On Tuesday, Rob, Lola and I hopped in the car for a road trip to Bloomington, Indiana to celebrate VIPS-Bloomington’s First Anniversary. While VIPS (Vision Impaired Preschool Services) Louisville has been around for over 20 years, it wasn’t until mother and co-founder, Rebecca Davis partnered up with Teacher of the Visually Impaired, Ann Hughes to start VIPS-Bloomington as a way to offer services to the young visually impaired children of Indiana. We were honored to be asked to join the celebration with other VIPS families as it was a way for us to show our gratitude towards VIPS as well as connect with people that actually understand what it is like to have a visually impaired child.
We got to the donated Unitarian Church around 9:30 am…a bit early as the celebration started at 10 am, but we were eager to meet everyone and offered to help set up as families started to trickle in. Parents introduced themselves and went on to introduce their children often following up with a description of the child’s vision impairment and/or other medical issues. We nibbled on bagels and sipped on juice as the morning went on. It was casual and intimate as many families weren’t able to make the Tuesday date, but that was OK because for us seven or so families that were there…it was everything that had been promised. A way to connect and share with those who “get it”.
After a short introduction by Rebecca, Ann Hughes brought out her instruments and her innate ability to engage every parent and child in that room with her songs. You all know how her “Hello” song brings me to tears in my own home…well just imagine the onslaught of tears that formed as I watched others sing along with their kiddos. We were a part of a unique group and one that only outsiders like the photographer from the Bloomington Herald-Times got to bear witness to. Lola is always in awe of Ann and her songs and Tuesday she was found smack dab in the middle of the united circle mesmerized by what she was hearing. I, as a spectator, was in awe of watching Lola.
VIPS set up many different areas for the children to explore. When Lola wasn’t found in the CVI (cortical visual impairment) corner equipped with a black background and shiny materials, she was showing her new-found love for the ball pit and then she thought she had had enough and decided to venture outside on her own. Every aspect of the morning was well thought out for the children and of course, as they were the reason why VIPS was created in the first place. Outside they had sensory toys, a sprinkler park, shiny bright balloons as well as a wading pool. All items our children with low vision have come to love and appreciate.
As strange as it may sound, it was a comforting place where topics like seizure medication and which type of orthotics your kid uses were the new normal. In fact, Lola was one of the few who didn’t have her own orthotics on! It was reassuring to know that we weren’t alone, that others face the same challenges as our Lola, that other parents understand our concerns and frustrations with doctors and therapists and just life in general. We shared back stories, doctor woes, new techniques and tools that to outsiders might sound like voodoo magic, but to parents trying to cover all areas in order to help their kids, it sounded perfectly logical. While the celebration was to end at noon, many of us sat outside and continued on with our conversations. Email addresses were left, friendships were made, glimmers of a new shade of hope surfaced and future meetups were discussed.
To put it simple: It was an AMAZING day!
Thank you to Rebecca Davis, Ann Hughes, the volunteers and the sponsors who made the day possible. From the bottom of our grateful hearts, thank you.
**I wrote an article about VIPS recently and it was featured in the VIPS Parent Newsletter. Here is the link to the newsletter: