Innovation, Instruction Highlight 72nd Convention

An unprecedented number of educational sessions and exhibitors were at the BVA’s recently concluded 72nd National Convention in Jacksonville, Florida, August 14-18. They generated a never-before-seen convention interest in new technology and other aids for the blind and visually impaired.

The 56 exhibitors, 13 of whom were new, constituted a record for a national convention and generated $34,600 in exhibitor revenue. The 145 blinded veteran member attendees were also able to choose among 20 educational and training sessions throughout the first two days of the convention.

Other highlights of the five-day gathering included the election of Joe Parker, U.S. Navy Ret., as the 41st BVA National President. Joe will join Vice President Paul Mimms, Secretary Joe McNeil, and Treasurer Daniel Wallace as the organization’s National Officers for the coming year.

Convention delegates also passed 21 resolutions, or items of concern to BVA, that affect the blind and visually impaired within local government jurisdictions, within the national office of Blind Rehabilitation Service of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), or because of an act of Congress.

Events of interest included a trip to the storied Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville to watch the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp take on the Mississippi Braves; the annual President’s Reception featuring guest speaker Scott Blackburn, Acting VA Deputy Secretary; an Opening Business Session that included Representative John Rutherford; a Father Carroll Luncheon with Micheal Hudson, Director of the American Printing House for the Blind Museum, a visit to the renowned Budweiser Brewery, and a festive Awards Banquet.

Kennan “Ken” Horn of the Oklahoma Regional Group received BVA’s highest honor for 2017, the Melvin J. Maas Award for Professional Achievement. The Irving Diener Award, which recognizes individual contribution to a BVA regional group or the national organization, went to Leonard Pope of the New Jersey Regional Group. Dennis O’Connell, New York Regional Group, received the David Schnair Award for outstanding service as a BVA volunteer.

Regional group gold, silver, and bronze gavel awards were presented to the Rocky Mountain, Emerald Coast, and Florida Regional Groups, respectively. The gold gavel recognizes the group with the greatest numerical increase, the silver the largest percentage increase, and the bronze the greatest increase in numbers of members who have become active after having been designated as inactive.

BVA also presented Certificates of Appreciation for extraordinary service to blinded veterans to Evelyn Cabrera-Heatwole, Visual Impairment Services Team Coordinator at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia; and Kelly Golden, Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Washington.