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Max Peterson Scholarship Gives Joy, Love, and Wholeheartedness

Max Peterson Scholarship Gives Joy, Love, and Wholeheartedness

The Challenge Course beckons. In the foreground is benches around the fire pit
The Challenge Course Beckons

My heart is overflowing! I was the first recipient of The Max Peterson Scholarship to attend an amazing women’s retreat. In previous years financial hardship prevented me from attending the”Dare To Own Your StoryTM” retreat. This year I couldn’t say no when Becky Andrews asked me if I’d accept the scholarship. The annual retreat connects and empowers blind visually impaired women and for me, it opened the floodgates of emotion.

The Max Peterson Scholarship is designed for women who have a financial need and who are making a difference. While the Scholarship covered a significant portion of the retreat’s costs I would still have to come up with the money for my flights. Without knowing how I’d do this I took a leap of faith and said YES!

In case you’re wondering, Becky Andrews, is the mastermind behind the “Dare To Own Your StoryTM retreat. I’ve known Becky for a few years and even featured her here on Bold Blind Beauty a few times. So meeting her face-to-face for the first time at this year’s retreat was sublime. She has a heart of gold and is as beautiful and authentic in person as she is online.

Being Found Worthy & Acceptable

Recently an incident happened that significantly hurt me, it made me question my worthiness and my character. I even went so far as to question whether Bold Blind Beauty and CAPTIVATING! were of any value.

Without going into the murky details, my past contributes heavily to my chronic anxiety and depression. Self-doubt and its companion self-hatred always lurked around every corner causing a paralysis I can barely articulate. What’s so ironic is I can see the value in others but have never really seen it in me until the retreat.

Trust has never come easy for me and those close to me know my motto: “trust no one.” There are very few people who are deserving of my trust and the common bond we share are our values. The leaders of the retreat, staff at the National Ability Center and my VIP sisters helped me see this.

Everyone is imperfect, it’s a universal condition called being human. Lord knows I’ve fallen short in many areas but at the same time, I’ve excelled as well. Practicing meditation and mindfulness at the retreat helped me to find my courage and my identity. 19 words sum up who I am and 19 more are my ‘why.’

Kindness, compassion, and a deep desire for social justice are central to who I am; these are my values. Bold Blind Beauty was born out of a personal need for empowerment that I wanted to share with others.

Knowing that Becky thought me worthy enough to receive the scholarship in honor of her dad brings me to my knees. The work she does is life-changing and this I can attest to as I feel like a renewed person.

Lessons Learned At The Retreat

For Becky to recognize my work on Bold Blind Beauty and CAPTIVATING! Magazine means so very much to me. Losing eyesight can be a lonely and frightening life-altering event. The reason I blog is oftentimes family, friends, and the general public don’t understand sight loss.

I created Bold Blind Beauty to help women living with blindness/sight loss to feel less lonely, empowered and beautiful. Embracing our situation by choosing to courageously continue living our best lives while uplifting others is powerful.

If Bold Blind Beauty weren’t enough, last year I partnered with an image consultant and together we launch CAPTIVATING! This accessible online magazine showcases people who are living and thriving with disabilities. Like our tagline, we both truly believe “The power and possibilities of inclusion are limitless.”

So What Exactly Did I Learn At The Retreat?

  • I’m worthy of self-compassion
  • The keys to true connection are vulnerability, authenticity, and shared values
  • Taking the risk to trust can lead to extraordinary outcomes
  • Empathy connects us and is required to respect individual life’s journeys
  • Facing fears unlocks doors to greater opportunities
  • Being grounded in kindness and compassion makes connecting with others easier
  • Meditation and mindfulness are excellent tools for achieving balance
  • Contentment can be found in wholeheartedness
  • Cheering and elevating others is empowering for all
  • The most precious gifts we can bestow on others are the gifts of experiences

Final Thoughts About The Retreat

The lifechanging “Dare To Own Your StoryTM” retreat was held at the National Ability Center (NAC) based in Park City, Utah. Inclusion, adaptation, and empowerment are at the heart of the NAC as their motto “I CAN” focuses on abilities.

