Also, the Lighthouse owns and distributes RapidFix, a premium line of industrial and consumer bonding products that repair broken or damaged items that include rubber, glass, copper, aluminum, steel and most plastics. RapidFix is sold by retailers in automotive, hardware and marine industries nationwide, and by online retailers such as Amazon.com, and by https://www.rapidfix.com
All sales revenues from LHB Industries, Quake Kare, RapidFix and Tear Mender products directly support the Lighthouse's 16 different "See the Future" Blind Community Outreach Programs.
Thompson says, "We are very proud of our skilled employees in our production plants, and we are proud of our mission-specific staff members who develop, sustain and provide our service programs for the blind community in Missouri and Illinois."
Four of 16 "See the Future" programs available through Lighthouse for the Blind-Saint Louis are shown below with insightful remarks from people involved.
Angie Yorke is the Lighthouse manager of blind community enrichment programs, including "See the Future" programs. She joined the Lighthouse in 2008 after earning a degree in psychology at Maryville University. Her enthusiasm for "See the Future" programs and their benefits for participants who are blind or visually impaired is obvious.
"We have so much to offer in terms of program diversity and activities, and all of our programs are free to the participants."
"It's impossible to choose which program may be 'best' because it's really up to the kids and young adults to choose what they want to enroll in - and they can apply every year so long as they meet program age requirements," Yorke says.
For example, every year, the Lighthouse provides scholarships for about 40 children who are visually impaired and blind, aged 9 to 18, to attend Space Camp for Interested Visually Impaired Students (SCIVIS) at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Yorke says, "Space Camp uses simulated outer space experiences to excite and educate students in math, science and technology. Benefits include building teamwork, self-confidence and communication skills learned through state-of-the-art simulations of space missions, rocket building, robotics and conducting experiments on the 'International Space Station.' The program includes presentations by NASA professionals who are blind discussing career choices and working in the space industry."
Students who participate in Space Camp are from schools in cities across Missouri. In addition, The Lighthouse Visions Scholarship enables 40 students with unique cultural backgrounds who are visually impaired from across the United States and seven other countries to attend Space Camp with the Missouri school kids.
Space Camp is coordinated by teachers of the visually impaired from throughout the U.S. Special considerations are extended during camp week to help the students feel at ease as they train for "space missions."
The students benefit from the latest technology such as tactile Braille displays, CCTV's, large print output, and synthetic speech for computers. Siblings or friends of the visually impaired students are welcome to visit during the week. Lighthouse scholarships cover each student's tuition for meals, lodging, programming and materials.
The Summer Orientation & Mobility and Adapted Living Resource Program (S.O.A.R.) is a highly intensive, structured, residential training program that provides specialized instruction to youth ages 16-21 who are legally blind.
S.O.A.R. is specifically designed for youths who intend to live independently, seek competitive employment and/or attend a vocational training program or college upon graduation from secondary school.
Kevin Hollinger has managed the Lighthouse S.O.A.R. program since 2006. He is a National Board Certified Teacher, Orientation & Mobility specialist and teacher of the visually impaired.
"With the S.O.A.R. program, we are upholding our commitment for participating youth and their families to help enable independent living, employment readiness, mobility and to have fun," he says.
S.O.A.R. is conducted at Webster University residence halls in suburban St. Louis. The adapted living program provides three weeks of training and seminars in cooking, self-care, clothing management, money management, home maintenance, careers, orientation and mobility, dining out, sex education and dating.
"Our emphasis on independence fosters expectations for independent travel skills, interpersonal relationships, post-secondary transition, organizational skills and career exploration," Hollinger says. "A number of S.O.A.R. graduates from previous years are now working in good jobs or as interns for St. Louis-based companies," he says.
This summer the S.O.A.R. program will be enhanced by two new features.
Guide dogs from The Seeing Eye, a philanthropic organization that enhances the independence, dignity and self-confidence of blind people through the use of Seeing Eye Dogs, will participate in S.O.A.R., and instruct students who are blind on proper use, handling and care of the dogs.
A new technology company called Aira also will participate in S.O.A.R. this summer. Aira connects people who are blind or low vision to a trained professional agent who is dedicated to enhancing the person's everyday experience and is immediately responsive, in real time.
How? Aira utilizes video-equipped "smart glasses," a smartphone app and one-button control to connect people who are blind to an agent who can provide instant assistance to the person who is blind and wearing the smart glasses.
"We're looking forward to another great summer with S.O.A.R.," Hollinger says.
