Veterans from across the United States will gather in Washington, DC, next week, August 22-26, for the 77th National Convention of the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), a congressionally chartered Veterans Service Organization dedicated exclusively to supporting veterans and their families coping with sight loss. Leaders and members of the organization serve as ambassadors and mentors to their fellow veterans.
The annual convention, held this year at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill with some 400 total registered participants, will feature the first in-person series of meetings since 2019. BVA hosted virtual sessions in both 2020 and 2021 due to travel restrictions associated with COVID-19. Among BVA’s membership of approximately 7,000 and those attending the convention are members of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Group, which includes the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Area.
Elected delegates from their respective regional groups and other convention attendees from conflicts dating back to the World War II era will set BVA’s course for its upcoming fiscal year, participate in a variety of information sessions, and reunite with friends they have not seen in more than three years. They will also take part in special events, including offsite trips to Arlington National Cemetery, the National Mall, and Washington’s monuments and memorials on August 22-23; an evening of bowling and dining at Georgetown’s Pin Stripes on August 25; a grand finale Awards Banquet on August 26; and a post-convention kayaking activity on the Potomac River on August 27 for adaptive recreational sports enthusiasts.
Convention attendees will learn about new technologies for the blind and visually impaired in a state-of-the-art Exhibit Hall August 23-24. Exhibitors will share information about their products and the technological advancements such products demonstrate. They will also hear from officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs in an opening session on Wednesday.
Attendees will also be favored by remarks from Lonnie Bedwell, extreme adventure athlete, motivational speaker, author, and former National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. A member of BVA’s Indiana Regional Group, Bedwell will share highlights of his adventures, including a recent ascent of Alaska’s Denali, formerly Mount McKinley. The luncheon event itself is named for the late Father Thomas J. Carroll, renowned pioneer in the field of blind rehabilitation and the BVA National Chaplain for 25 years.
All BVA members share a common bond as legally blind veterans. They resolve to help one another understand and receive the rightful benefits they have earned through their service. The Association also represents the interests of its members before the legislative and executive branches of government and encourages all veterans with vision loss to participate in VA blind rehabilitation programs.
BVA was established in March of 1945 when a small but unified group of World War II blinded veterans called a meeting for that purpose as they recuperated and rehabilitated at an Army convalescent hospital. The founders hoped to help newly blinded veterans adjust to life without sight and regain confidence and independence. For more information, visit BVA.org.