VETERANS ASSOCIATION (BVA)
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP, INC.
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
NEWSLETTER - October, 2006
FRG President's Message: O.K., I am learning the meaning of fun! Whether blind, old, or even absent of mind, the Iowa TEE Tournament is a blast. I am delighted to say that I went to play golf and came home with a first place in the TEE Tournament's first Annual Horseshoe Tournament. I think that I've only pitched horseshoes once or twice in my entire life, so the beginners luck theory has been hypothetically proved. That is in my case anyway. As I have been telling everyone, I was and still am in total awe over the efforts of all of the volunteers and supporters, and what it must have taken to make the event as successful as it is year after year. This was my first year and I am so pleased that I decided to attend. There was a $75 registration fee and I paid for my transportation. Then, all of the remaining costs were picked up by the event, in part, because of their excellent fund raising efforts. Also, because of the dedication and spirit of the Iowa volunteers. Volunteers even flew in so that they could help the event be successful. It was absolutely awesome. This year's Florida participants, besides myself, were Bill Geden - Hernando, Bill Burgess - Palm Coast, Rick Calissi - Ocala, and Ed Dexter - Panama City. Geden's wife Nancy, Burgess' wife Mickey, and Dexter's wife Elba, accompanied their husbands and took part in the activities including tours made especially for them. We won't discuss the 12 hour layover in Chicago for the Burgesses and me, or the 18 hour layover in Dallas for Calissi due to the fog that had settled in over Cedar Rapids. Let's just discuss the fun times had by all. Monday, we flew in and after the layover pulled into Cedar Rapids around 3 AM and two volunteers were there to meet us and drove us to the hotel. Simply super! We got in late so we missed the opening dinner and festivities. I got up at 6 AM, went down for breakfast, not just a continental breakfast but a full breakfast served by more volunteers. I had scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, a banana, and passed on the biscuits and gravy. Orange, grapefruit, milk or coffee were there also. After breakfast, all I had to do was to look confused and someone came to my aid. Since I did not make the opening dinner, I wasn't sure what the plan was for the day. The volunteer found Eric and Eric had the list containing my name. Eric let me know what the plan was, put me on the green bus, and at 8 AM we headed off to the golf course to play 9 practice holes. At the course, I was introduced to Chuck Plymale, my sighted golfing buddy. We teed off, played 9 holes and spent the afternoon at the driving range in a golf clinic. Those who wanted to go back to the hotel were taken back when ready. There was no waiting around with little or nothing to do. Again, simply super! That evening, we climbed aboard the busses that were there for all of the events and were whisked off to the park to play horseshoes. Dennis Wyant, President of the US Blind Horseshoe Pitching Association and Past BVA President and FRG member, worked with the TEE Tournament organizers to hold the TEE Tournament's First Annual Horseshoe competition. I'm sure glad they did or I would have come home with only a T shirt. But, aside from the horseshoe games, the volunteers served us the best Barbeque pork I've ever had. That's saying a lot for a southern boy.
