Louise and Bruce Greenwood both rely on the White Cane Club for support and camaraderie. (Photo submitted)

Louise and Bruce Greenwood both rely on the White Cane Club for support and camaraderie. (Photo submitted)

White Cane Club offers support, camaraderie

Marilyn Vinson found a network of support in the White Cane Club.

Marilyn Vinson found a network of support in the White Cane Club.

Vinson, who has been legally blind for most of her life, suffers from dominant optic atrophy, a genetic condition that basically means her optic nerve is dying. She joined the club seeking support as she finds it devastating every time her vision deteriorates.

The White Cane Club has helped her feel more comfortable being visually impaired, partly because she sees others going through similar trials. The club currently has 25 members.

“I love the people in our group they’re a friendly really nice bunch of people,” said Vinson, a former club president and member of the White Cane Club for 28 years. “When we’re all together it’s just more comfortable being unable to see.”

Started 30 years ago by Ralph Middlemass and his wife Louise after Ralph lost his sight due to diabetes, the club – officially called the 100 Mile House & District Blind & Visually Impaired White Cane Club – offers peer counselling and support to its members while educating the local community about the effects of vision loss and blindness.

The club, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary during National White Cane Week Feb. 7-13, has also been involved in several projects over the years to make it easier for its members to get around. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, the club continues to provide support to community members.

“For the community, we try and make things more accessible. We encourage large print and other things that we notice,” said Vinson “We are a seniors community and the Age-Friendly Society has made it quite clear that we need to work together to make our community more friendly to people who are aging. With aging comes some vision loss, it’s almost a given.”

Louise Greenwood, 84, is one of those whose sight has declined with age due to slow-moving macular degeneration. When her condition meant she had to give up her driver’s licence, Greenwood realized she needed help. Her daughter Karen introduced her to the club five years ago and although hesitant at first, Greenwood said she is now grateful for the recommendation.

“If it wasn’t for them I don’t know where I’d be. They’ve just been the most supportive, helpful group of people I could ever have met,” Greenwood said.

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She said Lori Fry, the last founding member of the club, likes to share a mantra to “never give up and adapt,” which has stuck with her. This mindset, along with the support of the club’s both visually impaired and sighted members, has been critical, Greenwood said, especially as her husband Bruce is now visually impaired as well due to macular degeneration and glaucoma.

The club also understands vision loss and offers various ways to deal with it, Greenwood said. For example, Fry once showed her how to dial her phone without seeing the numbers by pointing out the tiny bump on the number five. This is something a sighted doctor likely wouldn’t know, she said.

“Without them, I probably would have just sat at home stayed there but they encourage you to get out and put you in touch with people,” Greenwood said, adding prior to the pandemic a sighted member of the club would drive them around when Karen wasn’t available.

During the pandemic, Greenwood said Karen has been serving as “my eyes” whenever she goes shopping for groceries with her. Their neighbours in the 108 have also been very helpful, she added.

Vinson said the club’s members also offer one another support and camaraderie, and often attend events and social functions together. She likes the fact they get front row seats when the 100 Mile Performing Arts Society puts on a production.

The White Cane Club encourages individuals experiencing any level of vision loss to check out the club and welcomes other members and volunteers. Those who join during White Cane Week will be entered into a free prize draw. For more information, contact Lori Fry at 250-395-2452 or ODIFRY@shaw.ca.


@patrickdavies
patrick.davies@100milefreepress.net

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The White Cane Club’s logo. (Photo submitted)

The White Cane Club’s logo. (Photo submitted)

Marilyn Vinson has been a member of the White Cane Club for 28 years. (Kelly Sinoski photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Marilyn Vinson has been a member of the White Cane Club for 28 years. (Kelly Sinoski photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Marilyn Vinson has been a member of the White Cane Club for 28 years. (Kelly Sinoski photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Marilyn Vinson has been a member of the White Cane Club for 28 years. (Kelly Sinoski photo - 100 Mile Free Press)