There are some things in life you take for granted, and your sight is one of them. I am fortunate to have been blessed with amazing eyesight from birth, so I’ve never known the struggle of impaired vision, sudden vision problems or even total blindness. But that is not the reality for the over 25.5 million Americans age 18 or older who have experienced vision loss, according to the American Foundation for the Blind. Working for DirectEmployers has given me the unique position to learn more about these individuals, hear their stories and champion their progress and I couldn’t be prouder of the support our association has provided from not only an employment perspective but monetarily as well.
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend Indianapolis-based nonprofit Bosma Enterprises’ annual Thomas C. Hasbrook Award Luncheon, which celebrates the accomplishments of the people who help make our community great. Having been around for over 100 years, Bosma and its amazing team have helped countless adult Hoosiers who are blind or visually impaired gain the life skills they need to remain independent, and the job skills they need to stay self-sufficient. The luncheon kicked off with a few words from product employee, Tyra Whickum, and then keynote and 2015 Indiana Teacher of the Year, Kathy Nimmer. Through wit and life experience, Kathy shared her vision of a what a world would look like if everyone were blind, noting with some comic relief about her time at the White House meeting President Barack Obama and the fact that her now-retired service dog was a Republican. She drove home the point during her speech that if the world were blind there would be more careful, thoughtful listening. She later was presented with an award for her extraordinary efforts to change minds about the abilities of people with disabilities.
Later a Vision Award was presented to Representative Susan Brooks for going above and beyond to support Bosma Enterprises and Hoosiers who are blind. It was noted that this award has only been given twice and is a very special honor given to a select few. Arvetta Jideonwo, Executive Director of Bosma Visionary Opportunities Foundation, took the stage to then announce this year’s Community Partner Award, an award that DirectEmployers was the recipient of. Executive Director, Candee Chambers, humbly accepted the award after a short video was played featuring Candee and Shannon Offord, VP of Strategic Partnerships and Alliances. Not only has DirectEmployers been a long-time partner of Bosma, our Association also supports their efforts and has connected them with countless Indianapolis-based employers to better serve the community.
Bosma later presented their final award of the day, the Employee of the Year award, the Thomas C. Hasbrook Award, given to a role model who is breaking down barriers throughout history and has dedicated his life to helping others see better. The award recipient was announced as Bert Wilhoite, a man who truly embodies the true spirit of Thomas C. Hasbrook–a gentleman who lost his sight during WWII and went on to later serve as deputy mayor of Indianapolis and on several nonprofit boards, including Bosma Enterprises.
Bosma continually promotes making the world a better place for people who are blind and/or visually impaired–even noting that a $50 donation is enough to buy a white cane that is not only a needed tool, but a sign of independence for those with vision impairments. Last year aloe, this amazing organization was able to serve nearly 800 Hoosiers, teaching them how to live their lives without vision. The training programs themselves run at over a $2M deficit each year and the gap is made up partly through generous sponsors and partners like DirectEmployers. Long story short–this organization has not only opened my eyes to the trials of the visually impaired, but also shown me that kindness, generosity and determination go a long way in life and for that, I’m thankful.
To learn more about Bosma Enterprises, their mission and the people they serve or donate to their organization, visit https://www.bosma.org.
Jaime Costilow is the Director of Marketing for DirectEmployers Association.