Becky Churnside, principal of Heroes Elementary School in Santa Ana, had just returned from summer break and was reviewing student files in preparation for the school year. As she read through the enrollment forms, she encountered something she’d never before seen in her 30-year educational career — one of the school’s new students was blind.
Becky knew that 6-year-old Milagro (Spanish for miracle), who had recently emigrated from El Salvador with her family, would need special services and assistance. She needed to act quickly to ensure Milagro would be set up for success with just two weeks left before school started.
A quick Google search led her to Beyond Blindness (formerly Blind Children’s Learning Center) in Santa Ana, which rang a bell for Becky, as she’d grown up just down the street from the facility. She reached out and Beyond Blindness’ Director of Strategy and Innovation, Meredith Cagle, answered the call.
“I can’t speak enough praise about Meredith and the entire Beyond Blindness team,” says Becky. “They immediately went into action for Milagro, understanding how best to work with the child, the family, the school and the district.”
Working together, Becky and Meredith coordinated a site visit for Milagro and her family at Beyond Blindness and an on-site exam via Ketchum's Low Vision Optometry Clinic within 48 hours. They supplied her with a white cane, as she’d left hers behind in El Salvador, and also enrolled her in Beyond Blindness’ summer enrichment camp for children with visual impairments and other disabilities, which Milagro attended on scholarship over the next two weeks. As Milagro didn’t have transportation, Becky called upon another Heroes Elementary family to drive Milagro to and from camp, and that family’s sighted children were also welcomed into the camp free of charge.
Thanks to Becky’s quick and determined action and Beyond Blindness’ expertise in working with school districts, children and families to build bright futures for children no matter their abilities, Milagro is now enjoying her TK class at Heroes Elementary and receiving services from both the district as well as Beyond Blindness.
“Milagro’s sparkling, feisty personality is emerging in the classroom and it’s wonderful to see,” says Becky. “The experience with Beyond Blindness has been a game-changer. I’m so thankful that they welcomed Milagro and her family into their ‘family.’”
With her background in social services and in working with children and adults with multiple disabilities, Mackenzie Bello knew something wasn’t quite right with her infant son, Ethan. At three months old, his eyes weren’t tracking any objects, which she knew was an important developmental milestone. She made an appointment at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles where, after an examination and testing, the doctors determined that Ethan was blind with retinal detachment in both eyes.
“My resilience gear kicked in immediately,” says Mackenzie. “I began to look for vision resources for him and didn’t find many, which is why I was so thankful when the Regional Center of Orange County referred me to Beyond Blindness. They offered all the therapies he needed, and I knew immediately that there was a place for him in this world."
It was very important for Mackenzie that Ethan “not be enabled or set back in any way.” Even before he was born, Mackenzie had high expectations for Ethan and remained confident that he could achieve anything he set out to do.
The road wasn’t easy at the beginning. One year-old Ethan came to Beyond Blindness hesitant, resistant, not moving and nonverbal with clenched, close fists. He hadn’t hit any of his developmental milestones and couldn’t yet sit up or roll over. But, that first day, the teachers at Beyond Blindness got Ethan to sit in a chair for his bottle — a big first step.
It was then that Mackenzie knew the team at Beyond Blindness shared her vision for Ethan, that they were completely dedicated to his development and to building a bright future for him, in collaboration with her, their family and his team of doctors.
“A world opened up for us at Beyond Blindness,” she says. “The staff is so supportive and informative and treats Ethan with the confidence that he can do things and master new skills. And meeting other families and being part of a community has been so valuable.”
Now, one year later, Ethan can sit, rollover and stand. He likes playing with sensory toys, when before he would swat away anything within range. He has become more socialized, can regulate his emotions, and is getting ready to celebrate his second birthday with his Beyond Blindness classmates. He and his mom can go on outings together and enjoy them and Mackenzie feels she understands her son and is even more connected to him.
“I’m so excited for Ethan’s future,” says Mackenzie. “Seeing alumni from Beyond Blindness achieve successful and happy futures has been so inspiring and lets me know that anything is possible for Ethan. I wanted to find a place and people who would cheer Ethan on with me, that would let him know the sky’s the limit. I’ve found that at Beyond Blindness."
Support more kids like Ethan today with a one-time gift, or join the new Support Squad for your next twelve gifts to be DOUBLED!
