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Imagine suddenly and inexplicably losing your sight, not knowing whether it would ever return. That’s what happened to Caroline Waterson — she spent eight weeks in her early 20s with no explanation for her sudden blindness. Caroline, our global leader of demand generation and field marketing, did recover from what turned out to be optic neurosis. But her adjustment to a sightless lifestyle left a special place in her heart for the blind community.
To mark our 10 years in business, ClearSlide is undertaking “10 Ways of Giving Back.” Caroline named the LightHouse White Cane Walk as our first event; we’ll continue with nine others throughout the next year, selecting charitable causes and organizations important to our employees. Our goal is to give back to the community, support our employees’ favorite causes, and raise awareness for the importance of giving back.
Here’s the story of the first event.
LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Headquartered in San Francisco, California, LightHouse offers a variety of resources for blind individuals in California and around the globe. The nonprofit organization is more than 100 years old and provides services like technology training, STEAM enrichment programs, and job training.
“I was lucky; I got my sight back, and I’m fully recovered,” said Caroline Waterson, reflecting on her temporary blindness. “But, having been there, I understand to a small degree what it’s like to lose your sight. The limitations and challenges I experienced make this cause dear to my heart.”
LightHouse’s flagship event each year is the White Cane Walk, in which members of the blind community gather with friends and allies on October 15 (national White Cane Day) to celebrate and promote safety awareness. This year, the group met Mayor London Breed and walked from the LightHouse headquarters to City Hall and back again to foster awareness about the white cane and blind pedestrians.
For Sergey Medved, our head of product, this experience was all the more meaningful because of Caroline’s brush with blindness in her 20s.
“After Caroline suggested this event to us … I was interested to go and learn a little more about how [LightHouse] helps people — and also to show support,” added Tara Garnett, product manager. “I’m just not familiar with what [a blind person’s] day-to-day life looks like.”
A True Celebration
Every participant from the ClearSlide team reports feeling humbled by their White Cane Day experiences. Caroline said she experienced everything from goose bumps to tears, inspiration to humor.
Caroline recalled one speaker, a businessman, who told a story of losing his sight. He laughed about how often, when he was sighted, he found himself frequently losing games of “sidewalk chicken” on his city streets, stepping out of other people’s ways. Now, he said, people move out of his way!
Carrying the Torch
After participating in the White Cane Walk, our team members felt compelled to continue to educate themselves and others on the blind community.
“This was quite eye-opening,” said Sergey. “I’ve been noticing more people with white canes and considering how important it is that we make is easy for everyone to get around our cities.”
Tara has adopted a greater sense of self-awareness since the walk. “I tend to move fairly quickly. So I’m always running around, not necessarily paying attention to where I’m going,” she said. “But when I was suddenly surrounded by people who couldn’t see, I was very conscious about being more aware of my movements. For me, it was a reminder of the importance of being aware of my communication and behavior.”
Solidarity with Strangers
The ClearSlide team came away from the White Cane Walk invigorated, and they encourage others to seek out time to give back through similar events.
“It really goes beyond the financial support,” said Caroline. “The speeches were actually the best part for me. The learning, understanding, and knowledge made me all the more passionate about this cause.”
This is particularly important in a tech-driven world, said Tara. “People are plugged into their phones. They’re getting where they’re going. They’re going to work with a bunch of people who are very much like them. They’re going home to hang out with their friends who are very much like them.” Educational events like these, she said, help people form true personal connections and greater awareness.
The entire ClearSlide team agreed that they felt a tacit bond with the other White Cane Walk participants.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” said Jamie Ascencio, account manager. “You just feel good, and I feel that we walked with them in solidarity.”
Stay tuned for the next blog in our “10 Ways to Give Back” series to learn more about the causes important to our team.