Back in February this year, I was focused on promoting the debut of my Landscapes of the Body exhibition at the VSA gallery here in Denver. I did interviews for local, national and international publications and TV, and in all of these spoke about my profound vision loss and the story behind picking up the camera and using it as a tool to help me see what I could not in my day-to-day life. Little did I know that I would meet a group of people that would offer me an opportunity I never expected.
Neighborhood.com is a local-centric website that helps neighbors connect. I have been a member for years and never used the site for anything more than advertising a garage sale or perhaps looking for a recommendation for a plumber or electrician. I was finished promoting my exhibition and on a whim I decided to post on neighborhood.com inviting the local neighbors to my show. Shortly after posting about my upcoming exhibition, I got a private message from a fantastic lady named Tracey who happened to see my posting and was inquiring if I might be interested in volunteering my time by sharing my story at an upcoming camp for the blind and visually impaired in Estes Park Co.
I spent some time mulling the offer over, and the day I went to hang my photos at the VSA Gallery, I mentioned to the curator Damon McLeese that I had an offer to share my story with what would seem to be the perfect audience. Come to find out, he had recently done a TEDx talk and told me that he was more than willing to help me refine my speech and give me some pointers. Sometimes, things just fall into place – so I talked to Tracey and agreed to do the talk, and started working on what I would say to the kids.
Heather’s Camp https://www.heatherscamp.org/ is a camp staffed and run by volunteer members of Delta Gamma https://www.deltagamma.org/ for kids with visual impairments. Over the last 17 years, the camp has been held in Wichita Kansas, and this year is the first year they have expanded – to Colorado.
I have spoken in front of crowds large and small many times in my life, but until now I have only covered topics that were about games I had produced – or my time working for Atari, Accolade or Mattel Toys, never about my vision or the car accident that changed my life. I convinced myself that this would be a personal growth opportunity for me, and plunged into the deep end with both feet. Thank goodness things continued to fall into place and after I had what I would consider a decent first draft of my speech Damon McLeese emailed me telling me about a free day-long seminar on public speaking being put on by a company called. Evoso. I attended the seminar and with what I learned, I reworked my speech and handed off a near final draft to Damon for review. I could never have done this without his support, encouraging words and revisions. A million thank yous to Damon!
The day of the speech came, and I was worried (well terrified) that the kids would be bored. I had stuff in there that I had never told anyone before, I felt like I was baring my soul, and I was full of anxiety. I spoke to the camp coordinators Lyndsey and Krista and told them that the kids might not be interested enough for a questions and answer period afterwards so make sure you have an alternate activity lined up. I planned to talk for 20 minutes and a short Q&A after – I ended up speaking for half an hour and then well over half an hour of questions on so many great topics. The kids were all attentive and had such great inquisitive questions, it really warmed my heart.
In the speech I discussed my vision loss, my photography and the games I made, I was so comfortable speaking to these kids that were going through what I have gone through, and I hope that some of my life experiences help them to not hide their vision loss like I did (do). Thank you to Lyndsey, Krista and Tracey for the opportunity to share my story with these wonderful kids. And thank you to Gail Adams for making sure that I made it up to Estes, even though we were experiencing a May snowpocalipse.