Before the retreat, my life was largely dictated by my fears and blindness increased these fears. In my wildest dreams, never could I have imagined I’d achieve the remarkable feats I accomplished. Knowing I wholeheartedly trusted Becky; her associate, Lisa, and the staff at the NAC makes this experience even more memorable.

After years of therapy, for the very first time, I felt safe; was able to meditate, and practice mindfulness. The 3 greatest gifts I’ve received from the entire experience are:

  1. my connections with my Bold Blind & Beautiful VIP sisters,
  2. facing and overcoming my fears on the challenge course, and outdoor adventures
  3. and finally self-compassion.

The value of these gifts is immeasurable. I’ll be eternally grateful to Becky and the Max Peterson Scholarship for allowing me this remarkable experience.

A Plea To Help Others

Were it not for Becky’s kindness I would not have been able to write this post. Because she valued me and believes in the work I do I’ve seen a side of me I didn’t know existed.

The price of confidence and empowerment are immeasurable and I’d love for other B&VI women to receive these precious gifts. You can help by donating to the Max Peterson Scholarship at the Oasis Center For Hope. If you have any questions or need additional information you can contact Becky at Resilient Solutions, Inc.

Max Peterson Scholarship Gives Joy, Love, and Wholeheartedness Featured Image:

Becky and I are standing arm in arm in the bike shed at the NAC. Ready to hit the trails, we are wearing helmets and casual clothing before our bike ride.

Additional Images:

  • Challenge Course Beacons. The course contains a rock wall, pirate ropes, and all sorts of fun mid-air tasks.
  • 3 photo gallery (clockwise from bottom right):
    • After hitting the bike trails my VIP sisters and NAC staff all posed
    • Our crew of VIP sisters and NAC staff on the bike trail. Recumbent, tandem, side-by-side, and stand up bikes were provided.
    • 5 of us are on the zipline platform (I’m in the middle).
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Flexible Yet Strong & Empowered

Flexible Yet Strong & Empowered

I am flexible yet strong in times of change.

Daily Word, July 22, 2019

‘Complicated’ is the word that used to come to mind when I would think of my relationship with my mom. Yet at 81 years of age, she has blown me away with how much insight she has into my character. Here’s a beautiful gift she gave me today from the Daily Word, July 22, 2019:

There is a natural order to life that I can trust. Life has taught me that while change is inevitable, I need not worry. As I remain present to changes in my life and in the world, I strive to remain open to the flow of good. Flexibility is my strength. Like a willow tree in a windstorm, I remain grounded.

When I feel concern for myself or a loved one, I take a moment to be silent. Letting go of limiting patterns or worries about the future, I release resistance and open to divine inspiration. I realign myself so I can approach every life situation with a sense of grace and ease. From a centered state of mind, I affirm: I am flexible yet strong in times of change.

Resilience

The piece I’ve just shared is titled ‘Resilience.’ What ‘s so interesting about these words is their connection to recent events and my mom’s eerie sixth sense. Since there is a lot to unpack both literally and metaphorically I will write several posts on these experiences. Today, however, I want to share a brief overview of the most current “Daring To Own Your Story” Women’s Retreat.

For far too long, I’ve seen the value in other people that I felt was lacking in myself. Embracing doubt, fear, anxiety, and a sense of worthlessness has long been my M.O. yet on July 11 something remarkable happened. This day would take me to the National Ability Center where I’d find strength in my vulnerability.

Becky Andrews of Resilient Solutions Inc. challenged me and nine other blind and visually impaired women to own our stories. Through our shared connection of sight loss, in four days we developed a sisterhood many people long to acquire. At the retreat, we participated in a number of group activities like archery, hiking, biking, and the challenge course.

