Lighthouse clients were treated to an interactive music demonstration by Dancing Dots Braille Music Technology to show how they can create professional-sounding music using a computer and software like Cakewalk SONAR. Cakewalk converts a computer into a multi-track, digital audio recording studio, which enables visually impaired people to record music from their electronic musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) keyboard attached to a computer.
Bill McCann, a blind musician and owner of Dancing Dots, demonstrated to a group of clients how easy it is to build a musical production. He illustrated the process used to convert printed music into Braille notations and the features for synchronizing the scrolling of Braille and print notation together with musical cues and verbal description.
“This technology is fascinating and gives clients the ability to express themselves through music, giving them hope to pursue musical careers. Many of our clients have found opportunities to perform around town based on the fact that they have a place like Miami Lighthouse to practice,” says Lighthouse music director, Harold Cobo.
In a tribute to blind musicians, last year Lighthouse instructors and clients produced two CDs with the help of legendary music producer Henry Stone, who is also a Lighthouse client. The first CD, Instrumental Magic, features the music of Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Jose Feliciano performed by blind saxophonist and Lighthouse instructor Jeff Zavac. The second CD Vocal Magic, features music performed and recorded by Lighthouse clients. On May 30, 2007, the Lighthouse will officially open the Henry & Inez Sound Studio equipped with state-of-the-art music equipment that will turn Lighthouse musicians into stars!
Diamond Jubilee Gala For Miami
Lighthouse For The Blind Glitters With Memories Of Bygone Days
Recalling the tropical splendor of Miami in the 1930s, the Diamond Jubilee Gala of Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired held recently at the Biltmore Hotel captivated attendees with awe and admiration for the agency’s history of achievement. Close to 400 guests enjoyed the magical evening and raised more than $450,000.
The evening’s highlights included a video recalling significant moments of the organization’s 75 year history. Mistress of Ceremonies Judge Marilyn Milián of The People’s Court and Grammy Award-winning artist José Feliciano delighted the crowd with a combination of music, moxie, and name-dropping. Mr. Feliciano, a longtime supporter and advocate of the Lighthouse, performed a 45-minute cabaret-style program. He also thanked the organization for translating his lyrics to Braille for many years.
“We are so grateful to our key sponsors Mellon Financial Corporation and BlueCross BlueShield, to our extraordinarily hard-working event chairs Alvaro and Jacqueline Cabrera, and to the gala committee that helped create such a wonderful evening,” said Lighthouse CEO Virginia Jacko. “It was a fitting celebration of the hope and independence that the Lighthouse has contributed to this community for 75 years.”
The star-studded evening featured a dramatic black, silver and white color scheme. Column lighting, silver garlands and crystalline faceted pendants helped create a moonlit effect. Iridescent fabrics, black organza and white flower arrangements added to the celebratory mood.
The Miami Lighthouse, the oldest agency serving the blind in the state and one of the oldest non-profits in Miami-Dade, also recognized the contributions of several pillars of the community that evening. The law firm of Shutts & Bowen, and the Miami Rotary and Lions Clubs were recognized for 75 years of continuous support. Members of the Rotary and Lions Clubs have been active in the Lighthouse since their members comprised its founding Board of Directors. Inventor Ted Hentor was recognized for masterminding the JAWS for Windows software that reads computer screens aloud.
Health Foundation of South Florida, whose grants to the agency total in excess of $2 million, was lauded for being the single largest contributor to the Lighthouse mission, while Bascom Palmer Eye Institute was honored for its collaboration on health programs benefiting the community.
Miami Lighthouse for
the Blind and Visually Impaired is recognized as one of the nation’s
leading providers of comprehensive social support, rehabilitation services
and training to blind people of all ages, giving them hope, confidence and
independence. Since its founding in 1931, Miami Lighthouse has provided
these services and many innovative programs at no cost through the
generosity of its supporters.
