Banquet Finale Closes Memorable BVA 69th National Convention
Inspirational recognitions, emotional tributes to family members and
dedicated professionals, and even a few fond farewells all found their
way to the capstone event that brought to an official end the BVA 69th
National Convention August 21, 2014, in Sparks, Nevada.
The annual Awards Banquet is considered the final opportunity at each
BVA national gathering to enjoy food and drink while mingling with new
and old friends. The event began with an hour-long reception and
concluded with expressions of appreciation for dedication and sacrifice
by BVA members and their regional groups, caregivers, board members and
staff, and others who provided support and service to veterans with
vision loss throughout the past year.
BVA National Treasurer Paul Mimms received BVA’s highest honor, the
Melvin J. Maas Award for Professional Achievement, at the banquet. The
Irving Diener Award was presented to Charles Register of the Southern
California Regional Group for outstanding service to the Association
while Charles Davis of the Greater Houston Regional Group was honored
with the David L. Schnair Award for distinguished voluntary service.
Valerie Duffy, VIST Coordinator at the Boise, Idaho, VA Medical Center, played her ukulele to illustrate points made at her presentation to the BVAA Auxiliary.
The presentation was entitled “83 Things Every Survivor Should Do.” At right, BVAA National President Sandy Krasnodemski.
Three regional groups also received recognition at the final event.
The Washington State Regional Group earned the coveted Gold Gavel for
having added the largest number of new members to their group. The
Silver Gavel, presented to the group with the highest percentage of new
members, went to the Wisconsin Regional Group. The Bronze Gavel,
introduced only last year for the group signing up the largest number of
new members previously designated as nonmembers in BVA’s database, was
awarded to the Florida Regional Group for the second consecutive year.
Special national award recognitions were given to Dr. George Stocking
for his more than four decades of service on the BVA National Board of
Directors and Robert Keller for outstanding and lengthy voluntary
service in the BVA San Diego, California volunteer office.
The Awards Banquet brought ended an intense week of education and
training, business sessions, and informative speeches and presentations.
Although opportunities also arose for socializing, recreation, and even
relaxation, they were rare for those on whose services and dedication
so many of the attendees depended.
Robert Adkins of BVA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Group and Bill Hausinger of the Greater Houston Group arrived bright and early August 21 for front-row seats at the Convention’s Closing Business Session.
“I don’t have even a few seconds during BVA conventions to sit down
anywhere and just think,” exclaimed the universally appreciated and
longtime Convention Volunteer Coordinator Margarine Beaman with her
always recognizable and friendly chuckle. “I lose touch with the outside
world when I am doing this—I haven’t even turned on the TV this week!”
Despite her attempts to be in many places at once wherever and
whenever she was needed, Margarine once again in 2014 stood ready and
willing to respond with a smile and helping hand to every expressed need
as she coordinated volunteer efforts. If she was unable to make it
happen by herself, she called on and delegated a heavy workload to a
reliable cadre of volunteers from throughout the Reno community and even
a few from much further away.
The BVA 69th National Convention attracted 345 total registrants, 148
of whom were blinded veterans. The week began with registrations and
check-ins August 16-17. It also included preliminary activities of
participants of Operation Peer Support (OPS), an initiative now eight
years strong that seeks to connect veterans who have recently lost their
sight with those who experienced the same during World War II, the
Korean War, the Vietnam War, or due to an age-related disease.
Charles Register, Southern California Regional Group, addresses Awards Banquet attendees following reading of the citation that honored him as this year’s Irving Diener Award recipient.
OPS participants from the United States, accompanied by a family
member or friend, introduced themselves at a reception and dinner on
August 16. They boarded a bus the next morning for Lake Tahoe, where
they enjoyed a day of kayaking courtesy of Team River Runner (TRR). BVA
member Tina Lemus, a Sparks resident and TRR official herself, organized
the event. That evening the participants welcomed four additional OPS
arrivals from Blind Veterans UK at still another reception and dinner.
The convention also brought some 66 exhibitors housed in nearly 40
booths. They featured innovative instruments such as audible currency
readers, talking computers, barcode scanners, bioptic telescopes used as
eyeglasses, video magnifiers, hand-held libraries of audible
information, mobility aids for independent living, audible health
monitoring devices such as medical alarms and two-way emergency
communicators, and portable Global Positioning System devices. Several
exhibitors also addressed interested convention attendees in break-out
sessions outside their booths.
BVA National President Mark Cornell and other members of the Board of
Directors welcomed attendees to the convention at the annual
President’s Reception on the evening of August 18. U.S. Representative
Mark Amodei (R-NV-2) appeared at the reception and also offered
Newly appointed Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald and
Sparks Mayor Geno Martini addressed the convention on August 19. A full
text of Secretary McDonald’s speech is available on the VA website (http://www.va.gov/opa/speeches/2014/08_19_2014.asp).
Other highlights of the week included the traditional BVA Auxiliary
Silent Auction, caucus sessions within the various BVA districts, the
unveiling of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s new U.S. Currency
Reader, iPhone hands-on demonstration stations, and a Bylaws and
Resolutions meeting that considered proposed bylaws and 21 resolutions.
The annual BVA Forum on August 20 featured presentations by the local
Toastmasters chapter, Long Beach Blind Rehabilitation Center Low-Vision
Optometrist Dr. Sally Dang, VA Blind Rehabilitation Service Director
Gale Watson, and Executive Director of the University of Utah Moran Eye
Center for Translational Medicine Dr. Gregory Hageman.
Following the forum, BVA member Bill Wedekind, Vietnam veteran and
the only known blind, bilateral double-hand amputee potter in the world,
addressed the annual Father Thomas A. Carroll Memorial Luncheon. Bill,
currently a resident of San Antonio, Texas, spoke of life-altering
events that began with an explosion as he was inspecting a defensive
perimeter while on duty in Vietnam on May 25, 1968 that left him without
sight and hands. The luncheon was also highlighted by presentation of
BVA Certificates of Appreciation to VA BRS employees Lillie Kennedy of
the Washington, DC, VA Medical Center and G.W. Stilwell of the same
Philadelphia facility. The two were honored for their recent exemplary
service to blinded veterans and their families.
Convention attendees were also treated to a mystery auction during
the evening of August 20. They received updates by members of the Field
Service Program’s National Service Officers and Director of Government
Relations Glenn Minney on August 21. Convention and Project Manager
Christina Hitchcock directed a session with regional group officers
relating to successful development of a BVA regional group.
Although none of the proposed bylaw amendments passed on the
convention floor as proposed, members and delegates voted to change the
wording in one of the already existing bylaws. Each of the 21 proposed
resolutions were approved.
Delegates and other convention attendees the Closing Business Session
approved Louisville, Kentucky, as the city to host the Association’s
70th National Convention. The host hotel and dates for the 2015
gathering will be announced in the near future.