So much has happened in my life over the past few weeks it’s been hard to obtain clarity. The death of one friend, cancer diagnosis of another, then traveling out of state three times in one month has been taxing. I’ve been afraid of falling behind here at Bold Blind Beauty and CAPTIVATING! Even so, life continues in spite of these events and I’m very grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way. Receiving my mom’s message on resiliency was the icing on the cake.

Flexible Yet Strong & Empowered Featured Image Description:

  • In this photo, I am 45 feet above the ground crossing a log suspended in mid-air. One of the course staff members guided me across by walking backward as I held her left hand.

Additional Photos:

  • A gallery of three images showing me in stages of climbing the rock wall.
  • Another gallery of three photos showing a group of us at the summit of our hike. A group photo of everyone who biked and a photo of Becky and me posing in the bike shed.
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Empowering Young People to Soar With Passion & Purpose

Empowering Young People to Soar With Passion & Purpose

“Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark.”

~Jay Danzie

Envision 2019 Level Up Conference

From the moment we arrived at the Wichita State University (WSU) campus we knew we were in good hands. Baylee Almos, a Delta Gamma sorority member was our campus guide and an excellent resource for all our needs.

Envision 2019 Level Up Conference is a week-long training for blind or visually impaired students from across the U.S. Hosted at WSU, students receive valuable skills they need to successfully transition from high school to college and/or career.

From morning to night the well-organized event provided plenty of student activities. Keynote speaker Jessica Loomer opened the conference Sunday afternoon with a very inspirational and motivational speech about perspective. In her speech, she shared her personal journey of losing her sight to LHON. What was really helpful was some of the real life on the job examples she provided. “It’s Just Coffee” mentioned throughout Jessica’s speech became a mantra for many of us who listened to her.

Sunday evening offered everyone the opportunity to let their hair down at the Level Up Live Kick Off. Described as a social oasis and multimedia venue WAVE located in downtown Wichita is an eclectic indoor/outdoor hotspot. The entertainment space is huge and creatively incorporates recycled materials. There was plenty of singing, dancing, eating, laughing, and mingling with Envision staff, volunteers, and students. What a fun way to kick-off such a memorable week.

Empowering Leader With a Heart of Gold

Meeting up with Chelsea Nguyen, of CN Vision Image Consulting for the first time was incredible. Our shared values and a mutual desire to create a more inclusive world are the driving forces in our friendship. Meeting Chelsea in-person at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport was an unbelievable experience for me that almost didn’t happen. You see, the first time she asked me to attend the conference with her I declined. Thankfully she didn’t give up on me and asked me to reconsider.

Chelsea is one of the most genuinely loving, compassionate, and empathetic people I’ve ever encountered. From our first meeting where she hugged me she did the same with Every. Single. Person. We. Met. Chelsea’s passion for people with disabilities is extraordinary. 

CN Vision Image Consulting’s purpose at the conference was to connect, empower, inspire, and train students. Empowering blind and visually impaired young people was a wonderful opportunity for Chelsea and our team. The team representing CN Vision Image Consulting were The Blind Blogger, Maxwell Ivey Jr.; Jeremy Bostic, and moi.

A hairstylist by trade, Chelsea is an excellent image consultant, educator, speaker, and motivator. She has a way with people that makes them feel like they can accomplish anything they desire. What touches me about Chelsea is just how easily she is able to express how deeply she cares about others. 

Chelsea does not have a disability. What she does have is an honest, heartfelt ability to empathize with those who do. Inclusion and accessibility are very important to her. Listening to her speak at the event gave me chills.

This small clip is just a glimpse into how Chelsea motivates:

Continue to shine

Modeling Positive & Passionate Leadership Behavior

Envision Leaders, Bonnie Cochran, and Hannah Christenson were extremely instrumental in keeping the program on track throughout the week. These two women who never missed a beat had inexhaustible energy to keep pace with their young charges.

