"Sophia could have given up a long time ago. It's her fight, her determination, along with her incredible teachers that keeps her moving forward."
-Suzanne, Sophia's Mom
Sophia first arrived at Blind Children’s Learning Center in 2015 at age 4. Her battle with aggressive pediatric brain cancer robbed her of her vision and left her unable to speak, walk, or even tap her feet to music. All she could do was cry. Thanks to you, Sophia found hope at Blind Children’s Learning Center.
Now 8 years old, the determined and expressive Sophia just graduated from the Center. Suzanne describes her daughter’s progress as “mind-blowing.” She continues, “Without the generosity of donors, Sophia would not have had the opportunity to achieve goals that medical professionals said she may never accomplish. I’m forever grateful.”
Sophia never gave up. There are hundreds of families right now who can fight for a better future like Sophia, but they need your help. Your gift will make an immediate difference at critical moments in a young child’s life, with a payoff that lasts a lifetime.
Dear Friends of BCLC,
It is truly an honor and privilege to have been selected to serve as the President & Executive Director of the Blind Children's Learning Center. I look forward to leading the organization into its next phase of strategic growth and increasing BCLC's longstanding impact in our community.
Prior to joining BCLC, I was the Interim Executive Director at Global Genes, a rare disease patient advocacy organization where I oversaw significant organizational growth and the transition of executive leadership. Managing rapid growth in a global non-profit in the health care and technology sector has prepared me for my new role here at BCLC. These experiences will translate well to the community we serve and the staff that provides these services.
During my first few weeks at BCLC, I have had the opportunity to attend graduation, conduct an in depth planning session with the leadership team, engage with our very dedicated board members, meet some of our amazing families and students, and get to know several of our long-time supporters. Through these interactions, I am being informed about the rich history BCLC has had in our community and how we are going to be able to continue to support families with children who are visually impaired as the landscape of our community's needs and health care evolves.
Without the tireless support of our donors, board, volunteers and amazing staff since our founding 57 years ago, BCLC would not have been able to sustain the essential services we provide the community. I am grateful for that support and look forward to building-alongside you-this amazing organization to a "best in class" service provider for children with visual impairments in Orange County.
I am looking forward to a wonderful journey, growing and expanding our programs, funding, reach, and services to our children and families. Together we will continue to prepare children with visual impairments for a life of independence through early intervention, education and family support, with greater impact.
Blind Children's Learning Center
That’s when Analyse and Luciana began receiving services in the Global Infant Development program of BCLC. The Center works with the twins and their entire family in their home to reach key milestones. Infant Specialist Nancy exposes the girls to specialized techniques and equipment that maximize functional vision. For this busy family of six, “Receiving services in the home is huge. The girls have so many appointments, I’m not sure we could make them all,” says Fernando.
One year into the program, BCLC’s knowledgeable therapists and specialists have helped the girls make significant gains. “I can tell their vision has really improved,” shares Fernando. “Now when I blow the girls a kiss good night, they blow kisses back.”
The Low Vision Clinic at Blind Children’s Learning Center operates as a partnership with the Southern California School of Optometry at Marshall B. Ketchum University . Associate Professor Catherine Heyman, O.D. operates the clinic and shared its origins, evolving purpose, and what visual impairments look like today.
Blind Children’s Learning Center: How did this collaboration begin?
Dr. Catherine Heyman: It began with Elizabeth Caloroso, OD in the early 1990s. She believed children with visual impairments were written off far too often, but that eye examinations and intervention could improve visual processing and efficiency skills.
BCLC: How do children benefit from the Low Vision Clinic ?
CH: Our goal is for children to have as much functional vision as possible, but we can’t achieve that without early intervention. We saw a baby years ago who was initially diagnosed as completely blind, but our exam detected some visual function. With the proper support, he is now a high school student capable of visually processing his environment.
BCLC: How is the Low Vision Clinic utilized as a training facility?
CH: Residents extend their training by one year to specialize in treating children. Residents specifically seek out the Low Vision Clinic at BCLC since experience with this unique population is difficult to find.
BCLC: Have visual impairments changed in the last 25 years?
CH: Yes. Medicine makes it possible to save more premature babies, but they have more complex needs, including vision. Twenty-five years ago, detached retinas were a leading cause of blindness in babies. Improved treatment has
changed that. We are now more likely to see diagnoses like Cortical Visual Impairment, which involves damaged pathways between the eye and the brain. In this case, the visual impairment is not caused by the eye itself, but rather how the brain and eyes communicate.
BCLC: How has the clinic’s purpose evolved?
CH: There is more collaboration. In the Low Vision Clinic, we are the first ones looking at the rehabilitative aspect of a child’s visual impairment. Then, a team of experts work directly with the child to provide direct services and implement recommendations.
Team Taylor Medwig has walked for 15 years in honor of Taylor, who sadly passed away in 2009 at age four from a rare neurological disorder. The team has set an ambitious goal this year of raising $15,000 to honor what would have been Taylor's 15th birthday and the 15th anniversary of the Walk. With $12,482 raised to date, they are currently at the top of our Leaderboard!
"We learned from Taylor that the road less traveled is lined with extraordinary people who can ease your load and help shine a light on the path ahead. These guardian angels include the amazing team at Blind Children's Learning Center,"writes her mother Heather on her walk page.
