Blake's Blog


JUMPING INTO THE DEEP END

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As a person who is totally blind, my life has certainly been interesting. I’ve learned, however, that we all have hurdles to hop over in life, whether it’s blindness or something else, and we can learn a lot from one another’s life experiences when we’re willing to share them. For the sake of educational entertainment, or a word I like, edutainment, I hope we are all taking time to share our significant stories with one another. To get the ball rolling, here’s one of my own.

One summer when I was seven years old, my family traveled to Louisville, Kentucky for a five-day vacation. My parents got me all excited reading the brochure of where we were vacationing and about a high diving board that jutted over the pool. As soon as we arrived, I grabbed my towel and swimsuit and headed to the pool. I will never forget climbing the ladder, counting each step until I reached the diving board. I centered myself by carefully walking down the board until the tips of my toes were touching the end. Standing 12 feet above the water and completely fearless, I leaped into the air. My body tingled as I experienced the free falling sensation. And then, SPLASH!

What a rush! With great excitement, I made that fearless jump more than a dozen times. Little did I know, my high diving fun was about to come to an end.

The adults and kids that were watching me began to tell me how brave I was for jumping at such a dangerous height. Many stated they would never do what I was doing, and that if I could actually see how high I was on that diving board, that I wouldn’t either. They were sowing fear into my life. They thought they were complimenting me, but as I heard how daring it was, doubt and fear completely consumed me.

So, as I began the much slower climb up the high dive ladder for another flight from the diving board, I became utterly cautious, carefully counting each step up the ladder, which now seemed as tall as Mount Everest. When I finally reached the top, I started to panic as the words of the spectators replayed in my head. I crept forward on the diving board at a snail’s pace. When my toes felt the end where I had so excitedly leaped off before, terror seized me, and I froze on the edge of the board, teetering over the water. 

Dad told me not to be afraid and that it was not an option for me to back down now. He wanted me to face my fear and stand it down, but I was scared. Dad could be kind, but also stern. He commanded me to face this fear since I had done it so many times before. He was simply trying to teach me the power of negative words and how they can cause us to miss out on some exciting episodes of our lives if we allow them to take root. Dad knew that I could make the jump at least one more time. He also knew “God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind.” (I Timothy 1:7)

With eyes wide open, I finally made the jump. SPLASH! I came out of the water grinning from ear to ear. I had conquered my fear for good. I climbed up again and jumped a second time, just for good measure.

That day, I learned a valuable lesson on the high dive. If we’re not careful, we can allow people to infuse fear in us even when there is nothing to be afraid of. I appreciate the fact that Dad did not want me to become the victim of unnecessary fear and doubt, but instead to be confident and face challenges head-on.

Maybe you’re facing a high dive situation in your own life. Don’t let fear and doubt hold you back. Today is the day to make a splash.

To see and hear another daring Blake adventure, check out this video of my exhilarating sky dive experience a few years ago: http://blakelindsay.com/videos/leap-of-faith/


FACING LIFE’S CHALLENGES HEAD-ON

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During my Florida vacation several years ago, I had the opportunity to bond with my then-fourteen-year-old cousin Rhett. Throughout my retreat, I particularly enjoyed hearing Rhett discuss his aspiration to become a chiropractor. Even though I was delighted with his career goal, I enjoyed kidding with him about all the fun he would miss out on by not choosing a splendid line of work like being a radio DJ. Even though radio had been a decent career for me, Rhett’s mother Joy knew that there was a lot more security in his professional preference than mine, so she kindly took me aside and asked me to cease my verbal nonsense. I knew she was right on, so I stopped the teasing. Even though our career choices had no commonality, I really got a kick out of discovering this coincidence: just like my fourteen-year-old cousin, I had set my career goal at exactly the same age. My dream began when I was nine; however, my adolescent voice wouldn’t catch up to my vision for another five years.

This visit to Florida contains another amusing memory for me. My occasion to bond with Rhett happened to be right in the middle of his middle school baseball season. Rhett’s mother was responsible for finding volunteers to perform a variety of duties at the games, and she asked me if I would be the booth announcer for a live game. Rhett echoed his mom, expressing the same request. He figured it would be a piece of cake for me to wolf on the mic at the game since I had been a radio DJ for nearly 18 years. Fresh challenges are exciting for me, and this assignment absolutely fit the bill for two reasons: I know very little about baseball, and I am totally blind.

Now, it is not as dumb of an idea as you would think. Uncle Marvin ran the scoreboard beside me, and he has a vast knowledge of baseball and the jargon to go along with the sport. With this winning combination and team effort, he could communicate to me what I needed to convey to the crowd. Uncle Marvin and I embraced our brand new challenge and willingly accepted our mission.

