Among those who benefit from the Center for the Visually Impaired’s (CVI) programming is Buckhead resident Will Branch. In 2015, the 28-year-old was starting his master’s degree at Boston College’s Wallace E. Carroll School of Management. Three weeks into classes, he was brutally assaulted on his walk home and beaten within an inch of his life.
“I should have died in Boston, by every medical standard,” says Will. “That’s what makes this story unique. I didn’t lose my eyesight, my eyesight was taken from me by force.” His attackers broke his femur and his skull, which badly damaged his optic nerves. Doctors said the damage done was equivalent to being hit by an IED. Will was told he would likely never see again.
But after four months of being completely blind, Will’s vision did start to come back in his left eye. “The left eye is repairing itself but it is taking a long time,” says Will. While the nerve is damaged, he still has some peripheral vision.
Will started CVI’s New View program in May 2016, taking him through courses like braille, orientation and mobility, adjusted life skills, PC and job readiness training. Will says that PC course was most helpful to him. “Before grad school, I worked at Deloitte, so Excel and PowerPoint was my life. My teacher Greg Aikens let me skip ahead to more challenging courses and taught me JAWS, a screen reader program, on both PC and Macs. I think it will help to know both when I go back to work.”
He helped celebrate the support the CVI recently at A Night Under the Big Top: Annual Night Visions fundraiser. This special circus-themed event had carnival games and entertainment, as well as delicious carnival treats, like gourmet popcorn and cotton candy. Attendees tried their hand at giant Jenga, adaptive golf, and an obstacle course while wearing blindfolds or simulation goggles. A fortuneteller, juggler, balloon hat maker and a stilt walker roamed among the crowd.
The silent auction featured prizes like tickets to Braves and Atlanta United games, full-day spa packages, wine tastings and a year membership to the High museum. Attendees also had the chance to “flip-for-a-trip” in a coin toss bracket that led to two round-trip tickets from Southwest Airlines.
The night was topped off by a high stakes live auction, where winners walked away with prizes like a Darioush collection of fine wine, a round of golf at the exclusive Peachtree Golf Club, and a 7-night stay at Bahia Beach Resort in Puerto Rico for eight.
All donations from the night went to CVI’s rehabilitation programs, which serve people of all ages impacted by vision loss in metro Atlanta and throughout Georgia.
Will is eager to rejoin the workforce, and is currently going through job readiness training. He hopes the Night Visions fundraiser will make a difference for CVI’s facilities.
“Nothing about the place feels nice or new. All the equipment for PC is outdated, old and slow. It’s really a shame.” Will also says he hopes the funds go towards getting others the resources they need to get back on their feet. “At CVI, I learned I could function with limited vision; that there was hope out there for me, that there was help.”
The Night Visions event raised $135,000. These funds will empower people impacted by vision loss to live with independence and dignity. CVI is the only nonprofit organization in Georgia that provides vision rehabilitation services and support to people of all ages and with all degrees of vision loss – from low vision to total blindness. At CVI, services are never based on a client’s ability to pay. As such, funds raised at Night Visions are crucial to ensure that CVI can help all those in need.
You can learn more about CVI by calling 404.875.9011 or visiting the website: CVIga.org.