'They've changed the course of my life'

Get to know Envision, SPLURGE! party beneficiary

Written by Amy Palser

Meet Andrew McLeod, soon-to-be high school grad, guitar player and computer science aficionado. He also has severe vision impairment, but attributes much of his success to Envision, the SPLURGE! Party beneficiary.

Andrew McLeod is a soon-to-be graduate of Eisenhower High School, plays electric guitar in several bands, and plans to study computer science at Wichita State University next year. He also has severe vision impairment, reads braille, and uses a white cane to help him get around. Andrew and his family say they owe much of his success to the Wichita agency Envision.

“They’ve changed the course of my life,” said Andrew, 18. “They kind of built me up to where I could be successful. They were there helping me to realize my potential, which was a big deal for me.”

Envision is this year’s beneficiary of the Wichita Open 30th Birthday Bash hosted by SPLURGE! on June 15 at Crestview Country Club. Founded in 1933, the agency’s mission is to improve the quality of life and provide inspiration and opportunity for people who are blind or visually impaired, through employment, outreach, rehabilitation, education and research.

Proceeds from the SPLURGE! Party at the Wichita Open will go toward Envision’s Level Up Conference, held annually at WSU to train visually impaired high school students in STEAM subjects. “Being this year’s beneficiary will have a very significant and meaningful impact on that group of kids,” said Heather Hogan, Envision senior vice president of Foundation and Mission Services. “Most don’t have the resources to participate in Level Up without this type of support. They wouldn’t get that opportunity otherwise.”

Andrew, who attended Level Up and this year will teach a computer course there, said the conference was crucial to his development. “That was huge in helping me be successful in school. It opened up my eyes to what I want to do for a career.”

Envision is all about creating pathways to independence for people who are blind or visually impaired (BVI), Heather said. “We do that in a variety of ways, but the center of our mission has always been employment. Employment levels the playing field. If I have a job I can provide for myself and my family. If I have a job I can do the things that bring me joy.”

The pathway to independence begins early; at 2 weeks of age babies can begin receiving services at Envision’s development center. “We support kids all the way from birth to college and beyond. We help build the skills they need to be independent and self-sufficient,” Heather said. “We also treat adults and seniors who are blind or are slowly losing their vision or have lost their vision in a short period of time.”

Envision started during the Great Depression as an adult training school for the blind, manufacturing brooms they sold door-to-door. Today Envision has a holistic philosophy, but employment is still a major focus. A large manufacturing plant that employs adults who are blind and visually impaired produces 2.5 million plastic bags a day, among other office supplies. And Envision is the largest provider of business cards to the U.S. government.

In addition, the BVI Workforce Innovation Center trains people who are blind and visually impaired and places them in professional jobs in the community.

Andrew’s father, Brady McLeod, said Envision has been an important part of their family since the time Andrew was a toddler. Their daughter, Julia, 14, is also visually impaired and has received services from Envision. “For us as a family they’ve given us that support, just feeling like we have somewhere to go if we ever need anything.”

For more information on Envision, visit envisionus.com or call 316.440.1526. To purchase tickets to the Wichita Open 30th Birthday Bash hosted by SPLURGE!, visit wichitaopen.com or call 316.219.9046.

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