About 20 Students From the
Miami Lighthouse For The Blind And Visually Impaired received
certificates, hats and gold balls for their participation in a golf clinic
at the Country Club of Miami. The Miami Lighthouse is working to expand
its programs for blind golfers. During his first golf lesson, Jeremiah Williams-Skil hit
the ball 30 yards in the air. He didn't see where it landed. He is blind. The spirited Williams-Skil, who also has cerebral palsy,
tries not to let his challenges get him down. Rather than use a golf cart,
he walked the 400-yard fairway. ''I just take it one day at a time and try not to
worry,'' Williams-Skil said. ``The good things about it is I can speak and
hear and I'm very educated on the drums.'' Williams-Skil was one of 20 blind or near-blind students
who played in a golf clinic at the county's Country Club of Miami on June
19. On Monday, the children and young adults received
certificates, hats and golf balls at an awards ceremony held at the Miami
Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Little Havana. Williams-Skil, 21, exuded confidence as he talked about
his experience and let it be known that he wants to golf again and
eventually play in a tournament. ''This was my first time doing a golf clinic,'' said
Williams-Skil, a Liberty City resident. ``I don't know exactly how to play
golf, but I know how to swing.'' Larry Levow, teaching pro at Country Club of Miami,
presented the certificates. This is the third year in a row he and his
wife Heather Levow have taught the golf clinic. Heather Levow said the beauty of golf is that anyone can
learn, albeit there are special challenges involved with teaching golfers
who can't see. ''You can't say look at me or do as I do,'' said Heather
Levow, who teaches at Gleneagles Country Club in Delray Beach. ``You put
the club in their hands and make them repeat and feel it.'' When a blind person hits the ball solidly, they know by
the feel and sound of the whack. Larry Levow said one way a blind person
can judge whether they are swinging well is by the feel of the weight of
the club. Virginia Jacko, president and CEO of the Miami
Lighthouse, hit a golf ball 150 yards during the clinic in Northwest
Miami-Dade. She, too, is blind. ''The beauty of golf is the ball isn't moving, so if you
line up and follow through properly, you are able to do it,'' Jacko said.
``The most important thing is to develop a natural swing.'' Jacko lost her sight gradually from the degenerative eye
disease, retinitis pigmentosa. She stopped driving a car in 1995 and lost
her last bit of sight in 2001 while a Miami Lighthouse client. Now she's
on a mission to spread the word that there is a full life after blindness. ''So many blind people just stay at home and feel that
their world has ended because they don't know that there is a life,''
Jacko said. Founded in 1931 by Dolly Gamble with the support of
Helen Keller, the Miami Lighthouse teaches the sightless to live
independent lives. Some of the tasks it teaches are personal hygiene,
nutrition and cooking, how to walk down the street, take public
transportation, and to use a computer. A big part of the program is
teaching children to be ready for school. Clients range in age from birth
to 103 years old. About one quarter of the Miami Lighthouse's funding is
from the Florida Division of Blind Services. The remaining money comes
from private contributions and grants. ''My personal motto is a blind person can do anything a
sighted person does; they just have to learn to do it differently,'' Jacko
said. There are plans for a golf tournament next year to
benefit the Miami Lighthouse and for a regular golf program for Miami
Lighthouse students. Country Club of Miami Golf Division Assistant Program
Director Steve Lucius said he is eager to host more blind golfing events
at the course. ''From County Club's standpoint, we want to grow this.
We want to make our facilities available,'' Lucius said.
About 20 Students From the Miami Lighthouse For The Blind And Visually Impaired received certificates, hats and gold balls for their participation in a golf clinic at the Country Club of Miami. The Miami Lighthouse is working to expand its programs for blind golfers.
During his first golf lesson, Jeremiah Williams-Skil hit the ball 30 yards in the air.
He didn't see where it landed.
He is blind.
The spirited Williams-Skil, who also has cerebral palsy, tries not to let his challenges get him down. Rather than use a golf cart, he walked the 400-yard fairway.