Beyond Blindness receives grant from STAAR Surgical to help transform the lives of children with visual impairments and other disabilities
The donation made will help to support and expand the organization’s available programs and services
SANTA ANA, Calif., (September XX, 2021) – Beyond Blindness, formerly known as Blind Children’s Learning Center, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to prepare children with visual impairments and other disabilities to live full and rewarding lives, has received a grant from STAAR Surgical, a leading ophthalmology company that designs, develops, manufactures and markets implantable lenses for the eye with companion delivery systems. STAAR Surgical’s grant was given in support of the core services of Beyond Blindness including Early Intervention, Education and Enrichment, and Family Support.
“The Beyond Blindness team is very grateful for the generosity and support of STAAR Surgical,” says Angie Rowe, Beyond Blindness President and Executive Director. “As we continue to push through the pandemic, the services we provide have become more crucial than ever before. Because of this grant, we will be able to reach even more children and families in need of these essential programs.”
The funding provided by STAAR Surgical will support Beyond Blindness’ Early Intervention, Education and Enrichment, and Family Support services, providing the necessary education, therapies, and support throughout each family’s entire journey of care. Beyond Blindness serves clients ages 0-22 in addition to their families who are given access to various resources through the three core areas of service.
STAAR Surgical has embraced the mission of Beyond Blindness. Caren Mason, President and CEO of STAAR Surgical, currently serves on Beyond Blindness’ Ophthalmic Advisory board, which is comprised of top medical and ophthalmic professionals.
“While serving on the Ophthalmic Board for Beyond Blindness, I’ve seen first-hand how instrumental Beyond Blindness’ services are to the families it serves,” stated Caren Mason, President and CEO of STAAR Surgical. “The wonderful work of Beyond Blindness is why we at STAAR Surgical felt compelled to provide a grant. We know Beyond Blindness is positively impacting its clients’ lives, and we feel fortunate to contribute.”
Beyond Blindness remains a key resource in serving families and children with visual impairments and other disabilities through its Early Intervention, Education and Enrichment, and Family Support services. STAAR Surgical’s donation will facilitate the work of Beyond Blindness in providing care to over 300 families as Beyond Blindness expands its reach in Orange County.
More About Beyond Blindness
Beyond Blindness, formerly Blind Children’s Learning Center, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with the mission to empower children with visual impairments and other disabilities to achieve their fullest potential. Areas of service include Early Intervention, Education + Enrichment, and Family Support, which all aim to help children, no matter their abilities, live full and rewarding lives. The Beyond Blindness team embraces a people-first approach and values family, connection, impact, inclusion, stewardship, and optimism. For more information, please visit https://www.beyondblindness.org/
More About STAAR Surgical
STAAR, which has been dedicated solely to ophthalmic surgery for over 30 years, designs, develops, manufactures and markets implantable lenses for the eye with companion delivery systems. These lenses are intended to provide visual freedom for patients, lessening or eliminating the reliance on glasses or contact lenses. All of these lenses are foldable, which permits the surgeon to insert them through a small incision. STAAR’s lens used in refractive surgery is called an Implantable Collamer® Lens or “ICL”, which includes the EVO Visian ICL™ product line. More than 1,000,000 Visian® ICLs have been implanted to date and STAAR markets these lenses in over 75 countries. To learn more about the ICL go to: www.discovericl.com. Headquartered in Lake Forest, CA, the company operates manufacturing and packaging facilities in Aliso Viejo, CA, Monrovia, CA and Nidau, Switzerland. For more information, please visit the Company’s website at www.staar.com.
Each one is unique, but families often share the same emotions shortly before their arrival: hopelessness, fear, and confusion. “Maddie was missing all her milestones. What services would she need?” remembers her mom, Michelle. “Has anyone else gone through this? What are all these acronyms? Who can help us?”
Other parents like Chris recall neighborhood kids developing so much faster than his daughter, Sabrina. “It felt so unfair.”
Swirling emotions began for Kristin well before she learned of her son’s visual impairment. While pregnant, genetic testing confirmed Charlie shared the same rare diagnosis that proved fatal to her late brother. “Oddly, I felt hopeful because at least I had a diagnosis and treatment options.” That was before Charlie flatlined for 30 minutes during surgery and brought Kristin to her knees. “The ensuing damage left Charlie with a visual impairment and needs much greater than we had planned.”
Every child and family face different circumstances, but you can help them find the same thing at BCLC – hope for a brighter future.
Relief washed over Kristin when BCLC specialists sat down and listened to her articulate Charlie’s needs before developing a care plan. “Other places didn’t give me the chance to share that. I went from being terrified he would be left behind, to knowing Charlie would be included in everything.” With an action plan in place, Charlie, Sabrina, and Maddie could each begin a journey of their own towards a happier tomorrow:
Tickets are going fast for Vision Beyond Sight, a dining in the dark experience featuring Kodi Lee.