After 9 holes of golf, the golfing clinic, a game of horseshoes, and dinner, and especially after only 3 hours of sleep, I was ready for the sack. Next morning, breakfast again, and then off to play another round of 9 holes and in the afternoon, most went over to the bowling alley. I stayed and played another 9 holes of golf, but should have gone over and bowled a few games. From the others that went, it too was nothing but absolute fun. The alley's had programmable gutter guards. When your name came up on the electronic scoreboard, if you had programmed it for gutter guards, the guards came up automatically. they would then go down automatically if programmed to stay down for the non-users. Now, this one will throw all of you. The participants were asked if they would like a bowling ball with a handle. Yea, Sure, a bowling ball with a handle! Not so fast, for a fact, they had bowling balls with handles on them. I never heard of such a thing. Apparently, the handle retracts flush to the surface of the ball. There is a small hole that you put your finger into in order to pull out the handle. When the bowler lets go of the handle, it retracts back into the ball. Go figure. I've always wanted to get a handle on the bowling ball and I missed my chance. At least until next year. That evening, we loaded on the busses and headed off for another great meal. The volunteers put the dinner together, they cooked it, served it, and cleaned up after we all headed back to the hotel for casino night. Slot machines, crap tables, blackjack, the big wheel all were manned by volunteers. when we walked in, we were handed an envelope with $400 in play money. Iowa casino dealers (TEE Tournament volunteers) are the worst I've ever seen. They could just not win. The idea was to win enough play money so you could go to the casino store, which was stocked with donated items. You could buy the items with your winnings. It was about a sure thing that you could make enough to pay for whatever item might have caught your fancy in the casino store. It sorta seems as if they wanted us to win. Such a radical idea! Once again off to bed after a full day of fun - drum roll! Thursday came with another full breakfast and off to the courses for a full day of golfing. There were three separate categories. They were: beginners, non-competitive, and competitive. Each category went to a separate golf course, played 9 holes of golf, took a break for lunch, and went back and played the final 9 holes. At the end, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the Awards Dinner. Everyone was awarded a participation medallion, and then individual awards were presented. Bill Burgess from Palm Coast, won closest to the pin in his category. I'm going to try and see if somehow we can plan such events for our annual State Convention in Daytona Beach. If anyone has ideas, just give me a call at (904) 291-0576. Anyway, for those who might be interested in attending the Iowa TEE Tournament, next year, let me know and I'll keep you abreast of the when and where. Paul Kaminsky, FRG President
FRG Auxiliary President's Message: Fellow FRG Auxiliary Members: I hope that those of you who were able to attend the Jacksonville FRG Luncheon enjoyed yourselves. I apologize for not being there, however, transportation was just too difficult. However, my thoughts were with you. I hope to see many of you at the FRG Luncheon in Ft. Myers on November 11. This will be a wonderful way of celebrating Veterans Day by meeting so many of you again. A new FRG Auxiliary Scholarship Chairman has been appointed. Ms Peg Toomey asked to be relieved of her obligation as Scholarship Chairman due to the unexpected death of her husband, Mike who was Vice President of the FRG. Our heartfelt prayers and support go out to our sister who has been so active in the FRG Auxiliary and hope that she continues with us. We need her sense of humor and her wisdom. Ms Nancy Geden has consented to replace Peg as Scholarship Chairman. Any further inquiries about the Scholarships can be addressed to her at: Ms Nancy Geden, 622 East Forest Hill Place, Hernando, FL 34442 or call (352) 341-6875. Nancy will be sending letters out to the BV's after January 1. Watch for her letter in the mail. If you need to get in touch with her before that, you may contact her at the address above or at her telephone. Thank you Nancy for coming forward to pitch in at a time of need. In the Ft. Myers area, I am working on the White Cane Day Walk-A-Thon. The FRG and FRG Auxiliary are recipients in the proceeds from this walk and hopefully it will be a success again this year. Our theme this year is "Pedestrian Safety". Each walker will receive bag of prizes, chances on excellent door prizes, a T shirt depicting our theme of "Pedestrian Safety" and a complementary lunch at Carrabas. Any veteran who is interested in walking for the BVA-FRG may contact me for a packet and registration at (239) 939-3939 ex 6284. The date is October 14, the day before National White Cane Day and will be at Lakes Park in Ft. Myers. I will be looking forward to seeing you in November. Perhaps, some of you can tell me if you have been able to connect with a lonely Blinded Veteran which is an Auxiliary project. In the meantime, stay happy. Joyce Thornton, FRG Aux. President
FRG Meeting Notice: The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, November 11th, at the Whiskey Creek Country Club, 1449 Whiskey Creek Drive in Ft. Myers. The meeting will begin with a period of socializing at 11:30 AM, followed by lunch at noon. Southwest District Director Larry Newman has made the arrangements for this meeting. For lunch, you may have either Chicken Marsala or Meatloaf and Garden Salad, Potatoes, mixed Vegetable, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee and Dessert. The cost of the luncheon will be $5 per person, including tax and tip. Beer, wine, and mixed drinks will be available for an additional charge. FRG President Paul Kaminsky will preside at the meeting following lunch. Representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs will be on hand to provide information about services and benefits of interest to BV's and their families. A National Legislative Up-Date will be presented. Future FRG activities will be discussed. Information about the FRG Auxiliary will be presented.