''I just take it one day at a time and try not to worry,'' Williams-Skil said. ``The good things about it is I can speak and hear and I'm very educated on the drums.''
Williams-Skil was one of 20 blind or near-blind students who played in a golf clinic at the county's Country Club of Miami on June 19.
On Monday, the children and young adults received certificates, hats and golf balls at an awards ceremony held at the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Little Havana.
Williams-Skil, 21, exuded confidence as he talked about his experience and let it be known that he wants to golf again and eventually play in a tournament.
''This was my first time doing a golf clinic,'' said Williams-Skil, a Liberty City resident. ``I don't know exactly how to play golf, but I know how to swing.''
Larry Levow, teaching pro at Country Club of Miami, presented the certificates. This is the third year in a row he and his wife Heather Levow have taught the golf clinic.
Heather Levow said the beauty of golf is that anyone can learn, albeit there are special challenges involved with teaching golfers who can't see.
''You can't say look at me or do as I do,'' said Heather Levow, who teaches at Gleneagles Country Club in Delray Beach. ``You put the club in their hands and make them repeat and feel it.''
When a blind person hits the ball solidly, they know by the feel and sound of the whack. Larry Levow said one way a blind person can judge whether they are swinging well is by the feel of the weight of the club.
Virginia Jacko, president and CEO of the Miami Lighthouse, hit a golf ball 150 yards during the clinic in Northwest Miami-Dade. She, too, is blind.
''The beauty of golf is the ball isn't moving, so if you line up and follow through properly, you are able to do it,'' Jacko said. ``The most important thing is to develop a natural swing.''
Jacko lost her sight gradually from the degenerative eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa. She stopped driving a car in 1995 and lost her last bit of sight in 2001 while a Miami Lighthouse client. Now she's on a mission to spread the word that there is a full life after blindness.
''So many blind people just stay at home and feel that their world has ended because they don't know that there is a life,'' Jacko said.
Founded in 1931 by Dolly Gamble with the support of Helen Keller, the Miami Lighthouse teaches the sightless to live independent lives. Some of the tasks it teaches are personal hygiene, nutrition and cooking, how to walk down the street, take public transportation, and to use a computer. A big part of the program is teaching children to be ready for school. Clients range in age from birth to 103 years old.
About one quarter of the Miami Lighthouse's funding is from the Florida Division of Blind Services. The remaining money comes from private contributions and grants.
''My personal motto is a blind person can do anything a sighted person does; they just have to learn to do it differently,'' Jacko said.
There are plans for a golf tournament next year to benefit the Miami Lighthouse and for a regular golf program for Miami Lighthouse students. Country Club of Miami Golf Division Assistant Program Director Steve Lucius said he is eager to host more blind golfing events at the course.
''From County Club's standpoint, we want to grow this. We want to make our facilities available,'' Lucius said.
Visionary Workout: strength training helps the visually impaired stay
on their feet
The gym at the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired is not the kind of place you'd find Lost hunk Josh Holloway on the elliptical flinging sweat.
But, for those using it, it may be the most valuable room in the world.
This is where people like Claire Anderson, blind since a stroke damaged her optic nerve last August, work out under the guidance of volunteer personal trainers Joe Castillo and Brian Singer.
''A blind person should learn the correct way to strengthen the body so that they can be more capable of self mobility,'' said Henry Trattler of Baptist Center for Excellence in Eye Care and the team ophthalmologist for the Miami Heat. ``This is critical for them.''
Trattler offers an example. ``You see someone walking with a cane. They use their feet to feel the differences in levels of walking. But they have to be strong enough to bump into something and not immediately fall down.''
Teaching the visually impaired the basics of strength training should be ''a global concept,'' he says.
Global has come to the Lighthouse, now celebrating its 75th year helping the blind.
''We're trying to give them the tools to feel independent; balance is a big issue with the blind,'' Castillo says.
