Blah, BLah, BLOG
This weekend, I had the privilege to be a guest speaker at the District 19-I Lions Conference in Nanaimo, BC. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed public speaking! First, I want to thank District Governor, Leslie Smith for inviting me to speak, the presentation of an award and gift. It was a great opportunity and thoughtful. I will post my speech here for others to read. I hope this will bring more opportunities as I am very passionate to talk about this. Lion Chris and I are willing to travel to do presentations, don't hesitate to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Excuse me if I appear nervous, it has been suggested to overcome one's nerves, is to imagine the audience naked. I can only say I'm happier to be blind.
Thank you District Governor Leslie Smith for this opportunity and Lion Don for the introduction.
Welcome Dr. Patti Hill, Lions, Lionesses and guests. It is an honor to be here today as a guest speaker for the District 19-I Convention. On some tables, there are envelopes, I would ask you now to open them and put the paper glasses on. This is a simulation of what tunnel vision may look like. Feel free to pass on the glasses to others so they too will see. While wearing them take note on how your surroundings change, how you feel, please take time to discuss this with others throughout the weekend. Thank you for volunteering, I hope this will help in some small way to see what I see on a day to day basis.
I am now going to take you back 90 years. It is a warm sunny day of June 30, 1925 in Chicago. I suppose you have heard the legend that represents opportunity as a capricious lady, who knocks at every door but once, and if the door isn't opened quickly, she passes on, never to return. And that is as it should be. Lovely, desirable ladies won't wait. You have to go out and grab 'em. I am your opportunity, I am knocking at your door. I want to be adopted. The legend doesn't say what you are to do when several beautiful opportunities present themselves at the same door. I guess you have to choose the one you love best. I hope you will adopt me. I am the youngest here, and what I offer you is full of splendid opportunities for service. The American Foundation for the Blind is only four years old. It grew out of the imperative needs of the blind, and was called into existence by the sightless themselves. It is national and international in scope and in importance. It represents the best and most enlightened thought on our subject that has been reached so far. Its object is to make the lives of the blind more worthwhile everywhere, by increasing their economic value and giving them the joy of normal activity. Try to imagine how you would feel if you were suddenly stricken blind today. Picture yourself stumbling and groping at tnoonday as in the nights: youyr work, your independence, gone. In that dark world wouldn't you be glad if a friend took you by the hand and said, "come with me and I will teach you how to do some of the things you used to do when you could see?" That is just the kind of friend the American Foundation is going to be to all the blind in this country if seeing people will give it the support it must have. You have heard how through a little word dropped from the fingers of another, a ray of light from another soul touched the darkness of my mind and I found myself, found the world, found God. It is because my teacher learned about me, and broke through the dark silent imprisonment which held me, that I am able to work for myself and for others. It is the caring we want more than money. The gift without the sympathy and interest of the giver is empty. If you care, if we can make the people of this great country care, the blind will indeed triumph over blindness. The opportunity I bring to you, Lions, is this: To foster and sponsor the work of the american Foundation for the Blind. Will you not help me hasten the day when there shall be no preventable blindness; no little deaf, blind child untaught; no blind man or woman unaided? I appeal to you Lions, you who have your sight, your hearing, you who are strong and brave and kind. Will you not constitute yourselves Knights of the Blind in this crusade against darkness? I thank you.
