On February 10, 1981, I gave birth to our first child, Joseph Benjamin Nasehi. Unfortunately, he was not due until mid-June that year. His extreme premature birth (25 weeks gestation) weighing just 1 lb. 14 oz. dramatically changed the trajectory of our lives.
While not expected to survive birth - he did. Moreover, he survived many subsequent challenges in the NICU. We brought him home on Mother’s Day about a month before his original due date weighing a whopping 5 lbs. and thinking everything would be fine.
But several months later we realized he wasn’t tracking with his eyes as he should be. A follow-up visit to the hospital ophthalmologist resulted in a referral to a specialist at Emory University who had the dubious task of telling us that our son had stage five of retrolentalfibroplasia, now known as retinopathy of prematurity, and that our son would likely be blind.
Can YOU imagine starting a family and hearing this news? Each year countless families are rocked by a diagnosis that their child will never experience the world around them through healthy vision. YOU can help restore hope to these families by making a gift today!
The doctor kept talking but I didn’t hear anything after that. The room was spinning and I couldn’t even look at my husband. We walked out to the car in the parking garage, put our infant son in his car seat, we got in our seats in the front and cried for two hours while holding each other.
We spent the next three years seeking help for our son, who would later be diagnosed with cerebral palsy and cognitive impairment in addition to being blind. After countless disappointments in our pursuit for help and support, we were referred to a relatively new organization called Center for Independence Technology & Education (CITE), which would later become Lighthouse Central Florida.
This organization saved us. It taught us how to be the parents and advocates we needed to be for our son. And they taught Joe many of the skills he needed.
Many years later, I was honored to be hired as the chief executive of what is now Lighthouse Central Florida. Serving in this capacity now for 18 years, my first priority remains Vision-specific Services to infants, toddlers, children and teens.
While Lighthouse provides life-changing services to Central Floridians of all ages, the window of opportunity to prepare visually impaired children for a lifetime of success and independence is short. They will never have this time again: it is our mission, our obligation to find the resources to assure EVERY child and family living with blindness and low vision who wants our services gets them.
Every year Lighthouse provides intense summer camps, work experience and other much-needed life-changing vision-specific services to infants, children and teens living with blindness and low vision, and their families. Some of the most wonderful memories Joe has from childhood include summer outings with Lighthouse.
As a parent of child living with blindness and multiple disabilities, I know firsthand the pain that comes with uncertainty. I see it on the faces of parents who walk through our doors for the first time not knowing what the future holds for their child.
This is why I’m writing to ask you to renew your support today. Your donation of $50, $150, $500 or a gift of any size, will help unlock the potential of children born with vision loss and restore hope to families in crisis mode.
Today Joe is 37 years old and a resident of Bishop Grady Villas in St. Cloud for developmentally disabled adults. He is happy, still participates in Special Olympics, works a few days a week and comes home whenever we have family gatherings.
For over 40 years Lighthouse has been a beacon of hope in this community. We couldn’t do this without YOU!
Please send in your gift today! On behalf of those who will benefit from your generosity, thank YOU!
President & CEO
P.S. Support children living with blindness and vision loss by giving today! To provide a fun filled day of bowling for 20 children, a donation of $180 will boost social interaction skills and teach them a recreational activity that their sighted peers typically learn through observation.