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Local focus on National White Cane Day

By Staff | Oct 9, 2012

Look for a group of individuals – both with visual impairment and fully sighted – crossing at a busy local intersection Monday, Oct. 15, as part of National White Cane Day.

National White Cane Day was designed to bring awareness to safety for those who are blind or visually impaired and their right to the right-of-way.

“For two hours, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., we will cross all the corners where Bayshore Drive and Pine Island meet at Business 41, all directions when the lights change,” said organizer Doreen King.

King is chairman of the White Cane Walk-A-Thon.

“In our education programs we also go to three different schools in North Fort Myers,” she added.

The event is in cooperation with Florida Council For the Blind Southwest Chapter and the North Fort Myers Noon Lions Club.

Joyce Gilbert is the president of the club.

“White Cane Safety Day is sponsored by the federal government to stress the importance of visually impaired citizens for safe pedestrian traffic. Many motorists do not respect the white cane or the guide dog,” she said.

“National White Cane Safety Day has also been sponsored for last the last nine years by eye physicians and service organizations in hopes to educate the public on behalf of the 4,000 visually impaired citizens of Lee County.”

The Lions organization is known to champion sight issues, and this event goes along with their mission.

Gilbert has a unique perspective on the event. She is totally blind, and has been in four separate accidents with cars. The first time was when she was crossing Fowler Street and a car ran over her cane.

“I was only here in this area a week when that happened. The second time was when I was in my own neighborhood and a car backed up into me and my guide dog.”

She also injured her hip and incurred permanent damage in an accident.

Amy, her 7-year-old labradoodle, serves as her guide dog and has incredible training.

“Some dogs just can’t do it,” Gilbert said.

Amy had to learn how to cross six lanes of traffic every morning for Gilbert Joyce to catch the bus to get to work. Now retired, she worked at the VA, as a master degree social worker VIST (Visually Impaired Service Team) coordinator who worked with 458 blind veterans.

Local resident Charlie Kellenberger was recently baking cookies for volunteers at the event, but also for the Salvation Army and a soup kitchen.

“We originally tried to tie sugar cane with white cane, and have locally renowned Charlie Kellenberger give those who stop one of his famous cookies – but found that it would impede traffic,” said King. But he is still volunteering.

Kellenberger is known for founding Uncle Charlie’s Cookie Ministry, and has baked an astounding 398,649 cookies to give away for free.

“That number is not counting today,” he said. He reached 400,000 by the end of last week, baking since 2004.

He does this being wheelchair bound “Being wheelchair bound I believe it is important to take care of our special needs people in America.”

He has had a leg amputated.

“That doesn’t mean I’m handicapped,” he said. “I say love your neighbor, give them a cookie. And for drivers, if you see a white cane give them the right away and I’ll give you a cookie.”

Their goal is “maybe one more pedestrian at a time,” said King. “We hope another driver will be mindful of the rights of a visually impaired person attempting to cross the street safely.”

The Lions Club is now accepting new members and meets the first and third Wednesday of the month at All Star Bowling Lanes at noon.

If you’d like to get involved with the local Lions Club or need more information on the event, call King at 217-0174.