Category Archives: Unique Opportunities

Fairfax Chapter Hosts Indoor Rock Climbing in March


On Saturday, March 12, 2016 at the Sport Rock indoor rock climbing center in Alexandria, 9 blind and vision impaired members of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia took on the challenge of scaling 60 foot vertical heights by using just their hands, legs, and the determination to succeed.

Those who climbed that day were from several chapters in our NFB family. The chapters represented were: the Winchester Chapter, Fairfax Chapter and DC Chapter. The climbers were: Carolena Garrison, Chris Vincent Walker, John Bailey, Paula Kelsey, James, Thomas Gryder, Johanna Johnson, Joy Relton, Toby Austin, and James Dietz.

The ages, skill levels, and familiarity with the NFB philosophy of empowerment through skills and a positive attitude varied greatly among the participants.

When everyone arrived, , our indoor rock climbing instructor Christie and her assistant welcomed us and showed us how to adjust the waist harnesses which would connect the climbers with the safety rope. The group went two climbers at a time up either the 40 or 60 foot simulated rock wall which had hand and foot holds randomly carved in them. The challenge was to locate the nearest hold, stabilize your balance, and then pull yourself up to the next hold.

Chris Walker made it to the top on his second try. He made it half way on his first attempt. However, on his second attempt, he continued pushing himself passed where he had stopped before and continued till his head hit the ceiling. He knew then he had succeeded.

Johanna is new to the Federation and is tackling all the challenges RP can bring to one’s personal and professional life. You wouldn’t think Johanna had any challenges if you saw how she climb to the top of the wall and down 4 times in less than 90 minutes.

Two hours after we started, the climbers and their supportive spectators said over and over again what a great time they had. In fact, ideas for future activities were being bounced around. Some of the ideas were: horseback riding, tubing on a river, group dance classes, and Joy made sure everyone knew that she was voting to go skiing. Everyone agreed to keep in touch and to get together soon.

Apply for a Unique Mentoring Experience at the 2014 NFB Convention

Please see below for the Virginia program to support attending the 2014 National Convention. Individuals are encouraged to apply for both the National program and this Virginia specific program.

The 2014 NFB National Convention is a remarkable experience you do not want to miss. The convention will be even better because you were there to attend. Many of those who have attended our national NFB convention are amazed at how seeing, meeting, and interacting with over 3000 other blind and low vision convention attendees has literally changed their lives. They not only experience how the problems of vision loss can be overcome, but they also experience the confidence that can come with it.

Robert and Marian McDonald selflessly contributed to our Virginia affiliate to further the progress and better the lives of those who are blind, visually impaired, and low vision in Virginia. In their honor, we recognize the personal benefits that come to people who attend a national convention for the first time. In their memory, the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia (NFBV) continues their legacy of education and empowerment to Virginia’s blind citizens.

We anticipate awarding fellowships to assist each fellowship recipient in covering the cost of attending our 2014 NFB National Convention to be held in Orlando, FL, from July 1 to July 6. Please note: The banquet ends late in the evening on Sunday, July 6 and fellowship winners are expected to attend the banquet so return travel must occur on Monday, July 7 or later. This event will take place at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando Florida.

Consistent with our original goals, the McDonald Fellowship program was established in 1998 in order to: a) assist those who have never attended a convention of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) before, or b) those who have not attended in years and wish to come to a convention again.

Details on financial assistance for all others are provided at the bottom of this message.

We will link each of our fellowship winners up with mentors who will assist them in getting the most out of their national convention experience. As part of the Fellowship application requirements, McDonald Fellowship winners are asked to attend the entire NFB convention and address our 2014 NFB of Virginia state convention.

Application process

Deadline for applications for the McDonald Fellowship is April 15, 2014. Winners will be announced May 15, 2014.

Your application should be in the form of a letter delivered via electronic mail. There is no specific form for the application. We simply ask that applicants write a brief letter of application outlining their reasons why they should be considered for a Fellowship.

Your letter must include:

  1. Name, Address, phone and email contact information
  2. Chapter or connection With the affiliate
  3. How you will benefit from the experience
  4. How you have participated with your chapter or the affiliate in the past year
  5. Any other pertinent details

In addition, you are required to contact your Chapter President or an affiliate Board Member for a letter of recommendation. Letters of recommendation are due by Sunday, April 20, 2014.

E-mailed applications or questions about the Fellowship program should be sent to Tracy Soforenko, Chairman, McDonald Fellowship Committee, by e-mail at or by phone at (202) 285-4595.

As agreed at the January 2014 NFBV Board Meeting, all others requesting financial assistance should reach out first to their chapter presidents for financial assistance. Requests to chapter presidents should be made by April 15, 2014. If the chapter cannot provide sufficient support to enable the individual to attend, requests should be forwarded to NFBV President Schroeder no later than May 15, 2014.

Make 2014 the year you attend the national convention.

Tracy Soforenko
McDonald Fellowship Chair
(202) 285-4595 (mobile)
(703) 522-8182 (home)