The most unique dining experience in Orange County is back. Vision Beyond Sight, a dining in the dark experience, will unite business elites, community members and BCLC supporters at Marconi Automotive Museum in Tustin, CA on February 27, 2020.
This year's event features a musical performance by the remarkable Kodi Lee, BCLC Alum and America's Got Talent Champion. Vision Beyond Sight is an immersive evening that provides a glimpse of what a child who is blind or visually impaired experiences every day while illuminating a hopeful path forward. By dining together, we create hope for hundreds of children who are blind and visually impaired and their families!
Marconi Automotive Museum
1302 Industrial Dr, Tustin, CA
5:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Immersive lights out dinner
Blind wine tasting
Musical performance by Kodi Lee
In the Community
This past month, Blind Children's Learning Center was honored to receive a multi-year pledge from the Pacific Life Foundation. The foundation and the Pacific Life Good Guys continue to enable our children and families to overcome barriers posed by visual impairments and other disabilities.
The Center is grateful to receive recent support from the following institutional partners:
O.L. Halsell Foundation – early intervention services and family counseling
The Sunshine Foundation – early intervention services and family counseling
Wallace Air Cargo Group – general operating support
Crean Foundation – general operating support
Thanking our 2020 Vision Beyond Sight Sponsors
The Thompson Family Foundation
You are cordially invited to Blind Children's Learning Center's third annual Vision Beyond Sight, a dining in the dark experience.
Featuring a musical performance from Kodi Lee,
America's Got Talent 2019 Champion and Blind Children's Learning Center Alum
Thursday, February 27, 2020
5:30 pm to 8:30 pm*
Due to high demand for this event, we highly encourage a prompt RSVP.
The third annual Vision Beyond Sight is an immersive evening that provides a glimpse of what a child who is blind or visually impaired experiences every day while illuminating a hopeful path forward. By dining together, we create hope for hundreds of children who are blind and visually impaired and their families!
Marconi Automotive Museum
1302 Industrial Dr, Tustin, CA
Enjoy the stunning $30 million classic car collection!
5:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Dinner begins at 6:30 pm
Immersive lights out dinner
Blind wine tasting
Tickets: $150 each
February 18, 2020, or until maximum capacity is met.
*VIP Reception, Meet-and-Greet Opportunity with Kodi Lee at 5pm
Ticketed guests who have contributed $5,000 and above since July 1, 2029, and everyone who fulfills a new pledge of $5,000 or above by the time of event check-in will receive two tickets for this exclusive opportunity. Please contact email@example.com for details.
Thank you to our Vision Beyond Sight 2020 sponsors!
The Thompson Family Foundation
The Konopisos Family
Sponsorship opportunities still available.
Please contact Kevin Fuhrmann, Director of Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (714) 573-8888 ext. 4122.
Thanks to you, we exceeded our holiday giving goal by raising over $130,000!
Thanks to supporters like you, all three of the Jaber children are living life to the fullest. This remarkable family credits Blind Children's Learning Center for giving their three children with visual impairments a strong start in life.
The parents never thought their three children would do activities like skiing, swimming and traveling, but thanks to the strong foundation they gained at Blind Children's Learning Center, they can!
“We’ve been strong. With the support we’ve had here, everything is possible."
-Omar Jaber, father
Your Holiday Gift Strengthens
Children and Families All Year Long!
- In-home intervention for newly-diagnosed babies and toddlers
- One-on-one instruction in Braille and Mobility training
- Occupational therapy to solve day-to-day problems
- Speech and language pathology to expand communication skills
- Physical therapy to increase balance and strength
- Counseling services for the whole family to build resilience and hope
You are helping families like the Jabers to overcome the obstacles of vision loss and build full, happy lives. Your gift provides practical tools and a specialized education so every family can #seestrong.
This holiday season, we hope to raise $100,000 so we can give more children with visual impairments the ability to persevere and thrive.
Throughout December, we will be sharing lots of inspiring stories of how our families #seestrong because of your generous support.
Thank you for making #GivingTuesday a success and for helping families be STRONG!
Free Holiday Event Thursday, November 21
Special Holiday Performance
The American Pacific Ballet Company
performing songs and pieces from Frozen!
November 21, 2019
Hosted at Blind Children's Learning Center
18542 Vanderlip Ave Ste B, Santa Ana, CA 92705
Your entire family is welcome to join us for this special evening which includes a full Thanksgiving dinner and dance performance.
Space is limited. Please RSVP by November 15, 2019
RSVP by replying to this email or texting Dalit Bruchstein at (714) 642-7057
with the size of your party.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.