by Dan Spoone
As we completed the ACB 2022 annual budget, it resonated with me that ACB is all about people. The generosity of our members and partner donors provides us the means to connect people to the mission of ACB. Our mission statement:
ACB strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and to improve the quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people.
Our annual budget is 80% an investment in people — our staff, contractors and members providing important programs and services to improve the lives of the blind and low vision community. People helping people! It’s all about relationships. The relationships we have developed with each other and our partners. I would like everyone to take a minute and reflect on all the people you have met because of ACB. It’s amazing. This organization fosters friendships. We truly are a family.
Leslie and I had our first transformative ACB experience in 2009 at the convention in Orlando. We were at a low point. Leslie had closed her gym earlier in the summer. We were sad and exhausted. My work was very stressful, and I had been doing lots of international traveling for a very difficult global project. At times it was not easy being the only visually impaired person on a multinational team with tight deadlines and little patience for someone with a disability. We needed a vacation and some time to connect with each other.
Some might call it coincidence, but I call it fate. The ACB convention came to us at a time we really needed it. Leslie’s sister, Anita, flew in from California, and the three of us headed for the Orlando convention at the Rosen Centre Hotel. Leslie had been contacted by Phyllis Burson, Women’s Concerns co-chair, to conduct an armchair yoga session, and Leslie was so excited to get a chance to teach a group of her blind peers. My parents also decided to go out for the week. My mom and dad were active local chapter members and dad was partnered with Jay Bader to coordinate the general session door prizes. My mom and nephew, Sam, were volunteers and loved helping escort convention-goers around the hotel.
You all will not be surprised to learn that our favorite event at the 2009 convention was the Wednesday night auction. It lasted until 2 a.m., with three segments of 45 items each. Leslie and Anita called it a night after the second segment, but I stayed ‘til the bitter end. Brenda and Dan Dillon were in rare form with answering machine jingles, along with trips to Nashville and the Olympic training facilities in Colorado up for bid. I took a plunge and won the trip to Nashville, and it changed our lives forever.
It was a five-night stay with tickets to the Grand Ole Opry, the Nash Trash Tour and lunch at Cracker Barrel with Grand Ole Opry announcer Mike Terry. However, the best part of the trip without a doubt was a Halloween chili dinner at the Dillons’. Dan and Brenda prepared homemade chili and apple pie. We sang songs and played games until two in the morning. This seemed to be a theme with the Dillons. We handed out candy and laughed. Of course, there were a few adult beverages for the Dans.
This was the start of a wonderful ACB friendship. The Dillons got us involved in ACB. We joined the Resource Development Committee and Leslie joined the Auction Committee. The Dillons invited us to Washington, D.C. to participate in the presidents’ meeting and the legislative seminar. They welcomed us to Daytona Beach when they came to Florida for a fall vacation. They invited us to Washington for the WCB convention. We got a chance to spend the weekend with Cindy Van Winkle, now Cindy Hollis. We laughed all weekend long. It was so much fun.
I only share these experiences with you all to let you know how an ACB friend has changed our lives. It’s all about the relationships. It’s the same for advocacy. It’s about telling your stories and connecting with the other person. My challenge to you: find your ACB friend. It will make a major difference in your life. It’s all about people and relationships.