Just ask Virginia Jacko, the not-for-profit organization's blind CEO. She was doing fine one day not long ago until five steps sprouted in her path. Jacko, her vision stolen in 1995 by the eye disease retinitis pigmentosa, was a prime candidate to take the plunge.
''I remember clearly going to my sister's apartment; it was a new place to me, I didn't have my guard dog and I didn't know there were five steps,'' she said.
As she stepped forward she lost her footing but managed to use her body's core strength -- stomach muscles, agile legs -- to execute some fancy footwork to remain erect.
'My sister said, `You danced down those steps!' I had enough balance that I didn't fall over.''
Jacko credits working out with saving her from what could have been a nasty spill.
Jacko also credits the workouts with her positive attitude.
After losing her sight and leaving her job as director of affairs for Purdue University in Indiana, Jacko went to the Miami Lighthouse as a client in 2001, at her daughter's urging. At the time it was like many facilities around the nation caring for the blind, ''a typical place'' that ``will teach a blind person how to put toothpaste on a toothbrush, how to prepare food safely, walk down the street, ride the metro as a blind person -- none incorporate fitness.''
Five years ago, a volunteer took a handful of clients to a spinning class at Miami Jewish Community Center in Kendall. Jacko's reaction: ``Wow! A blind person can have fitness classes!''
She became hooked.
``For blind people, balance and strength and awareness of body will improve the quality of life. Guide dogs work on the left side, your shoulder drops-- that's 90 pounds always pulling on my left side. By going to the gym you are focusing on posture, balance.''
Trainers at the Lighthouse work with simple equipment such as resistance bands, fitness balls and hand, ankle and leg weights. One reason for keeping it simple is the need for students to practice what they learn at home. Few can afford pricey fitness equipment. Resistance bands, at $15 or so, are within the means of most and offer a viable workout.
Training the blind requires constant physical and verbal cues, Castillo said. Touch and placing the body in proper position are part of the training. With the blind, heads tend to droop. Posture is stressed.
''When you get on the bus, when you lift your leg to take that step, if you don't contract your abdominal muscles it will hyper-extend the back,'' Castillo says, citing a common example. ``We are giving these people cues and feedback so they can understand what they are doing and how injuries can be prevented. That's been most challenging.''
The program is proactive, too.
''One of the major causes of blindness we see in our society is diabetes, and one of the things in adult diabetics is that there are not many skinny ones,'' Trattler says. ``The healthier a person can be with weight control, the easier it is for a diabetic to take care of themself.''
Beyond the obvious pluses, the
program can reduce stress.
Anderson, who lives alone with a blind Siamese cat -- ''we're both blind but she's not as well adjusted as I am'' -- relearned the essentials of daily living. With the help of modern advancements, like scanners, computers and even talking bathroom scales, ``Now I can do everything you can do except drive.
''I'm very smart, but Braille . . .,'' she says, bristling, clearly not her favorite activity at the center.
Exercise, however, is a joy. ``Exercise releases endorphins. You feel so much better after exercise. People who are blind have more stress than the average person just getting around from here to there. Eating food off a plate and getting it into your mouth is a challenge regular folks don't have.
``I take Braille [classes] and that makes me cry. Exercise makes me laugh.''
Joe Castillo, a licensed physical therapist, massage therapist, and fitness trainer who created and leads an innovative exercise program for blind and vision-impaired adults, and Brian Singer, a fitness advocate who assists with the program, were honored on April 25 at the annual McCrea Volunteer Luncheon of Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
The Lighthouse exercise classes focus on exercises that can be done with simple, inexpensive items such as Thera-Bands®. "Our clients can easily take the exercises with them when they leave the Lighthouse, then continue improving their well-being and overall health by doing them for the rest of their lives," Castillo said.
Lighthouse CEO Virginia Jacko, the organization's first blind chief executive, conceived of the idea of adding an exercise class to the organization's programs after hiring Castillo as a personal trainer. She and Castillo devised the program, which began in June 2005.
