Our vision is that together, parents, professionals, organizations and our community will be empowered to make the world more accessible and inclusive to blind and visually impaired individuals.
In 2010, Charlie Jager, a beautiful baby boy was born with a rare eye condition which caused him to be blind. Feeling lost with such an unexpected diagnosis, Charlie’s parents began researching everything and anything to learn about their newborn’s diagnosis. That’s how they came across the story of Alex Gamiño, at that time a nine-year-old boy, who happened to be born with the same rare diagnosis. Charlie’s family reached out to Alex’s family through an online international support group for parents of children with visual impairment for which Nelly Gamiño (Alex’s mother) volunteered. They discovered that both of their families lived in Chicago and Nelly decided to visit Liza Jager (Charlie's mom) in person to offer support. Since then, the two families have developed a wonderful friendship and their children, although nine years apart, have developed a very strong bond.
As the years have passed, Liza and Nelly talked about the impact that meeting another child with the same disability has had on their own children. They have noticed how their experience had also empowered and impacted themselves. As they met other parents who faced the same struggles as they did, they spent sleepless nights discussing how they could help them and many other parents to connect, exchange information, resources, ideas or even just have someone nearby who really understood what they were going through and could offer a shoulder to cry on when needed. From these conversations, an idea started to take form: to create a local group of parents who could learn from each other, and provide support to other families with visually impaired children.
In February of 2016, six years later, Vision Parents Empowered of Chicagoland (VPEC) was born and Liza and Nelly's vision became a reality. The organization started as a closed group on Facebook and in less than nine months had reached over 150 members. Together, members have shared information, ideas and have been empowered to be the best advocates for their children. We created in-person meeting opportunities and promoted special events. Since then, VPEC has successfully engaged two major Chicagoland organizations: the Shedd Aquarium and the Garfield Park Conservatory. Both organizations have created specialized programs for our children allowing them the opportunity to enjoy what otherwise would have be an inaccessible experience due to visual impairment or blindness. These programs have been life-changing for our children - to be able to touch a live starfish, a live lizard, a banana tree, are experiences that have contributed to our children’s ability to form realistic concepts that would have been impossible to form without physically interacting with these objects. VPEC has also collaborated with professionals to promote activities such as descriptive yoga, which has empowered our children to practice yoga movements independently. These collaborations have expanded our children’s knowledge and provided access to a world that would be otherwise out of reach. These experiences have also enriched the knowledge of the individuals and organizations partnering with VPEC. They have contributed to raising much awareness of how simple adaptations can open up a whole new world of knowledge to the blind community. After all, we believe that blindness is not a limitation but rather an inconvenience that can be addressed with proper adaptations.
In December of 2016, VPEC became a not-for-profit organization. The organization has plans to expand its outreach by increasing its visibility within the Chicagoland community and by forming additional impactful partnerships with community organizations, medical professionals, schools and many others.
We hope our vision continues to act to raise awareness and create opportunities to enrich the life of our blind and visually impaired children. We strive to make lasting contributions so that one day the world will be a more accessible place for all individuals affected by blindness.
“Vision without actions is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time.
Vision with action can change the world.”
Joe A. Baker