BY ROSIE PIGA PIZZO
When Rebecca Davis moved to Bloomington from California, she learned to her dismay that the preschool services she received for her 2-year-old daughter, Eliza, did not exist in Indiana.
Eliza was diagnosed at six months with a visual impairment, and Davis knew that it was imperative for her daughter to receive services from an experienced teacher. “You feel equal parts of despair and hopelessness if there’s not someone who can put you on the right track,” Davis says.
The Bloomington mother found what she was looking for in Visually Impaired Preschool Services (VIPS), but it was located in Louisville, Kentucky. For two years, Davis made the two-hour drive each way, three times a week, so Eliza could attend VIPS’ state-of-the-art preschool. “I was so angry that there weren’t services here in Indiana,” she says, noting there are 300 known preschool age children in Indiana who are legally blind or have significant vision loss.
Davis made it her mission to bring early intervention services to Indiana’s infants and toddlers. She took on the role of development director, got financial help from Bloomington-based Solution Tree, and thanked her lucky stars when she found that Ann Story Hughes, who taught at the Indiana School for the Blind for 36 years, was living here. VIPS-Bloomington was launched in August 2011 and initially provided in-home services for eight families. The number has since grown to 81 families in 18 counties.
There’s still plenty of work to be done, says Davis. “The ultimate goal is to challenge the state of Indiana to do for our children what the state of Kentucky has done for their children.”
To raise awareness and to help fund services, VIPS-Bloomington will host Dining in the Dark at Chapman’s Restaurant on October 26, beginning at 6 pm. To give people a taste of what it’s like to live with a visual impairment, guests will be asked to wear sleep shades as they enjoy dinner prepared by Chapman’s chef James Turner.
“By showing up, you’re a champion for children,” says Davis.