Friday, April 14, 2006

Blind Babies

photo by EstherAvila

I never knew that there were so many blind babies in our area. I have a special place in my heart for the blind because my daddy was blind.

Last Saturday I covered a Beeping Easter Egg hunt -- about 300 people attended (inlcuding 30 blind babies, ages 0-4, and their families)

The eggs beeped and the children, quite a few of them with white canes, walked around, listening for them.

The event catered to all of their other senses. They had flowers to touch, smell and plant; and baby animals to pet.

I was so happy as I covered the event. It was the most awesome thing ever.

The story ran in today's South Valley edition of the Fresno Bee. I'm attaching it below.

Fresno Bee - South Valley Bee
Friday, April 14, 2006
Blind Children shown power of their senses
By Esther Avila / Special to The Bee

Three-year-old Mitchell Villanueva smiled as he gently held a baby chick. Blind since birth, Mitchell could hear the chick's peeps and feel the fur -- and the squirming.

"He's soft," Mitchell said, placing the chick closer to his ear. "I like it."

Mitchell was one of more than 300 people, including 30 visually-impaired children, who attended the 13th annual Central Valley Beeper Egg Hunt hosted by the Blind Baby Foundation at Rowley Ranch in Visalia on Saturday.
The children and their families were also treated to a barbecue, tactile games, a visit from the Easter bunny and a special beeping-eggs Easter hunt.

"For blind children, we have to bring the world to them," said Kristi Spaite, vision-impairment specialist with Blind Babies Foundation. "We have to bring them these experiences. It is difficult for families to offer this kind of diversity to their children. A lot of the families don't get out much."

The Blind Babies organization was founded in 1949 after an epidemic of blindness among premature infants. The foundation's primary purpose is to provide early intervention services to children and families that encourage the child's development within their home environment.

"A lot of these activities are done with a purpose. We're getting them ready for Braille. We want them to want to use their fingers, and we try to provide them with as many textures as possible," Spaite said. "Many children do not like to touch different textures."

For that reason, Saturday's event had a petting zoo, where children could touch the fur, feathers, and skin of baby animals, from piglets and chicks to lambs and goats.

The children also participated in an Easter egg hunt that had 50 specially-made beeping eggs. Several of the children used white canes to feel their way around as they listened for the beeps.

"I didn't have a clue that there were so many blind children in our area," said Vicki Rowley. "I heard about this through church and immediately opened up our home for this."

Breanna Burch, 2, of Visalia also attended. When she was 7 months old, Breanna was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare disease in which bilateral tumors attach to the retinas.

"It's a fast-growing cancer. She needs eye sugery every three weeks to keep it under control," said her mother, Julie Burch, who had the same disease as a child. "It's genetic, but it's very rare. It can strike at any time, but the kids pretty much grow out of it by age 4 or 5."

Breanna laughed -- she had chocolate all over her smile from a cupcake she decorated before eating -- and said she was looking forward to searching for Easter eggs.

Following the hunt, the children planted flowers in their plastic buckets.

Michael Owens, 16 months old and blind since birth, sat next to Mitchell. The two boys grabbed small fistfuls of dirt and placed them in their buckets before their parents helped them fill the basket with flowers.

"The flowers are new this year," Spaite said. "The touch, feel and smell of the flowers are all different. We wanted to tie it to spring to help educate the families about teaching their blind
children about springtime.

'When they are little, we are their eyes. But when they get older, their fingers are what they count on."


  1. What a precious event. Good for you for participating. This is so endearing. Kids are always special little beings.

  2. Yes. I think I was blessed more just by being there.