When Julie Collins lost her eyesight nearly 27 years ago due to diabetes, she began searching for ways to adapt.
Her search led her to The League for the Blind & Disabled, now simply known as The League. She’d just had a baby and wanted to find ways to remain independent.
“I knew they had a support group there and I needed to learn how to not rely so much on my family,” Collins said. “The support group actually provided transportation which is a huge thing, so I didn’t have to bother anybody in my family to get me there. They also provided mobility instruction, how to use my cane.”
It didn’t take long for Collins to develop a desire to help others in her situation, so she became a volunteer.
“They really made me feel like I have value and that I have something to give back,” she said.” That’s what I think most highly of regarding The League. It really helps those with disabilities find out that they have value and they don’t have to be ignored by everyone. They have a place and they have a presence in the community.”
Helping People is the mission
Collins is just one of thousands of people who’ve taken advantage of The League’s services since it opened nearly 70 years ago. Its goal is to help people with disabilities access the resources they need to lead independent lives. That might include assistance with insurance or employment, learning personal living skills, or transportation.
“If they need adaptive equipment, we have an entire division dedicated to people who are deaf or hard of hearing called DeafLink and they do a lot of case management as well as interpreter services throughout northeast Indiana and parts of Ohio,” said President/CEO John Guingrich. “Then we have a home care and home healthcare division that is providing services in people’s homes to help them maintain their independence and keep them out of nursing homes.”
Last year, the agency served more than 560 people with varying disabilities. About 45 percent of those, like Julie Collins, have vision loss. She says The League was crucial in helping her adjust to life after she could no longer see.
“The League is vital to all those who are looking for help or looking for answers. They offer encouragement and teach you how to become as independent as possible,” Collins said.
Annual spring Fundraiser
It’s funded by government grants, private grants, donations from individuals and corporations, and fee-for-service activities like interpreters and home care services. An annual spring fundraiser helps immensely.
“The Blues Bash is in its eighth year and we describe it as a party with 500 of your closest friends,” Guingrich said. “We go out and find fantastic blues entertainers and bring them in for a concert.”
This year’s Blues Bash features singer Nellie “Tiger” Travis and will take place on Saturday, April 27, at 8 p.m. at C2G Music Hall in Fort Wayne.
General admission tickets are $20 and can be purchased at The League, C2G, or Wooden Nickel Music on North Anthony Boulevard. VIP tickets are $80 and include early admission, reserved parking, reserved seats, dinner with the band, and drink tickets.
“Nellie is amazing performer,” Guingrich said. “She was born and raised in Mississippi and brings that real southern bluesy style. She has graced the stage with such people as BB King and Etta May and she’s been on the Jimmy Kimmel show and she tours internationally. We are lucky to have her.”
Putting a ‘Tiger’ in the tank
Travis is excited about bringing her signature style to Fort Wayne.
“The nickname ‘Tiger’ was a name my cousin gave me years ago because of the growl that I have,” Travis said. “I have a natural growl when I sing, so it just fits. It fits with what my character as a performer.
“At my shows, I’ll go full blues, or sometimes I can feel a crowd and throw in ‘I’ll Take You There’ or ‘Proud Mary.’ Sometimes they ask me for Motown or something else, but in this particular case they want the blues, so I’m going to give them the blues.”
Collins and her husband look forward to the event each year and encourage others to check it out.
“It’s a wonderful way to get some good entertainment and support The League at the same time,” she said. “For us it’s perfect.”
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