Jennifer Coy is director of the Lighthouse Comprehensive Low Vision Project (CLVP), a year-round program that provides low vision students, ages 2-21, with clinical evaluations, prescribed optical devices and training in using those devices until they are proficient. It serves Missouri, areas of Kansas City and southwest Illinois. This summer, three CLVP clinics will be held in St. Louis and one in St. James. Services and devices are free to eligible students and their family.
Coy earned B.A. and M.Ed. degrees in Special Education from Vanderbilt University with certification to teach children with visual, hearing, and multiple/profound disabilities. She works in CLVP along with Ashley Bement, who earned a B.S. degree in early childhood education and a M.Ed. from Missouri State University with emphasis in visual impairment.
Coy admits, "I love that I am able to work with so many families and teachers. I love that CLVP is able to provide a service that is so needed. I feel strongly that every child with low vision should receive a clinical low vision evaluation and prescribed optical devices and technology that could help them more easily access visual information. "
"Because of the Lighthouse success as a manufacturing company, CLVP is able to provide these services at no cost to families. I like that my boss, John Thompson, gives us flexibility in serving our families and also supports new ideas and dreams." "Ashley and I spend a lot of time on the road, providing follow up to students and their families who have come through our low vision clinic or providing technical assistance to school districts. "
"We serve approximately 115-140 students each year. These students come from every region in Missouri as well as western Illinois. After students come to clinic, our optometrists will write up a report with recommendations. Ashley and I travel to the student and review that report with the family and educational team and begin instruction on how to use the tools that have been recommended. We travel every week. Most students are seen for follow up multiple times as we try to provide instruction until that student is proficient using his or her new tools. "
"Depending on the student's unique situation, we provide follow up lessons in the home, school, and/or community," Coy says.
"We may provide a magnifier lesson in the home that includes following and making a recipe. We have taken students to the grocery store so that they have an opportunity to use their devices and also practice making purchases independently. We've worked with students on using a monocular to way find in the community." "Many students who come through our program have never had experience with optical devices. It is a gift to see the expressions on their faces when they are able to see several lines lower on the vision chart for the first time in their life. Or to access material such as a regular print book that they struggled with before," Coy says.
"Ashley and I try to provide students with feedback on how devices impact their literacy. For example, some students might believe they read faster using regular or large print materials; after evaluating how technology impacts speed and comprehension, we can share this with them and provide motivation for using equipment that they might not be accustomed to using. "
Here are comments from parents and school teachers involved with the Lighthouse CLVP:
From a mom:
"Jade was so excited yesterday after you left and did any activity she could on her new CCTV. She loved it and is very excited to use it! Thank you for doing what you do!!"
From a teacher:
"Dear Ms. Coy, I can't thank you enough for all of your assistance with Sierra and Olivia. The items that your organization provided are essential for their educational success and I never dreamed that this was a reality! I am so grateful, and I promise you, that we will fully utilize these items."
From a mom:
"Thank you for everything you have done for our daughter, Molly. She loves her new visual devices and glasses. Thank you for making her life a little easier."
Tandem Adventurers is a wonderful way for kids who are visually impaired to ride a bike; in this case, bicycles built for two. Kids who are visually impaired from ten years old through high school can increase their personal fitness level, learn to work as a team member, and enjoy a sport not generally accessible to children with visual impairments.
The Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments operates the program, sponsored by Lighthouse for the Blind-Saint Louis. The program meets weekly from April through September. It pairs a person with visual impairments with an experienced bicyclist for fun and challenging bike rides. The "Stoker" - a youth with visual impairments - rides on the back of the tandem while the experienced "Captain" rides up front.
Allison LaMont, who earned a Master of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, oversees the Tandem Adventurers program as part of her role as the Program Director at Delta Gamma Center.
She says, "It's a great opportunity for kids with visual impairments to enjoy the summer on a bicycle as many children do. Our group regularly rides through Forest Park, enjoying the experiences that the park trails have to offer."
"It's a way for kids to form new friendships, develop self-confidence, participate in community activities, become more independent - and have fun!"
The typical ride lasts about two hours and may go 15-18 miles. Here's what participating kids have to say:
"We ride tandem bikes everywhere. We go a lot of different places. When you're finished, there's always this big feeling of accomplishment that's amazing."
"I'm really grateful that I signed up for this. I feel really excited when I get out and go bike riding."
A volunteer captain with the Tandem Adventurers program observes, "The kids are very proud of themselves. It's a big deal to ride a bicycle, especially for great distances. "
Lighthouse for the Blind-Saint Louis is very proud to offer and support these programs.
For information about "See the Future" programs from Lighthouse for the Blind-Saint Louis, please call 314 423 4333 or visit the website http://www.lhbindustries.com/Our-Outreach/Programs.aspx
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