There was very little downtime within the well-structured agenda. Every day after breakfast everyone attended the general session. Three sessions throughout the day (morning, afternoon, and evening) followed the general session with meals in between. After dinner, the students went to their evening sessions.

Our team’s presentation took place on Tuesday morning with an extended version in the evening. As representatives of CN Vision Image Consulting, we trained the students on non-visual grooming & hygiene techniques, professional and soft skills. During the evening training, there was a co-ed hands-on demo then we broke out into boy/girl groups. In the groups, the boys learned how to tie a tie and the girls learned how to apply makeup.

The student’s readiness for the college and career expo was evident as they demonstrated the new skills they recently acquired. It was at the expo where they performed their elevator pitches, networked and toured the Envision facility. The evening prior they enjoyed networking and a four-course meal.

I can’t tell you how good it felt watching these young people increase their confidence by learning these new skills. All of the staff, volunteers, and guests modeled a positive can-do attitude which showed the students limitless possibilities.

The Envision 2019 Level Up Conference was a life-changing event for everyone who participated. I can hardly wait to write additional content about Envision and the work they do. This company really walks the talk to improve the lives of blind and visually impaired people.

The Lasting Impression

Everyone who participated in the conference was there instill the skills these brilliant young people will need to succeed. Witnessing the transformation of these remarkable young people was extremely poignant. As they voluntarily stood to give personal testimonials about how our team impacted them proved the value of the training. Thanks go out to Envision and WSU for their warm hospitality. Also, thank you, students, for working with us and for your feedback.

This post began with an empowering quote about leaving a lasting impression. I think it’s safe to say that everyone we’ve connected with accomplished this task!

Empowering Young People Featured Image Description: 

An in-flight photo of the partially visible interior airplane window frame and engine in the foreground. The window looks out into a blue sky and a bed of puffy white clouds.

Additional Images:

  1. Jessica & Starbucks: Jessica Loomer is standing in the auditorium between two Starbucks representatives. She has long dark hair and is wearing a white sleeveless dress. Each of them is holding Starbucks coffee cups. The Starbucks representatives provided coffee for the opening day.
  2. Dorm Check-in: Check-in at the registration desk on the WSU campus. Max is standing with his white cane. Jeremy is talking with the receptionist and Chelsea is speaking with our awesome Delta Gamma volunteer, Baylee Almos.
  3. Hubbard Hall: A photo of the auditorium prior to Jessica’s keynote address. There is a floor to ceiling movie screen at the front of the room.
  4. WAVE: An indoor photo of Wave with a few students milling about. The building design incorporates storage containers.
  5. Shocker Diner Evacuation: Students, staff, volunteers, and guests are outside at the meeting location doing a roll call.
  6. Chelsea Speaking: Chelsea is giving a motivational speech at the dinner on Thursday evening. She’s wearing a blue dress accented with a silver statement necklace.
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Trust Is Key To Unlocking Confidence & Independence

Trust Is Key To Unlocking Confidence & Independence featured image description is in the body of the post.

Trust Is Key To Unlocking Confidence & Independence

My other goal is to teach the community that people with visual impairments are just anyone else. They just use additional tools to access the world. This access should be universal and a normal part of day-to-day life.

~Michele Danilowicz
1. Michele Danilowicz image description is in the body of the post
#1. Michele Danilowicz

I am a Michigan-based Teacher for the Visually Impaired (TVI) and a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS). My undergraduate degree is in teaching elementary and special education with a focus on visual impairments. In addition, I have a masters degree in Specific Learning Disabilities and Orientation and Mobility for Children. For 14 years I’ve taught students aged 3-26 years old.

My passion is teaching students to help them gain confidence and independence so they are successful adults. I work with students on accessing and using the technology and tools they need to live independently after they age-out of the system.

Oftentimes, students with visual impairments are led to believe they can’t be successful, independent adults. So the most important part of my job is building trust with them. This enables them to believe me when I tell them that they can do anything.