This was the speech of Helen Keller, things have changed since then, what hasn't changed is the Lions commitment as Knights of the Blind. It was a warm sunny day, March 22, 2014 in Nanaimo, (well, its not warm and sunny, but its a good day!) I stand here before you as a Lion, an athlete, an artist and a mother. I have Usher's Syndrome. Usher Syndrome is an inherited condition characterized by hearing impairment and progressive vision loss. The vision loss is due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a degenerative condition of the retina, and usually appears during adolescence or early adulthood. Balance may also be affected. Symptoms vary from person to person and progress at different rates. I was born with severe hearing loss and at the age of 16 was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa. I started with normal vision and in my teens, I had noticed that I could no longer see well at night. The stars had already begun to fade. It is a simple fact that Retinitis Pigmentosa will eventually rob me of my sight. I have now developed tunnel vision, much like what you are seeing through the paper glasses. Most people have 180 degrees field of vision, I have approximately 10 degrees. What I have left is my central vision, the center of the tunnel. For those of you wearing the glasses, what is missing is the other stuff continuously happening in my eyes. A firework display around what used to be my normal field of vision. Those fireworks are the rod and cone cells dying. It is a constant reminder of what may eventually be the death of my sight. I cannot allow myself to dwell on this, I cannot let this disease define me. I define who I am and by that definition, I am a person of determination. I like to challenge myself in many ways. I run marathons, I swim, bike, kayak, ski, hike, paint, and I am and advocate. I started the Running for Change campaign in 2009 after doing the Boston Marathon. They had a Visually Imapired category in which I competed and placed fourth. Lion Chris was my guide and it was our first time running as a tethered team. We ran side by side for 26.2 miles. The experience changed my life forever. It gave my HOPE to carry on, knowing that ALL IS POSSIBLE and to NEVER fear darkness. Through my campaign I have make the 'Royal Victoria Marathon more accessible to the Visually Impaired and blind runners. The Visually Impaired category has been created, bringing awareness, safer starts, awards and recognition, free registrations for guides and bibs identifying guides and visually impaired runners. Canada's first marathon event ever to do this. I am proud of this accomplishment. Now the Goodlife Fitness Victoria marathon has become our signature event for the visually impaired runners funded and hosted by the Lions and Running Eyes - a facebook group started by Lion Chris Morrison to help pair runners and sighted guides toghether, to enable us to train or race as a team. The group has nearly 500 members and growing. The Alberni Valley Lions adopted my campaign in 2010 and together we raised funds for traveling to marathons and providing the Goodlife Fitness marathon dinner for the visually impaired runners and guides. We use this as an opportunity to raise awareness about guiding, inspiring others and of course to show our pride as Lions. We are the Knights of the Blind. This is our opportunity to show people how we serve, it is not just about meetings, dinners and fundraising, its about HOW WE SERVE. Lions, I am asking for your help, we need transportation, support and homes for some athletes and guides for the Goodlife Victoria Marathon 2014. I have been very fortunate to have the support from many Lion clubs and Past Presidents: Sid Scruggs III and the late Kay Fukashima. Chris and I proudly wore the Lions International logo and themes: "Beacon of Hope" and "I Believe" on the back of our race shirts to bring the Lions outside of the meeting room.
It is an opportunity to tell people about who we are and what we do. I look forward to your continuing support of the Running for Change Campaign. Together, we CAN make a difference. The sky's the limit. I am happy to bring the Running for Change Campaign here along with my move to Nanaimo. I would ask my fellow Lions to accompany me on my journey. Perhaps some of you might wish to support myself and my guide as we run the Comox half marathon tomorrow morning. My final words, a quote from Helen Keller: Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light. Thank you. (c)
Well, it has been awhile since my last post, maybe about a year. I had made some difficult choices in my life, struggling my personal demons and grieving with yet some more vision loss. I have left my marriage of 22 years. It has taken me nearly 15 years to bring myself the courage to move on. My fears were of so many things, losing my daughter, respect from others, especially my family, and myself. I talked to myself every day saying, have courage, be brave. There is one person in my life that helped me through this, he is the pillar of my strength. He understood my fears and tells me it is going to be okay. Dark thoughts and nightmares were starting to become less and less and fear grew into courage. Most of you that know me knows who my pillar is. Chris Morrison. We have been friends for long time, we met at a running club ten years ago. He has been guiding me for about 6 years. Oh how many times have I shed tears and talked about things that I have never shared with anyone. Many emotions, stories and fears were shared on the trails. What was happening? I was unleashing a part of me that no one has seen. For about 45 years I have been struggling with nightmares of unspeakable things. I have to figure out this trauma, was it real, or is it just images that plays in my head like a broken record? Unfortunately my mom passed away 14 years ago and I never had the courage to talk about it. I have a feeling that she would of been able to answer some of my questions, I think she knew. Perhaps it might be something that I will never know. I am still working on this thing called courage. In fact, this blog is a huge step for me. Moving out was a big step for me, and moving in was a big step for me. Trust, courage and to love again, big step! More blogs to come, it is a start <smile>.