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Florida Council of the Blind recognizes Cape man

By Staff | May 26, 2015

The Florida Council of the Blind recently recognized a Cape Coral resident for his involvement with the organization and for planning two statewide events that benefit the blind community.

Mike Ulrich was awarded the President’s Special Award from Florida Council of the Blind President James Kracht during the FCB Convention 2015, held May 14-17 in Orlando. Ulrich’s involvement with an annual fishing tournament and raffle were cited, as well as the procurement of an official U.S. flag.

“I had not expected it, and I was completely surprised and a bit overwhelmed,” he said Tuesday.

Previously, Ulrich was nominated by the Southwest Florida Council of the Blind – the local chapter – and was awarded the Meritorious Service with Local Chapter Award in June 2014. Two years prior, he received the William Ferrell “Just Bill” Award for his “outstanding service to the blind of Florida.”

“It’s named after a mover and shaker in the Florida Council of the Blind,” Ulrich said of the 2012 recognition. “Basically, it’s given to someone who helped make better the blind community.”

For this year’s award, his organization and planning of the annual FCB statewide raffle was noted, along with his organization and planning for the last four years of the yearly blind fishing tournament. Ulrich spearheaded the tourney in Lee County as a way of introducing blind individuals to fishing.

“I brought it to the FCB, and they gladly accepted it,” he said. “They now run it under their banner.”

At the national convention in July, the organization hopes to raise awareness about the event.

“For 2016, the FCB plans to make this more of a national event,” Ulrich said.

The President’s Special Award also referenced his actions in procuring, with the help of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s office, a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol on National White Cane Safety Day, Oct. 15.

“That flag is present at every official meeting of the Florida Council of the Blind,” Ulrich said.

Diagnosed at age 17 with type 1 diabetes, he first started noticing eyes problems at age 39, such as a hemorrhage in one eye and then the other eye. By 41, Ulrich was blind and on a dialysis machine.

“When I went blind, it was the toughest thing I went through,” Ulrich said.

While going through training at the VIP – Visually Impaired Persons – Center, he met a client who was a member of the local chapter. Ulrich explained that she was organizing a White Cane Safety Day walk, and it sparked his interest. He soon found himself attending one of the local chapter’s meetings.

“It basically inspired me to learn more, to do things blind,” Ulrich said of the chapter and FCB.

Serving on the local chapter’s board as vice president and president, he became invested in working toward educating the general public on the issues that blind individuals face, like transportation.

“I always try to come up with little programs,” Ulrich said.

His biggest advice for diabetics is to get their eyes regularly and throughly checked.

“Then they’re 20 times ahead of the game,” Ulrich said. “If they spot it early, they can stop it.”

For those suffering through the beginning stages of blindness, he offered hope.

“Don’t give up, help is there,” Ulrich said. “I’ve become a better person due to my blindness.”

The Florida Council of the Blind has a program called Project Insight that serves as a reference point for anyone needing answers or resources. The toll-free number is (800) 26-SIGHT (267-4448).

Individuals can also email the Florida Council of the Blind at florida-council@comcast.net.

Anyone looking for local assistance can also contact Ulrich at (239) 540-7431.