Gavel Comes Down on Galveston Gathering
“Until we meet again in Spokane in just one year, I bid you farewell,
safe travels, and Godspeed,” said BVA National President Sam Huhn as he
struck the wooden gavel that officially adjourned the BVA 67th National
Convention and created still a new section in the annals of the
Association’s rich history.
Events of the convention, which were held at both the Galveston
Island Convention Center and the Hilton Galveston Island Resort where
attendees lodged, came to a close with the annual Awards Banquet on
Tom Miller, left, receives Irvin Schloss Advocacy Award on August 22 from American Foundation for the Blind CEO Carl Augusto.
The banquet featured the recognition of Thomas Hicks of the Northern
Arizona Regional Group as winner of the Melvin J. Maas Award for
Professional Achievement. It also highlighted Randall Durrigan of the
Southeast Massachusetts – Rhode Island Regional Group as recipient of the
Irving Diener Award for exemplary service to his group, and Enrique
Sanchez of the New York Regional Group as the winner of the David L.
Schnair Award for his dedicated work as a BVA volunteer.
The Missouri Regional Group, represented by Paul Mimms, was awarded
the Gold Gavel for the largest numerical membership increase (32) while
Dan Curtis received the Silver Gavel on behalf of the Southern Arizona
Regional Group for the largest percentage increase in membership (4
The traditional BVA Forum treated Convention attendees to the latest in vision research, technology, and regional group leadership training resources. Florida Regional Group member Paul Kaminsky, left, and New York Regional Group member Dennis O’Connell, right, were among the presenters.
Hosted by the Greater Houston Regional Group and chaired by BVA National
Treasurer Roy Young, this year’s gathering included a unique three-hour
live auction on Tuesday evening (August 21) to offset convention
expenses, a BVA-sponsored blood drive outside the Convention Center
earlier that day, and a host of small-group sessions relating to current
technology, self-defense, and new services to the blind and visually
Left to right, Mississippi Regional Group President Maury Lunn, his wife
Cheryl, and Central Blind Rehabilitation Center Director Jerry Schutter
at traditional President’s Reception that officially opens BVA
Convention attendees and volunteers numbered approximately 350,
including 114 blinded veterans, 80 family members and friends, 60
individual exhibitors in 32 booths, and a host of professional
presenters and volunteers from local Veterans Service Organizations, Boy
Scout troops and Venturing crews, and other community organizations.
Tuesday’s Opening Business Session
began with presentation of the colors by the Armed Guard of the First
Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, a keynote address by Department of
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, and remarks by Galveston
Mayor Lewis S. Rosen, Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (Houston)
Director Adam C. Walmus, and Medical Center Visual Impairment Service
Outpatient Rehabilitation Director Karen Petty.
Boy Scouts from troops throughout the Galveston Bay Area Council
assisted blinded veterans and their families throughout the convention
Pictured here, Jacob Feldman of Troop 177 in Galveston with BVA
member George Myers, Arkansas Regional Group. Jacob was joined in his
volunteer efforts by his parents, Steve and Kaisa Feldman, who also
happen to be scout leaders.
The Wednesday Father Carroll Luncheon audience was favored by an address
by Carl Augusto, President and Chief Executive Officer of the American
Foundation for the Blind (AFB). Mr. Augusto presented former BVA
Executive Director Thomas H. Miller with the prestigious Irvin P.
Schloss AFB Advocacy Award. Although the award came about in 2003, Mr.
Miller is only its third recipient.
Now in its seventh year as a BVA national convention component, the
organization’s Operation Peer Support initiative brought seven
recently blinded service members, including two from the United Kingdom,
who lost their sight in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring
Freedom (Afghanistan). An additional 11 participants who had attended a
previous convention paid their own way to attend this year. This number
included three additional British blinded veterans.
Art Melworm, Southern California Regional Group, requests clarification of points deliberated at August 21 meeting of the Bylaws and Resolutions Committee.
Operation Peer Support brings together veterans of recent conflicts
with those who have lost their sight in World War II, Korea Vietnam, or
the Gulf War era. The program’s aim is to provide newly blinded
veterans, or service members if they are still on active duty, with
examples of and opportunities to interact with men and women who have
led prosperous and happy lives despite having to adjust to sight loss at
one point in their lives.
Convention activities of Operation Support included seminars,
discussions, and demonstrations in the areas of educational and VA
benefits, technology, self-defense, and career planning. The group also
participated in an afternoon of paddling on kayaks on nearby Galveston Bay, courtesy of Team River Runner, and a VIP tour and visit to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Before and after scheduled activities, many conventioneers already
accustomed to a bit of heat and humidity found an appropriate escape on
the sandy shores of the Gulf of Mexico or the wide walkway running
parallel to Seawall Boulevard on which both the Convention Center and
the Hilton Resort are situated across the busy thoroughfare. An
abundance of nearby dining options were also available to them.
In the Convention Center’s spacious Exhibit Hall, Deborah Bloom and Mike Rydel presented information and resources regarding upcoming classes and seminars offered by The Hadley School for the Blind
Also running concurrently with BVA’s meetings was the second annual
Department of Defense-VA Eye Care Conference, planned and organized by
the Vision Center of Excellence. Topics again this year focused on
improving the tracking and treatment of combat injuries affecting
In the convention’s Closing Business Session, BVA delegates and other
registered blinded veteran attendees voted to pass two bylaw amendments
and 13 resolutions. A third proposed bylaw resolution was withdrawn
by BVA National Vice President Mark Cornell prior to a vote. All
national officers on the BVA Board of Directors–President, Vice
President, Secretary, and Treasurer–were re-elected to complete the
second year of their two-year terms of office.
BVA members also ratified Spokane, Washington, as the site of the
Association’s 68th National Convention in August 2013. Precise dates and
the exact hotel venue for the convention will be forthcoming in
upcoming issues of the BVA Bulletin and on the BVA website.