On Saturday and Sunday, July 11 and 12, 2015 Alström Angels hosted 15 teams in Lubbock’s first beeping baseball tournament for children and adults who are blind, visually impaired, and those that are sighted; everyone plays blindfolded. Yep, we said BLINDFOLDED! More than 160 West Texans were blindfolded and up-to-bat! Teams for the inaugural BEEPball Tournament range from gymnastics teams, cheerleading squads, occupational and physical therapists, vision therapists, families, existing baseball teams, civic organizations, and three completely vision impaired youth teams.
Beep Baseball was started in 1964 by engineers at the Mountain Bell Telephone Company. The game was designed to allow individuals with visual disabilities the chance to play one of America’s greatest sports; baseball. In Beep Baseball, both the balls and bases are modified to emit an audible beep, which allow blindfolded players to fully engage in the game. All players, regardless of visual ability or disability, must wear blindfolds to even the playing field.
The community event was brought to Lubbock by Alström Angels, a Lubbock-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children diagnosed with Alström Syndrome. Alström Syndrome is a genetic disease that affects children with complete blindness, deafness, type 2 diabetes, kidney and liver failure, congestive heart failure and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
“Because childhood blindness is such a big part of Alström Syndrome, the BEEPball Tournament is a great way for us to raise awareness for all blind and vision impaired children and adults,” said Cassie Johnston, co-founder and executive director of Alström Angels. “I can’t think of a better way to raise awareness for a disability than to let someone experience it.”
“We have a passion for being involved in the community,” said Tiffany Jobe, RN with BeyondFaith Homecare, a 2015 BEEPball Tournament sponsor. “When we heard about Alström Angels we felt it was a great cause to support and help promote awareness. We also thought it would be an excellent team building activity for our staff & colleagues to do together,” Jobe continued. “We have had a couple of practices and already realized the challenges of being blindfolded.”
As the tournament narrowed down to the final teams, competition got heated but everyone remembered why they were playing and the purpose of the event. In the end, there were laughs, collisions, runs, outs, and lots of cheering. In all, 90 runs were scored at the Alstrom Angels BEEPball Tournament! Team "What the BEEP!" claimed second place, and team "Can't Touch This" took home the championship title.
For more information about how the game of Beep Baseball is played visit: lubbockbeepball.org.
For those of us who are sighted, it's sometimes difficult to fully grasp what "accessible" means to a person who is vision impaired or blind. I must admit, despite being the mother of a 5-year-old daughter (Bryce) who is blind, I am guilty of this very thing. In reality, it is me who is often blind to how truly "accessible" the world is for people with visual disabilities.
Here's one example: My daughter, Bryce, is currently learning to read braille. In my mind, she will be set to "access" the world once she can fluently read braille. After all, braille is everywhere, right?? Not so much the case. Imagine going to a restaurant and trying to read the menu without your sight. It can't be done for obvious reasons. Now let me pose this question...when was the last time your saw a restaurant menu printed in braille? Humm...
In reality, what we think provides accessibility to people with vision loss (braille signs at restrooms and braille on elevator buttons) barely touches the surface of a blind person being able to navigate the world around them. Don't get me wrong, I definitely don't want my little girl wandering into the men's room at the mall, even if she can't see! The current accessibility efforts are indeed needed, but we need more of it to provide better access to everyday tasks.
Thanks to scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a blind person trying to order their meal from a printed menu is about to be a problem of the past! Researchers are developing an audio reading device to be worn on the index finger of people whose vision is impaired, giving them immediate access to printed words: the restaurant menu, the daily newspaper, birthday cards, the label on the rice box at the grocery store, the price of the rice box... When you really stop to think about everything in our daily lives that require sight because there isn't a braille version offered, you have to wonder, how in the world do vision impaired people do it?! This new technology is bridging that gap and hurling us toward a truly accessible world.
The so-called FingerReader, (still a prototype) fits like a ring on the user’s finger and is equipped with a small camera that scans text. A synthesized voice reads words aloud, quickly translating books, restaurant menus and other needed materials for daily living. Voila - reading is a easy as pointing your finger at text on the page!
The FingerReader is a pretty intuitive little gadget. Special software tracks finger movement, identifies words and processes the information. The device even has vibration motors that alert readers when they stray from the script,
For Jerry Berrier, 62, who was born blind, the promise of the FingerReader brings the ability to quickly access the world, just like everyone else. “When I go to the doctor’s office, there may be forms that I wanna read before I sign them,” Berrier said.
The FingerReader can read papers, books, magazines, newspapers, computer screens and other devices. Still in prototype and test market phase, much work remains before it is ready for the 11.2 million people in the United States with vision impairment (according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates) including making it work on cellphones. Developers believe they will be able to affordably market the FingerReader, but are not yet able to estimate a price.
With technology advancements like the FingerReader on the horizon, I think it's safe to say that a truly accessible world is, quite literally, at our fingertips.