As blessing would have it, my mom and I were together on this trip. She sat in the booth with us, along with her two sisters, which really made this event an extra special occasion for all of us.

With Marvin’s excellent help, I confidently announced all of the player’s names with enthusiasm. We got into a rapid rhythm with Marvin passing on to me what to say after each play. His voice didn’t come through the speakers because of my quick finger operating the microphone’s on and off switch. I had a blast being the convincing announcer known as Baseball Blake for the duration of the game. Through Uncle Marvin’s eyes, along with his assortment of baseball lingo and great sense of humor, I was able to comfortably and believably boom out all kinds of brand new baseball terminology on this lively afternoon. No spectator had a clue that there was a blind dude in the booth behind that mic, but the most comical component to me was that my limited knowledge on baseball didn’t deter my delivery at all.

I believe that the pleasure I got from doing that live event probably resembled the buzz actors and actresses get when they perform as an authority on a subject that they, in many instances, aren’t especially knowledgeable on.

So, how do you face challenges that come your way?

First, be determined to meet the challenge. You can do it! Remember, as Joe Sabah says, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great!”

Second, you need to have a team environment. Decide who to collaborate with and who will help you to see your challenge more clearly. I would not have been successful without my caring Uncle Marvin by my side as my necessary Seeing Eye Person.

Third, when faced with a challenge – dive in! I love the saying, “Anything worth doing is worth doing imperfectly until you can learn to do it perfectly.” Do it and grow in the process.

Finally, think about what worked well and how you felt about it. As you reflect on successful events, you can begin to use those positive feelings as an anchor and draw upon them when faced with future challenges.

I don’t know that I will ever call another baseball game, but I am up for the challenge! Are you up for the challenges facing you? Rhett certainly was. He is now a licensed chiropractor and massage therapist who’s happily  married, just as he had hoped and planned for in the eighth grade.


INSPIRING AND MOTIVATING THE INDIANA WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY STAFF AT THEIR ANNUAL RETREAT

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I want to thank the gracious Indiana Wesleyan University team based in Marion, Indiana for welcoming me to their fine campus and annual retreat. On May 15th, around 200 IWU staff got the full Blake experience and listened to my story that I hope will inspire and motivate them to keep shooting for the stars all year long! Tammy McCoy, the Administrative Assistant in Faculty Recruitment had these kinds words to say: “Thank you again, Blake, for speaking at our Staff Retreat. It was so great to meet you and to hear your story. I have received many comments about how much they enjoyed your speech. Your message was right on target and well received. Again, thank you for your encouraging words.”

I appreciate my parents and my sister Molly for joining me and showing me their support. Dad is respected for his two decades of dedication to this terrific team, which encouraged me all the more. Growing and blooming where we are currently planted was the theme they asked me to speak on, and you can view the talk below.

I, too, received tremendous educational value through a message presented by IWU’s head basketball coach Greg Tonagel on putting our Lord in first place, others in second, and ourselves in third. Greg has celebrated 15 years of success in teaching his talented teams. He and his wife are parents to 6 kids, including two brand-new twins. Congratulations, Coach Tonagel!


ENVISION DALLAS LIGHTHOUSE TEAMS UP WITH THE LIONS CLUB TO PREVENT BLINDNESS

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Saturday evening, I had the privilege of serving as Master of Ceremonies for a successful fundraiser for The Lions Sight and Tissue Foundation of District 2-X1 Inc. My wife Jennifer joined me, and we had a blast! The fundraiser was held in a large event center with plenty of room for the more than 200 people who came dressed in cowboy attire. As you can see from the picture, I made sure I dressed for the occasion.

LS&TF has been serving the citizens of the Dallas area from its beginning in 1956 as an eye bank devoted to cataract surgery and cornea transplantation. They reach out to children and adults who need vision care but lack the resources for such care. The LS&TF is a valuable resource for people that live in the counties served by the Dallas Lighthouse, including Dallas, Ellis, Hunt, Rockwall, Kaufman, and parts of Collin Counties. People who need eyeglasses as well as medical assistance for vision issues can rest assured they will get incredible care.

Through the years, the LS&TF has grown from a few dedicated volunteers who used to meet at a plane at the airport at midnight to deliver corneas to a person in need, to an organization staffed by volunteers from Lions Clubs all over District 2-X1. They utilize a state-of-the-art Mobile Clinic furnished with modern equipment used to provide complete eye exams.

The impact of this service on the lives of these children and adults is profound. Without glasses, children are less likely to succeed in school, leading to drop-outs, gang involvement, and potential incarceration. Vision problems are 3 times as likely in Juvenile Detention Centers as in the general population.