“The blind and the visually impaired are not often taught how to keep their balance, how to maintain their posture, and how to exercise safely without causing injury to themselves," Jacko said. "It takes a toll on their health and well-being if they do no know how to do these things."
Claire Anderson, a member of the exercise class, presented the award to Castillo and Singer. Anderson, a Coconut Grove-based businesswoman, lost her sight suddenly last summer due to an ocular stroke. "It's such a traumatic thing to lose your vision, and exercise helps enormously to relieve the stress," she said. "I'm very grateful to have had the Lighthouse's help and support during this tremendously challenging transition."
"The mission of the Lighthouse is to bring hope, confidence and independence to those in our community who are blind and visually impaired,” said Lighthouse Chairman James Kracht. “This exercise program takes us one step closer to fulfilling the needs of those we serve.” For the first time in the agency’s history, both its board chair and president are blind.
The McCrea Volunteer Luncheon is held each year to recognize and thank the many volunteers who assist at the Lighthouse. It is named after Miami businessman Sloan McCrea and his family, who have supported and volunteered at the Lighthouse through four generations.
Virginia Jacko Honored by Miami Chapter of American Red Cross
2006 Spectrum Award recipients:
Kate Callahan – Rosalind R. Ludwig
Just about every Tuesday morning at 8:30 you can find the new President/CEO of the Lighthouse, Virginia Jacko, out in the lobby with her trusty guide dog, Tracker. Virginia greets the guests who come in to spend an hour with her touring the Lighthouse. As a former client and board member, she brings a unique perspective to conducting the tours.
As she and Tracker navigate through the building leading the tour, Virginia captivates her group with personal stories of being a client and anecdotes of fellow clients, staff members and volunteers. There is a sense of confidence, inspiration and some humor as the group moves in and out of classes and all three floors of the building.
By the time Virginia has concluded the tour, everyone wants to know how they can help the Lighthouse. They are often asked to recommend friends and colleagues for the following Tuesday morning tour. It’s a great way to get to see the Lighthouse and spend time with Virginia.
If you would like to join Virginia and Tracker, please call (305) 856-2288 to schedule your tour.
It has been a long and eventful road for Miami Lighthouse for the Blind since its founding in July 1931. Over the decades, the Lighthouse has evolved, expanded and adjusted its mission to accommodate the needs of its clients. Today, Miami Lighthouse is recognized as one of the nation’s leading providers of comprehensive social support, rehabilitation services and vocational training to blind people of all ages.
Throughout 2006, the Lighthouse will celebrate its Diamond Jubilee with observances and special events, commemorating 75 years of free service to the blind and visually impaired. The anniversary year will culminate with the “Ritz and Glitz” Gala at the historic Biltmore Hotel on Saturday, November 4th. On this magical night, hundreds of South Florida’s most prominent citizens and business leaders will be transported back to the tropical elegance of 1930’s Miami when the Lighthouse first began its mission.
Board member Alvaro M. Cabrera and his wife, Jacqueline, will chair the Gala, which will feature a special musical performance by entertainer José Feliciano. The legendary entertainer and longtime advocate of the Lighthouse will be honored with the Diamond Jubilee President’s Award, alongside Health Foundation of South Florida, recipient of the Chairman’s Award; the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, recipient of the Bascom Palmer Partnership Award, graciously accepted by its Chairman, Carmen A. Puliafito, M.D., M.B.A.; and Ted Henter, recipient of the Technology Innovation Award.
The agency’s first songwriting workshop was a huge success with 30 current and former clients learning how to compose, produce and copyright their own music. Some actually composed and performed original material during the workshop. The event was part of the new Lighthouse Music Program introduced by President/CEO Virginia Jacko.
Paul Hoyle, who studied at the Berkley School of Music and produced several albums, volunteered to teach the workshop and focused on what makes a tune popular and what makes it sell. The musicians in the audience learned about songwriting rules, such as the difference between a chorus and a refrain as well as the all-important “hook.” Hoyle used popular melodies to illustrate his points.
