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County marks ‘White Cane Day’; Walk-a-thon for visually impaired

By Staff | Oct 3, 2008

Lee County Commissioners have approved a resolution declaring Oct. 11 as “White Cane Day” in Lee County.

The new resolution, approved at a meeting held Wednesday, recognizes the more than 3,500 blind and visually impaired people in Lee County who use a guide dog or white cane.

Commission Chairman Ray Judah said the board is “proud” to recognize Oct. 11 as White Cane Day to “raise public awareness in being ever mindful of visually impaired people using guide dogs or white canes.”

As part of the White Cane Day observance, there will be a walk-a-thon at Lakes Park in Fort Myers on Oct. 11. Sponsored by Vision Awareness, the walk-a-thon is in its fifth year of raising money for agencies devoted to the visually impaired.

Chairwoman Joyce Thornton, who has been totally blind since she was a child, said she is honored the commissioners took the initiative to bring White Cane Day to Lee County.

“We were very pleased to receive the resolution,” she said. “We’re trying to bring to light the different issues facing the visually impaired community.”

White Cane Day is a nationally recognized day, part of a weeklong observance of various handicaps. National White Cane Day is Oct. 15.

As a social worker at the Veteran’s Administration, Thornton works with and assists 480 visually impaired veterans. She said the walk-a-thon is vitally important to bring public awareness to the plight of the visually impaired, with one of the more pressing issues being the safety of crosswalks.

“There are ways for people to get involved and this is one of them,” she said. “We’ve been fighting for transportation and equal opportunities for safety and crossing streets. We have too many people who got hit by cars, including me.”

Though she is not expecting 200 walkers like last year, Thornton said she is planning on about 150 attendees.

The $20 entry fee will aid a number of agencies assisting the visually impaired, including the Guide Dog Foundation, Southeastern Guide Dogs and Angel Flights, which flies visually impaired persons to different rehabilitation centers at no charge.

Thornton also made a point of mentioning the downturn in the economy and how it will affect donations, as well as the number of walkers.

“It’s really important this year because the economy is bad and the United Way can’t help out as much as they did last year,” she said.

For more information, contact Joyce Thornton at 839-5825.