Alstrom Angels Co-Founder
Alström Angels held the second annual benefit dinner on February 22, 2014. The event, called a Night for Angels, was a huge party at Four Bar K. Special thanks goes to Four Bar K owner and cook, Chuck Kershner. Big thanks also goes out to Matt Kimbrow band, who played country music that guests danced the night away to.
Four rare angels joined the party. Three of the four children in Texas with the syndrome attended: 19-year-old Dillon from Midland, 17-year-old Callie from Fort Worth, 5-year-old Bryce from Lubbock, as well as the only child from Alabama, 9-year-old Brooklyn. Callie shared her story on how if felt being diagnosed and how she has being able to work through this rare disease.
The NET profit that was raised from the second Alström Angels Benefit Dinner was more than $50,000 to benefit Alström Syndrome research and family support programs.
It was defiantly a night for angels! Mark your calendar for next year’s benefit dinner: Saturday, February 21, 2015.
What an amazing first year as an official 501 (c)(3) nonprofit! 2013 was CRAZY busy...oh, what fun the craziness is! Check out our financial report with all the details on what we've been up to.
We have some pretty cool things in store for 2014, and we're even planning into 2015. Do your ears perk up when you hear, BEEPING Baseball Tournament?? Ours do too!
In April we conquered beeping eggs at our first BEEPING Easter Egg Hunt, and now we're movin' on to BEEPING baseballs! Sighted AND vision impaired people can both play. Everyone wears blindfolds! Want to know more about how the game of Beepball is played? Check out this YouTube video:
We're so excited about the BEEPING Easter Egg Hunt!! Get ready Lubbock...it's going to be a BEEPING good time!
Beep-beep, can you hear the eggs? On Sunday, April 13, 2014 children on the South Plains will hear beeping Easter eggs at Maxey Park for the Alström Angels Beeping Egg Hunt. For the first time, many blind and vision impaired children will get to experience the long-loved Easter tradition with the help of special eggs designed to create an audible beep.
“Because childhood blindness is such a big part of Alström Syndrome, the Beeping Egg Hunt is a great way for us to raise awareness for all blind and vision impaired children,” said Cassie Johnston, co-founder and executive director of Alström Angels.
According to the Division for Blind Services, there are more than 100 children living with a vision impairment in Lubbock and the surrounding areas. “Children with visual impairments have a difficult time participating in activities like their sighted siblings or peers,” said Jennifer Matlock, blind children’s specialist with the Division for Blind Services in Lubbock. “Events like a beeping Easter egg hunt are adapted to allow them the opportunity to interact and participate with other children. As a result, it helps blind or visually impaired children to feel included in activities just like their sighted siblings or peers.”
The Beeping Egg Hunt is a community event for the whole family to enjoy. All children will be able to participate in the Hunt. Blindfolds will be given to sighted children, and they, like their vision-impaired counterparts, will get to experience what it would be like to hunt eggs without their vision. Alongside the hunting grounds the event will host areas to hit beeping baseballs, a petting zoo, face painting and bounce houses.
An intern for Alström Angels, Macy Pruitt, stated, “Everyone’s going to have a lot of fun at the event, but I think the sighted kids especially will get a little more out of it by participating in the blindfolded Beeping Egg Hunt. It really is interesting to experience how some of your peers live.”
The Beeping Egg Hunt will be held on Sunday, April 13, 2014 at Maxey Park from 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. and is open to the general public. The event will host continuous egg hunts throughout the afternoon, allowing attendees to come and go at their leisure. There is no admission charge to attend the Beeping Egg Hunt and related activities.
Alström Angels hosted our first golf classic in October 2013, at Shadow Hills Golf Course. Last year we had a great turn out, despite the cold wind that came from nowhere.
Players registered, ate lunch, and set off for a great game of golf. Half way through, the Lubbock weather had a stroke of crazy! It turned cold and windy, but we still enjoyed our time playing to help these rare angels.
The NET profit that was raised from the first Alström Angels Golf Classic was more than $8,000 to benefit Alström Syndrome research and family support programs.
Mark your calendar for this year’s tournament! The second annual Alström Angels Golf Classic will be held Friday, September 12, 2014 at Shadow Hills Golf Course. Lunch will be at noon, and shotgun start will be at 1 p.m. Team registration and sponsorship spots will open July 15, 2014.
Come out and play with us! But make sure you bring a sweater, because you never know what the wild Lubbock weather may bring. There's nothing better than helping a child by doing something you love...playing golf!
Online team registration and sponsorship opportunities will open July 15, 2014: www.alstromangels.com
Welcome to the Alström Angels blog! We’ll be blogging about what we’re doing, give you lots of medical information, and every once in awhile one of our special angels might write to you. We would love to hear your comments and questions about Alström Syndrome and Alström Angels.
You can also keep up with what we’re doing by liking us on Facebook at Alström Angels and following us on Twitter at @AlstromAngels. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, Alström Angels, to see all of our videos.
Let us know your thoughts, ideas, suggestions, or feedback. We'd love to hear from you!