Famed music producer, Henry Stone, talked about making records and copyright issues. Hoyle and Stone both took note of the incredible talent in the room. Client Nancy Martin sang one of her original songs and musician Steven Powley, a student of Harold Cobo, played some of his recordings.
Board Member Al Cabrera and his son, Alex, also attended. The group worked with Alex’s original song, making suggestions to alter the tempo and chords so it sounded more like the blues and then like a jazz piece. All in attendance agreed that another workshop should be scheduled. Mr. Cabrera’s Burger King restaurant provided lunch.
Lighthouse clients can enroll in the program and take classes to enhance their musical talents and explore their untapped musical capabilities. In addition, the Lighthouse offers classes in keyboarding, voice and ear training to define the skills of the musician.
This training program can lead to full or part-time positions in a music-related industry, such as an audio engineer, studio musician or songwriter. Much of the training is centered on MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface). This technology allows electronic musical instruments, such as a keyboard, to communicate with a computer. Using MIDI interface, a blind musician with computer skills can compose, edit, sample and transfer music and lyrics on a desktop computer.
Miami Lighthouse is proud to welcome Alvaro M. “Al” Cabrera as a new member of its Board of Directors. Mr. Cabrera’s inspiring rise to success and life story of overcoming challenges is quite extraordinary.
He opened his first Burger King franchise in 1987 and today his company is the world’s second largest owner in the Burger King system with 249 franchises in six states. He is also President of the National Hispanic Franchise Association. “I have fun at my job and it shows through my interaction with people and in all aspects of operating the business.” Mr. Cabrera said.
A native of Cuba, Mr. Cabrera came to the U.S. as a young child. He has a degree in Finance from the University of Florida and an MBA from the University of Miami. Al and his wife, Jackie, will serve as Chairs of the Lighthouse Diamond Jubilee Gala at the Biltmore Hotel, November 4th. They are the proud parents of three children, Alexander, Joseph, and Miranda.
April 4, 2005 the Miami Herald featured the first "sightless" chief executive officer of the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Virginia A. Jacko, who at that time was serving as the agency’s pro bono interim CEO. During the last four months while Virginia generously donated her time to lead the Lighthouse, the Board was conducting a search for a permanent CEO. During the search, the Board recognized that Virginia is by far the most qualified candidate to lead the Lighthouse. She is an experienced executive who has excelled as a blind leader in a sighted world using rehabilitation skills learned at the Miami Lighthouse and who has demonstrated outstanding not-for-profit business acumen for twenty-four years while financial advisor to the President and Provost of Purdue University. She was personally responsible for budgets in excess $300M and provided outstanding executive leadership at one of our nation’s top ranked universities. Most recently she has served as Treasurer and Acting CEO of the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
During her time as Acting CEO, many endorsements were received stating that Virginia has demonstrated the executive characteristics necessary to lead the Lighthouse into the future. To quote Board member, Agustin Arellano, I have been highly impressed by her enthusiasm, charisma and willingness to listen. She is the type of person that can win many friends to the organization.” At the June 15 Board of Directors meeting, Virginia was selected as the permanent President and Chief Executive Officer of the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Next year it will be 75 years since Helen Keller in 1931 motivated her friend Dolly Gamble to establish in Miami one of our Country’s oldest Lighthouse Agencies for helping the blind. Due to the generosity of many donors over the years, the Lighthouse continues to serve the needs of the blind and visually impaired in Miami Dade County. The Agency provides free programs for the blind and visually impaired ranging from mothers with blind babies to school aged children, young adults and seniors.
White Cane Day
Friday, October 14, 2005
Free Parking Available
Donations will be Accepted or could be mailed to Angie Blanco at
601 SW 8th Avenue
John B. Henderson, Esq.