We're so grateful for the love and energy this team has poured into the Walk over the years in honor of Taylor. You can shine a light for children who are blind and visually impaired by walking on May 4.
P.S. Online registration closes on Friday, May 3 at noon PDT.
They are both mini and mighty: two of the biggest Walk teams for the 15th Annual Destination Independence 5K Walk on May 4 are from BCLC's Infant and Toddler Classrooms.
Led by their passionate teachers, "Baby Got Track" (22 members) and "Team Jedi" (23 members) are excited to participate and connect with the greater BCLC community.
Infant Teacher Jessica Medina writes on her Walk Page, "At our Center, any milestone, big or small, is celebrated and encouraged!"
Assistant Teacher Tiffany Hoang adds, "It is incredibly humbling to watch children who struggle with impairments take steps towards independence, and observe human dignity being restored, things many of us take for granted."
You can help these amazing young students and their families continue to build a strong foundation by walking with them on May 4!
More Walk Inspiration from Team Jedi:
"I have seen my students start from the ground up, from being the shyest student in the class to being the biggest bundle of goof you have ever seen, from barely able to roll over to running everywhere without assistance. It's amazing to see what children can accomplish given the chance and the support."
-Viviana Abundis, Toddler Teacher and Team Jedi Captain
His doctors said he would only live a few hours. Now, Jayden is thriving.
“We thought our time together would be so limited. I just wanted to be with him,” remembers Diana, Jayden’s mother. “Everything after those first few hours has been a blessing.”
Jayden’s entire family felt in their hearts that he was going to make it, but the high risk factors during pregnancy were daunting. He was born premature with hydrocephalus, which required emergency surgery to remove fluid from the left side of his brain. Thankfully, Jayden pulled through.
Babies with visual impairments are at significant risk of developmental delays. Sure enough, Jayden’s severe visual impairment in both eyes presented immediate obstacles. Without specialized early intervention services, he may never meet critical milestones like communicating, walking, or learning to his full potential.
At five months of age, Jayden and his family began services with Blind Children’s Learning Center. Infant Specialist Alicia works with Jayden in his home setting every week. “I love Jayden, and he’s come so far in such a short period of time,” she said. “We work with textured materials and technology so Jayden can meet every milestone and goal in front of him.”
The Global Infant Development program nurtures Jayden’s development and teaches parents how to interact and bond with their child. Like many children with little or no vision, Jayden initially struggled to engage with the world around him. Diana recalls, “Alicia patiently builds up Jayden’s skills and teaches us how to do the same when she isn’t there. He’s learning so much faster now.”
Excited to connect with the BCLC community, Jayden's family was the very first team to register for the Destination Independence 5K Walk on May 4, 2019. You can encourage this amazing family by signing up for the Walk today to make sure more babies like Jayden receive vital services!
Learning that your child is blind or severely visually impaired can feel earthshattering. Parents feel hopeless. They fear that every dream they had for their child is now out of reach. But the truth is that blindness only creates hopelessness when we do nothing.
Visual impairments create significant challenges early in life, but a young child’s ability to overcome is limitless with the right support.
Elijah just began his journey at Blind Children’s Learning Center. Your chance to create a future without limits for Elijah is now.
An adaptive learning environment and comprehensive therapy services will meet Elijah’s unique needs and give him the best chance of building a strong foundation for independence. Elijah is a happy and fearless young boy. He is excited to explore multi-sensory learning materials in the classroom. As he receives physical therapy to steadily gain the strength and confidence to walk independently, he giggles each time he falls. Every step of persevering brings Elijah joy.
Elijah and so many other young children need your help! Please give to help children like Elijah walk, communicate, play, gain literacy, and so much more.
We need your help raise $165,000 by December 31, and we are well on our way to meeting that goal to support our children.
Every day counts for our children, and every dollar you give matters. Please give the “Gift of Independence" today so that children with visual impairments can rise to every challenge.
I stayed determined. A few weeks ago, I graduated from high school, and you helped make that possible! I can’t wait to study voice and musical theater at college beginning this fall.
Friends I made back in preschool are still my friends today. When I sing the National Anthem each year at the Destination Independence 5K Walk, I meet current BCLC students and think about the lifelong friends they are making. I also think about their dreams and all the support they will need to achieve them.
I dream of singing on Broadway and producing my own shows. My friends have dreams of their own. People like you gave each of us the confidence to overcome obstacles and succeed in school.
I’m grateful to everyone who invested in my future. Thank you for making sure I could dream.
You can give hundreds of children served through Blind Children’s Learning Center the same opportunity to dream by donating today.
We can do much when you believe in us.
Thank you for helping us raise more than $163,000 to support our children!
We thank this year's walkers, sponsors, fundraisers, and volunteers for making the 14th Annual Destination Independence 5K Walk our biggest yet!
Because of you, children who are blind and visually impaired will continue to meet their potential and live life to the fullest.
Over 80% of early learning is driven by vision. Every time a child triumphs over an obstacle caused by their visual impairment, it will be because we all worked together to create Destination -> Independence.
Couldn't make it but still want to support the journey to independence? You can donate to the 14th Annual Destination 5K Walk through June 30, 2018.
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