From the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross is responding across five states to help people affected by Sunday’s devastating tornado outbreak and severe weather in the Midwest, providing food, shelter and comfort to families and individuals in need.
…Twelve Red Cross shelters were open in the hardest hit states of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio Sunday night. Meanwhile, Red Cross workers also are helping people in Kentucky and Michigan whose homes were damaged from storms. As roads reopen, Red Cross emergency vehicles will hand out meals, snacks and relief supplies in affected communities. Emergency aid stations are also open in some areas where people can get food and snacks, mental health and health care services, and information about what help is available.
The WellPoint Foundation is proud to be a member of the American Red Cross’ Annual Disaster Giving Program and thanks the organization for all it is doing to provide needed services throughout our communities.
Photo above: American Red Cross
A powerful typhoon struck the Philippines last Friday, killing thousands, and destroying homes and roads.
In response, the WellPoint Foundation has committed $50,000 to the American Red Cross towards Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts, underscoring the company’s longstanding support of the Red Cross and ensuring the organization is able to respond immediately to the needs of those impacted by disaster.
The WellPoint Foundation has also pledged to match WellPoint associates’ contributions to the Red Cross, dollar for dollar, up to an additional $100,000, when the funds are donated via a special website established by the company. These associate contributions will be matched through Nov. 27.
To support the Red Cross’ ongoing mission to help people prepare and recover from disasters of all kinds, many WellPoint associates also choose to donate through WellPoint’s ongoing Associate Giving Campaign. The WellPoint Foundation matches associate gifts made through the Associate Giving program at 50 percent every day.
Additional information about the storm and international relief efforts is available from redcross.org.
For the first time in her life, 17-year-old Ali Lawson can proudly say that she is an athlete, and in June she competed in the Goalball National Championship Tournament in Vancouver, Wash.
Lawson was born with a rare mutation of the degenerative eye disease, Leber’s congenital amaurosis (LCA). LCA is a hereditary disorder that often results in vision loss or blindness. While Lawson still has enough vision to send text messages to all of her friends, using adaptive screen features, she is unable to do many of the things her friends do, like playing sports.
Lawson comes from a very athletic family and sports were a part of her childhood. By middle school, her vision had deteriorated so much that she could no longer compete without risking injury to herself or to the other children on the field. This was a devastating blow to Lawson, who wanted nothing more to have her name on the back of a jersey.
Just over two years ago, Lawson was introduced to the world of goalball, a sport created in the 1940s for blinded World War II veterans.
Goalball is played on a volleyball size court and each of the boundaries are marked by taped string so the athletes can feel where they are. The ball is just larger than a basketball with a bell inside of it. As the ball is rolled down the court, the players on the other team listen for the bells and try to stop the ball before it rolls into the goal behind them.
“Goalball is [a lot] like other sports. There are three people defending the goal and the object of the game is to get the ball in the goal behind the line. You have to block the ball, you can only use your ears and your body because you’re blindfolded so everyone has the same disability,” Lawson said.
“It was hard [at first], but it was pretty awesome…to lay on the ground and get hit with the ball,” Lawson said of her first time playing goalball at a summer camp for visually impaired kids in 2011.
Later that year, Lawson was invited to travel to a tournament in Birmingham with the Atlanta Force girl’s goalball team. The team lost all of their games in that tournament, but Lawson could not have been more ecstatic.
“Everyone kept telling me what a good athlete I was. It was always a secret dream of mine to be a good athlete. I didn’t feel empty anymore,” Lawson said. She finally found her sport.
Goalball has given Lawson something to work for, and like other high school aged athletes hoping to play a sport at the next level, she has made training a part of her daily routine.
Lawson entered a national fitness competition the WellPoint Foundation sponsored through their partnership with the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA), a member of the U.S Olympic Committee. The WellPoint fitness challenge encouraged blind youth to focus on their health and fitness.
Lawson began working out on a regular basis, lifting weights, running and circuit training. She was the female winner from Atlanta and received a trip to the Olympic Training Center in July to watch the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA) Pan Am Goalball games, which is a competition between American countries that serves as a qualifier for the IBSA World Championships next summer.
As a result of the challenge and her drive to succeed in her goalball career, fitness became a part of Lawson’s regular routine that she has continued even though the challenge has ended. Lawson feels stronger and better than ever now that she is fit.
Two years ago, if you had asked Lawson what her biggest dream in life was, she would tell you that it was to be an athlete, play sports, and hear someone cheer for her. When you ask her today, she will tell you that it is to make the U.S. Goalball National Team and compete in the Paralympics.
Lawson’s life has changed since she discovered goalball and she readily admits that being visually impaired has given her opportunities she might never have experienced otherwise.
Thanks to the world of blind sports, Lawson is only beginning her athletic career.
Story and photo courtesy of the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA). Written by Lindsay Simpson. WellPoint Foundation is proud to support USABA.