My friend Darla Wisdom is the past District Governor for 2-X1, and she was the coordinator for this magnificent event. “What a fabulous job Blake did for us as Master of Ceremonies,” said Darla. “His relatability to blindness added credibility and value for this special fundraising and awareness event. I am so thankful that we have Blake in our club, and as a Lion. Thank you Blake, and Envision Dallas Lighthouse.”

Well, thank you Darla for your kind words, and for counting on Jennifer and me to help out with such a worthy cause. Envision DLB is positively impacting people who are blind with opportunities for employment, education, and motivation. We are honored to work with organizations such as Lions Sight and Tissue Foundation in preventing blindness. Congratulations for your 63 years of growing dedication in saving sight!


BLAKE AND JENNIFER CELEBRATE THEIR SWEET 16TH ANNIVERSARY WITH JAZZ PIANIST JOSÉ ANDRÉ MONTAÑO

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He performed a fantastic two-hour live jazz concert at the beautiful Sammons Center for the Arts—a 110-year-old historic building in Uptown Dallas. It was an intimate gathering of 130 in an elegant room about the size of a small chapel, and I had the privilege of being the emcee that night. The proceeds of this memorable occasion supported Envision Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind’s outreach missions. José’s profound talents and personality deeply inspired us. He performed along with a bass player, drummer, and as a surprise toward the end, a jazz flautist. Jennifer and I had a splendid visit with him.

A big thank you to all who attended this wonderful concert and for supporting the Envision mission with your ticket purchase. We will always remember that special night of fellowship and those smooth, jazzy tunes.

Our Sweet 16 was one of our most memorable anniversaries to date! Jennifer and I celebrated our special day with the inspirational jazz artist José André Montaño. On March 29th, Envision Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind had the special privilege of hosting our buddy José, who had traveled to Dallas for a special performance. José was born in Bolivia and has been totally blind from birth. He also has Cerebral Palsy. But José hasn’t let his unique challenges hinder his abilities. He has maximized his inspiration to the masses around the world and amazed people of all ages with his top-notch piano-playing skills.

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Stay tuned as our team will have more entertaining events for you soon!

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HOSTING NEW FRIENDS AT THE DALLAS LIGHTHOUSE FOR THE BLIND

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Approximately 60 people from all over the country traveled from their nationwide agencies to join together in Dallas for the annual summit of the National Industries for the Blind’s Compliance Team. This central summit was held in a downtown hotel just four miles south of DLB’s main uptown Capitol Avenue campus where I’ve had the pleasure of working for nearly a decade. It was a great opportunity to host representatives from the AbilityOne Commission and NIB.  It’s always an honor to showcase our talented employees and to inform others about our services and plans to meet the needs of the 150,000 residents in North Central Texas who are blind or visually impaired. Following our extensive tour, we enjoyed a delicious lunch together in the universal break room. The food was catered by one of our favorite establishments, Desperados Mexican restaurant. They are also proud caterers of the Dallas Mavericks, the Dallas Cowboys, the Texas Rangers, and the 2011 Super Bowl. When DLB hosts, we strive to do it right. If you want to see some cool camaraderie and hard work, I encourage you to schedule a tour with me to be enlightened to the max! I may even treat you to lunch, and it’ll probably be our fancy Whataburger across the street.

I was recently blessed to make a brand new friend, Michele Love. Michele is Human Resource Director with Lions Volunteer Blind Industries in Morristown, TN. “I had the distinct pleasure of touring Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind during the 2019 NIB Compliance Summit in February,” said Michele. “I enjoyed seeing how other agencies are able to integrate blind and visually impaired individuals into the workforce. Dallas Lighthouse has done an amazing job of providing workplace modifications to allow the blind and vision impaired to work towards independence through employment with their agency. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to gather ideas to take back home to East Tennessee.”

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A UNIQUELY EDUCATIONAL VISIT TO THOMAS HALEY ELEMENTARY

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We took our important assignment in a new direction by talking about the special way that we were taught to read without sight. We talked about our hero, Louis Braille and presented keepsake Braille alphabets for students. In a short time, students were reading Dr. Seuss books out loud using their fingertips!

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On March 1st, my friend and colleague Al and I loaded into a Lyft and rode to Irving ISD’s Thomas Haley Elementary School. We had been asked to read to students for the Read Across America Day celebration, and we were excited to represent the Envision Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind. The National Education Association (NEA) promotes Read Across America every year as close to Dr. Seuss’s March 2nd birthday as possible. Across the country, thousands of schools, libraries, and community centers participate by reading kids and teen books to students. This year, Al and I shook things up a bit.