John Henderson’s careers have ranged from law to international and corporate work. He served as Counsel to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Counsel for the International and Antitrust Department for Alcoa, General Counsel and then Senior Vice President of Textron, President of Scott Labs, and Senior Partner of Adler, Pollok and Sheehan. John graduated from Brown and then Harvard Law School. He has four daughters. He enjoys sailing and has owned seven cruising sailboats, three acquired after he went blind. One of those sailboats brought him to Miami in 1990.
William R. Roy, Ph.D.
William R. “Bill” Roy is an expert in management, human resources and marketing. He has served since 1990 as Partner & Director of Research and Marketing Strategy of Kelley Swofford Roy as well as Founder and Managing Partner of The Middlebrook Group. He has also held positions with KSI Marketing, Empire Blue Cross & Blue Shield, and Beacon Corporate Benefit Services. Mr. Roy has a B.S. in Business Administration and Psychology from Baldwin Wallace College, Berea, Ohio as well as an M.B.A. in Marketing and a Ph.D. in Marketing, Consumer Psychology and International Economics from the University of Michigan. He has been member of several prestigious organizations, such as California Travel Industry Association (Officer, subsequently President), California Governor’s Task Force on Economic Development and Task Force on Tourism, Executive Committee Florida Tourism Association, American Marketing Association, World Future Society, World Trade Center (Trustee) and Miami Symphony Orchestra (Board of Directors).
Teresa S. Zohn
Teresa Zohn has worked in education, rehabilitation and real estate. She currently works as Residential and Commercial Realtor for Esslinger Wooten Maxwell. She was previously Employee Assistance Program Consultant and Director of Spectrum Programs, Inc. and also held the position of Vocational Counselor with the State of Florida, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Teresa has a B.S. in Special Education and M.S. Rehabilitation Counseling, both from University of Tennessee, Knoxville. During her professional career, she obtained several certifications and licenses such as State of Florida Licensed Realtor, Graduate Realtor Institute, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Certified Addiction Professional and Certified Employee Assistance Professional. She is married with 2 adult children. She had participated as volunteer in multiple organizations such as Junior League of Miami, Inn Transition North (President of Foundation Board), and Fairchild Tropical Gardens (Co-chair of Holiday Music 2004 and 2005).
Reading Made Fun This Summer
At the end of July, the Lighthouse summer youth program came to a close. Students from Miami Dade schools were sad to say good bye to their summer experience, their new found friends who were also learning to cope with blindness, and their Lighthouse instructors. FUN was a large component of the summer program, which concluded with a picnic at Virginia Key.
Adult Programs Begin
The Miami Lighthouse for the Blind, founded in 1931, has experienced a period of significant growth in implementing a comprehensive strategic plan since the 1999 NAC reaccredidation with most changes occurring within the past two years. The NAC evaluation team was impressed with the commitment, caring and excitement from the Lighthouse staff about the agencies progress and plans for the future.
Jose Feliciano has had a long history with Miami Lighthouse as the agency has been providing Brailled formats of his songs. While the Miami Lighthouse has been doing this for over ten years, today the Miami Lighthouse was visited personally by Jose Feliciano. Jose and President Virginia Jacko shared with each other their passion for enabling the blind to be confident and independent.
During his visit, it was obvious that Mr. Feliciano admired the work being done to rehabilitate the visually impaired through services at the Miami Lighthouse. He praised the Miami Lighthouse for the opportunities provided children in the summer program. He encouraged the visually impaired seniors of Miami to visit the Lighthouse to learn how to do things differently so they can remain independent.
Mr. Feliciano has committed to help the blind musicians of the Miami Lighthouse, under the leadership of producer Henry Stone, as they develop a CD for the 75th Anniversary of the Lighthouse. Mr. Feliciano will have a track song on that CD.
By the time he was 23, Jose Feliciano had earned five Grammy nominations and won two Grammy Awards for his album "Feliciano!"; he had performed over much of the world, and had recorded songs in four languages. Jose Feliciano is recognized as the first Latin Artist to cross over into the English music market, opening the doors to others who now play an important part in the American music industry.
