Those were the opening words of the speech I gave Friday evening at the BVRS fundraiser. After reading my book Echo of a Raven, the prolific book about my struggles with diabetic retinopathy, my challenging 16 week stay at the agency BVRS (Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services) of Pittsburgh, the chairman invited me to be the guest speaker for the auction fundraiser on June 11th. Overwhelmed, and by no means, a public speaker, I just kept thinking how much the agency changed my life by teaching me how to use a computer with adaptive software, converting texxt to synthesized speech. Without their help, I would not have found the courage to face a sighted world I was once part of. Part of the reason I was reluctent to enroll in a program for the blind was because I felt clients would be uneducated. I was a professional, after all. What could I possibly have in common with those people? I was wrong. I met doctors and nurses, teachers and engineers, all with one common thread. We were all losing sight due to circumstances beyond our control. Some had the added burden of facing a marital crisis because a spouse could not accept the blindness. We laughed and we cried. We bonded in a way words cannot express. I was one of the lucky ones. What didn't kill me made me stronger.
When I left the program, I enrolled in creative writing classes, searching for a new way to channel my creative muse of painting. Slowly but surely, doors to publishing houses opened. At a conference, I met Liana Laverentz and she introduced me to The Wild Rose Press. My first three stories are published through them, now with White Rose Publishing, all edited by my wonderful editor Lori Graham. Doors have continued to open for me, all due to my faith and strong will to never give up on a dream.
Friday night was like Cinderella. They treated me like a queen. The second I walked in with my family, a photographer was there from the Tribune-Review snapping photos left and right. The newspaper did a full-blown article on me which will be featured soon. I had my picture taken with the Pitt Panther coach after my speech and brought the house down and earned a hug from him when I ended my speech with "Go Pitt!" The auction was held in the practice field where the college team and pro team (Pitt Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers) practice. Local celebrities were there and sports shirts and so much more was auctioned off. Thirty copies of my book Echo of a Raven were auctioned. Oh, what a night. The photographer asked me if any of my books had ever been reviewed by them. I said no and he asked for my business card and said he would see that the reviewer got in touch with me. Doors continue to open. I lost my sight but gained a bigger and more compassionate heart. BVRS has asked me to help promote them and have added my photo and story to their website. Here it is below. I feel truly blessed and have learned that God never lets one door close without opening another...an another...
IT’S PARTY TIME AT BVRS!
Meet Pitt Football Coach Dave Wannstedt, pictured left, and tour the Pitt/Steelers Practice Facility at BVRS’ For Your Eyes Only 2010 Tailgate Party on the Southside from 7-10 p.m. Friday, June 11.
Enjoy a delicious buffet dinner, cocktails, and dance the night away to live music by the classic rock and roll band “Truth Be Told.” Reservations are required. Tickets are $75, with $35 of that amount tax deductable. For additional information, contact Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh’s Development Department at 412-368-4400 or email inquiries to: email@example.com.
With Coach Wannstedt serving as auctioneer, you’ll have the chance to bid on autographed sports items, Pitt Panther Football Box Seats, a catered dinner in your home by celebrity Chef Bob Malone, a weekend at Seven Springs Mountain Resort and more.
And that's not all!
Pittsburgh author Sharon Donovan, pictured below, will be the guest speaker. At the tender age of 6, Ms. Donovan was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes and told by her doctor that she would be blind by the age of 25.
Those words haunted the Avalon resident all of her life and when the doctor’s prediction came true, Ms. Donovan came to BVRS where she learned how to manage her life independently with blindness.
Ms. Donovan has told her story in her nonfiction book, “Echoes of a Raven.” Once an artist who painted on canvas, Ms. Donovan is now an author of several books of fiction.
On her website, www.sharonadonovan.com, Ms. Donovan talks about her transformation in a poem titled ‘Yesterday.’
It says, in part: “From the maze of mayhem and rubble a new dream resurrected renewing hope and inspiration for a brighter tomorrow. Today, motivated by new insight, instead of painting pictures on canvas, I paint my pictures with words.”
Ms. Donovan’s most recent work, “Mask of the Betrayer,” is a psychological thriller and is available at this link: http://www.whimsicalpublications.com/sharon_donovan/mask_of_the_betrayer.html
BVRS appreciates the hard work and dedication of the For Your Eyes Only 2010 Committee: Michele Antonelli, Chair, and members Bonnie Anton, Peg Fitchwell-Hill, Denise Gipson, Julia Gleason, Virginia Goebel, Terry Jancisin, Marsha Kirley, Elizabeth McCarthy, Patti McKee, Joan Martin Siebart, Pert Pivirotto, Peggy Snavely, Julia Unitas Giba, and Jan Wannstedt.