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Ms. Fulture, a 4th and 5th grade teacher at Haley Elementary, had this to say about our visit: “Having Blake and Al visit our students was such an amazing and powerful experience for our students and faculty. Our students, ranging in ages from kindergarten to fifth grade, are quite diverse. We have over 20 languages spoken here at our campus, and our students come from all over the world. However, seeing someone with a disability is not very common for our students. Having Blake and Al visit gave our students exposure to and education regarding people with blindness. They showed our students that even with a disability, living a normal, successful life is very much possible. The students were so excited and fascinated to have some Dr. Seuss classics read to them in braille. As an educator, I want our children to know and understand that people are all different and we all have something incredible to offer this world. We welcome Blake and Al back any time!”

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CELEBRATION!

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One of my life’s great honors is being awarded the Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind’s 2018 employee of the year. As part of the celebration, my wife and I made our annual trip to the Nation’s Capitol for the Public Policy Symposium. Because of her familiarity with traveling, I can always count on Jennifer’s superb stress-reducing support throughout the process.

In Washington D.C., we were commissioned to meet with members of Congress to discuss significant subjects and solutions impacting people with visual impairment.

For the past two years, I’ve been given an extra bonus. They count on me to be the PA announcer during the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) awards banquet. This feast and ceremony follows our official visits with legislators. The added honor of being chosen as a DLB employee of the year sure made the 2018 symposium extra special for Jennifer and me to remember.

I value this keepsake photo taken with my longtime friend Kevin Lynch. He is President and CEO of NIB. Kevin certainly deserves an award for his 25 years of dedication in leading this organization. NIB is making a helpful difference for thousands of people through their roughly 61 NIB manufacturing agencies that support employment for those with visual impairment nationwide. Envision Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind is absolutely one of the best. I’m pleased to be a part of this team for the past decade. Thank you, DLB family, for this delightful honor and cherished memory.


CELEBRATING SAFETY DAY AT THE DALLAS LIGHTHOUSE FOR THE BLIND

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November 5th, 2018 was a special day at Envision Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind. We celebrated one full year of no serious injuries on our factory floor, and the Envision Lighthouse leadership enjoyed rewarding the team for going the extra mile to stay safe. You will notice my good friend Pete Sessions, a 22-year-long congressman in District 32, joined us for the special occasion. In this photo, Envision’s President and CEO Michael Monteferrante (far right), along with Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind’s executive director Max Allen (far left), are with me.


HONOR OF SPEAKING AT THE KICKOFF FOR THE 20TH ANNUAL SPORTS EXTRAVAGANZA

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On October 27th, I had the huge honor of representing Envision DLB during a milestone occasion. I was asked to kick off the 20th annual Sports Extravaganza where students with visual impairments are bound by no limits. It was a perfect fall Saturday morning, 70 degrees and sunny. I enjoyed giving an enthusiastic pep talk to help get them set for this high-energy event.

Region 10 Education Service Center staff and the Lions Club International 2-X1 started this special event in 1998 in response to the need for an increased emphasis on recreation and lifetime leisure skill development for children who are blind and visually impaired.  Students from all over the state of Texas and the United States were encouraged to compete. More than 500 people from 55 school districts in Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Alabama participate each October in this special Sports Extravaganza. The competitions include goalball, beep baseball, and many more. The volunteers are passionate about this event. I enjoyed getting to know several repeat helpers who love to see those who can’t see well or see at all enjoy an exciting and rigorous competitive environment. On the last Saturday in October, this takes place at the same North Texas location—Nimitz High School in Irving—offering sufficient space for the competition.

Lions and Region 10, thank you for your 20 years of dedication to this worthwhile event, which gives those who are blind or visually impaired the chance to make great memories that will stay in their minds and hearts for the rest of their lives.


AN INSPIRATIONAL 10-YEAR-OLD TAKING A TOUR AT THE DALLAS LIGHTHOUSE FOR THE BLIND

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My friend and team player Jennifer Watts and I facilitated one of our most enjoyable tours at Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind. It was inspirational for an excited, smart young lady named Avery Mathews. “It was her 10th birthday, and my gift to her was to be an experience she would remember,” said her friend Evelyn Raws. Evelyn had been here years ago and knew how much it would mean to young Avery to witness this and never forget. We love to educate people of all ages about the many responsibilities that people who are legally and totally blind take on and excel at.


WHEELIN’ AND DEALIN’ WITH FRIENDS

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Blake wheeling and dealing with Congressman Pete Sessions on the left and legendary nutrition and wellness expert Dr. Kenneth Cooper on the right, one of Blake's heroes.