How Trust Delivers Results

I had an elementary student who lacked confidence and hesitated while crossing streets. His parents were fearful and did not want him crossing a street on his own either. He was a fourth grader and at this time was not independently doing what his peers were. Together we went out weekly rain, snow or shine to work, navigate the neighborhoods, and cross intersections. So he was able to walk to friends houses to play and hang out.

I never pushed him if he ever felt uncomfortable to cross. We would cross the street when he built up his confidence. He achieved all his goals that year and crossed at stop signs and even small, lighted intersections. Once he began, he advanced so quickly after he gained confidence and is now unstoppable.

Building trust with parents is crucial also. So after he mastered some of these skills, I invited his parents to a lesson. His parent’s witnessed how confidently their son now crosses intersections, independently and safely. Seeing him progress was so rewarding!

The Long-Lasting Effects Of Trust

Recently, a former student contacted me to tell me she was accepted to a dual masters program. This student and I worked together ten years earlier. I was beyond excited to hear that she is starting a master degree!

She has been living independently since starting her undergraduate degree. Now she is moving across the state by herself to start and complete her master’s program. This student also made a huge transition in her life and is transgender. I was so grateful to hear from her and learn that she trusted me enough to share with me, her transition. The trust and confidence that she has built is amazing!

Passion & Pursuit of Personal & Professional Goals

2. Two women presenting image description is in the body of the post.
2. Two women presenting

My other goal is to teach the community that people with visual impairments are just anyone else. They just use additional tools to access the world. This access should be universal and a normal part of day-to-day life. Part of my job is to teach awareness in local schools about the tools people use who are visually impaired. I also spread this awareness to the public about what helpful accommodations they can use. Along with how to help (or not help) people in the community.

Recently, I was teaching an accessibility workshop to third graders. One of the students stopped me before I walked into the classroom. She said she knew someone who was blind and felt sorry for them. My immediate response was there is no reason to feel sorry for someone who is visually impaired or blind. They are people just like you or me they just access the environment differently. I told her how I knew many successful people doing amazing things. They read by using braille and travel the community and even the world, independently with a cane. The cane helps them to “see” where they are going.

I began the presentation and thanked the students for coming to hear about how everyone can be independent and successful. Everyone just approaches it differently. This is one of the most important parts of my job, educating the public on how and when to help. To not pity visually impaired or blind people, but to appreciate how they navigate the world with the tools at their disposal. When the average person realizes how independent the VI community members are, it gives them a whole new level of respect. Respect is most important, not pity.

3. Table of materials image description is in the body of the post
3. Table of materials

Featured Image Description:

A woman talking while holding up a white cane looking off camera. There are backs of participant’s heads watching the woman present about white cane safety.

Collage Image Descriptions:

  1. Pedestrian Walk Sign: Woman (O&M instructor) is holding a folded white cane, smiling looking off camera, standing at a detectable warning next to a pedestrian walk sign.
  2. Bus Stop Shelter: Woman (O&M instructor) smiling at camera holding a folded white cane standing next to a bus stop shelter.
  3. A city bus. 
  4. Boarding Bus: The back of a woman (O&M instructor) walking onto a city bus. 

Additional Image Descriptions:

  1. Close up of Michele Danilowicz with long brown hair in her 30s smiling at the camera. 
  2. Two women presenting on cortical visual impairments. The power point presentation behind them says: “Tips for Providing Interventions cont.” One presenter is looking at the camera and smiling. The other presenter is looking at the audience holding up a red Elmo stuffed animal and a red and yellow stuffed monster. They are both standing behind a table full of red and yellow materials and toys. 
  3. Table with materials scattered across, a light up magnifier, dome magnifier, Braille writer, telescope, two vision simulation goggles, Braille book, large print book, large Braille cell drawn on paper with the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 next to the dots and worksheets to learn Braille for print readers. 

Connecting With Michele: