INSPIRING AND MOTIVATING THE INDIANA WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY STAFF AT THEIR ANNUAL RETREAT
May 21, 2019
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!
BLAKE AND JENNIFER CELEBRATE THEIR SWEET 16TH ANNIVERSARY WITH JAZZ PIANIST JOSÉ ANDRÉ MONTAÑO
April 3, 2019
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.
Stay tuned as our team will have more entertaining events for you soon!
HOSTING NEW FRIENDS AT THE DALLAS LIGHTHOUSE FOR THE BLIND
March 11, 2019
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.”
A UNIQUELY EDUCATIONAL VISIT TO THOMAS HALEY ELEMENTARY
March 6, 2019
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!
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.
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!”
February 12, 2019
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
January 4, 2019
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
November 28, 2018
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
November 13, 2018
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
April 6, 2018
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.
- May 21, 2019 INSPIRING AND MOTIVATING THE INDIANA WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY STAFF AT THEIR ANNUAL RETREAT May 21, 2019
- Apr 3, 2019 BLAKE AND JENNIFER CELEBRATE THEIR SWEET 16TH ANNIVERSARY WITH JAZZ PIANIST JOSÉ ANDRÉ MONTAÑO Apr 3, 2019
- Mar 11, 2019 HOSTING NEW FRIENDS AT THE DALLAS LIGHTHOUSE FOR THE BLIND Mar 11, 2019
- Mar 6, 2019 A UNIQUELY EDUCATIONAL VISIT TO THOMAS HALEY ELEMENTARY Mar 6, 2019
- Feb 12, 2019 Celebration! Feb 12, 2019
- Jan 4, 2019 Celebrating Safety Day at the Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind Jan 4, 2019
- Nov 28, 2018 Honor of Speaking at the Kickoff for the 20th Annual Sports Extravaganza Nov 28, 2018
- Nov 13, 2018 An Inspirational 10-Year-Old Taking a Tour at the Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind Nov 13, 2018
- Apr 6, 2018 Wheelin' and Dealin' with Friends Apr 6, 2018