The restaurant has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of meal desired by November 8. Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Terry King, in Charlotte County, at: 24243 Pirate Harbor Blvd., Punta Gorda, FL 33955, or call Terry at (941) 505-7747. You may also make your reservations by calling Joyce Thornton, Ft. Myers VIST Coordinator, at (239) 939-3939 ex. 6284, or in Ft. Myers contact Larry Newman at (239) 277-0821, Leo Bonamy at (239) 454-5784 or In Cape Coral, call Bing Wack at (239) 574-8592. In Venice call Frank Drab at (941) 497-7044, in Punta Gorda call Bill Stockslager at (941) 743-8364 or in Collier County call Jim Wu at (239) 461-7422. The restaurant needs the reservation information in order to prepare properly for our meeting.
To get to the Whiskey Creek Country Club, go north or south on I 75 to Exit 131, then Go West on Daniels Road 5.1 miles to US 41, turn right on US 41 (Cleveland Avenue) and go 7 miles. Turn left on College Parkway one mile, then turn right on Whiskey Creek Drive for 1.3 miles to the Whiskey Creek Country Club at 1449 Whiskey Creek Drive. From Edison Mall, go south on US 41 approximately 4 miles. Turn right go west on College Parkway one mile. Then turn right on Whiskey Creek Drive for 1.3 miles to the Country Club. Free Parking is available next to the restaurant. Encourage your fellow Blinded veterans to join us on Saturday, November 11th in Ft. Myers. Although you only pay $5 for the lunch, this year, the FRG will pay $12.75 for each lunch we guarantee. Consequently, if you makes a reservation and don't come or cancel, the FRG must pay the total amount. Please make your reservations and if you can't come, please call Terry King or Joyce Thornton and cancel it by November 8.
US Legislative Up-Date: BVA Director of Government Affairs Dr. Tom Zampiere, testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee on September 20 regarding topics of interest to Blinded Veterans. Two of the 3 measures introduced for the BVA in the Congress are still under consideration. SCon 71, the White Cane Education Act, is expected to pass the Senate shortly. A companion measure has already passed the House. HR 3579 our BROS bill is still under consideration. The House Committee staff indicated that HR 3579 would be added to a group of measures scheduled for passage after the election. Dr. Tom Zampiere is still working on the Appropriations Committee in an attempt to get $9 million added to the VHA appropriation to fund the full continuum of care for visually impaired veterans. S 1182 our Bros bill has already passed the Senate. Although things are looking favorable, nothing is assured until passed and signed into law. Dr. Tom and an Iraqi BV and his wife met with members of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committee. A number of totally disabled servicemen are still on active duty completing their treatment. They urge Congress to amend Chapter 35 the Dependent Education Act to permit the dependents of totally disabled servicemen to be eligible for Chapter 35 while the serviceman is still on active duty. Senators Craig and Akaka has sponsored such an amendment which should pass by December. Watch for further legislative information in future BVA Bulletins and FRG Newsletters.
Grateful Thanks! Once again, we must step up and make known our appreciation to one of our VIST Coordinators. Several months ago, in our FRG Southwest District, one of our active Blinded Veterans unfortunately passed away. In his will, he remembered the BVA-FRG with a $29,500 bequest. This was a result of his dedication to the BVA-FRG and through the never ending assistance rendered by Joyce Thornton , a very devoted and dedicated VIST Coordinator. Once again, the close working relationship between the BVA-FRG and VIST Coordinator, or "partnership" as I like to call it, pays off for the benefit of all Blinded Veterans. Hopefully, this story will not end here. I am proposing that the FRG Board of Directors explore the setting up of an Endowment Fund for the BVA-FRG. The interest from such a fund would be used for the purpose of offsetting the cost of the FRG Newsletter and for subsidizing the District Luncheon Meetings around the State and our State Convention. Last year, we were very fortunate in our fund raising around the state. However, we cannot expect to be as successful every year. Therefore, as many other organizations have found out, Endowment Funds may be the most practical approach to the raising of funds and for maintaining the viability of the organization. Don't forget that neither the FRG nor the BVA receive any funding from the Federal Government, for their operations. In closing, we would like to request that any veterans who have any knowledge about Endowment Funds contact the BVA-FRG with such information. It would be gratefully appreciated if you would contact either Larry Newman (239) 277-0821, email firstname.lastname@example.org or Terry King at (941) 505-7747 email email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you. Terry King, FRG Past President.