Students with the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind were able to have up-close encounters with the creatures at Miami Seaquarium by Laura Figueroa (firstname.lastname@example.org) (reprinted from The Miami Herald posted on Wed, Jul. 13, 2005)
Reinaldo Sanchez could not see the turquoise waters of the Miami Seaquarium's dolphin pool, but perched from a wooden ledge framing the pool, he stretched his hands as far as he could to feel the brisk 52-degree water under his hands.
Reinaldo could not see Echo the dolphin bobbing through the pool, but he could feel Echo's skin gliding under his hand.
''It feels like a rubbery chew toy,'' Reinaldo said.
The 15-year-old was among 25 students from Miami Lighthouse for the Blind who were invited to the Seaquarium to touch the attractions.
''We want them to enjoy the feels and touches of the park,'' said Carol Brady-Simmons, director of children's services for Miami Lighthouse. ``For these children, if they don't get a feel or touch of something, it's something they will never understand.''
Miami Lighthouse, 601 SW Eighth Ave., is well known for its adult programs.
But it also provides training to youngsters on several levels: Blind babies are taught how to crawl and play with toys; young adults learn training so they can work at summer jobs or volunteer.
''A blind person can do anything a sighted person can, we just do it differently,'' said Virginia Jacko, Miami Lighthouse's chief executive officer.
At the Seaquarium Tuesday, children with visual impairments held the hands of children who are completely blind, guiding them through the visitors and exhibits.
Natalya Ochoa, 13, and Timothy Wynn, 12, couldn't see Echo and Sunsplash leap out of the water and twirl midair, but their squeals and laughter indicated they understood being doused by cold water from the playful dolphins.
''It felt like I was being hit by rain going in different directions,'' Timothy said.
Once their dolphin adventure was over, the children, who ranged in age from 10 to 15, headed over to meet sea lions Asia and Chitlen.
The thought of encountering ''lions'' scared some of the children.
''They're not like real lions, they're not going to eat you,'' Leon Stewart, 12, reassured his more hesitant peers.
Their final stop of the day came when the students crowded into the killer whale and dolphins show.
Isaacna Mejias, 11, sat dry and unsuspecting in the front row of the attraction. Her calm composure was washed away by one swift pound of Lolita the killer whale's tail in the pool.
Isaacna and the other children had heard of the massive creature, but really couldn't comprehend its size -- that is until they felt the gallons of water rushing at them.
Now ''they were able to understand how big and powerful a killer whale really is,'' Brady-Simmons said.
Doused in water, an astonished Isaacna broke into a huge grin and began clapping enthusiastically.
''Over here!'' she shouted to Lolita, hoping the killer whale would come back to her side of the pool and make another splash.
Members of the Lighthouse Helen Keller Legacy Society were recently acknowledged at a luncheon hosted by Northern Trust Bank and Board Member, William L. Morrison. The Society is composed of Miami Lighthouse friends who have named the agency in their will, providing support of its noble mission for years to come.
Master of Ceremonies was Past Board Chair, Alan Nichols, and speakers included Virginia Jacko, President/CEO, James K. Kracht, Esq., Chairman of the Board, Donna Blaustein, Esq. and Bill Morrison, past Board Chairs, Legacy Honoree Marjorie Schell, and Sheldon Roy, Chief Development Officer.
“Talking about the Lighthouse today has reminded me why I originally joined the Board in the late 1980s. It was then, and it still is, all about what the Lighthouse does for people in need. The Lighthouse team continues to do a fabulous job in meeting the its mission,” said Bill Morrison, President of Northern Trust Bank, Personal Financial Services. Helen Keller Society Members who attended included Donna Blaustein, George Flemister, Helen Flipse, Adalbert Friedhoff, John Henderson, Don & Luanna Marx, Audrey Ross and Marjorie Schell.
Contact Sheldon Roy, Chief
Development Officer, for more information about the Society and how you
can enhance the Lighthouse’s future and its free services to the Blind!