Spend a little bit of time with members of the ‘Barossa Blindies’, and you’re sure to end up with a smile on your face.
As their name suggests, they don’t take their vision impairment as a reason not to have fun, and that’s exactly what they set out to do at every gathering.
Established in April, 2018 after a need for a vision impaired support group in the Barossa region was identified, founding members and fellow Kapunda residents, Chistine Schmaal and Wendy Ruciack now rely on the group for support, friendship and a reason to get out of the house.
“We’re blessed with a group of people who really are more like a family,” said Wendy, a former nurse who is now completely blind.
“When I found out I was going to lose my sight I thought, out of everything I’ve faced in my life, this is going to be the worst.
“From wearing clothes to choosing a birthday card, none of those things will be my choice anymore.
“Unless you reach out to someone, you will wallow in self pity at home, and this is what this group is about.
“When you’re down, somebody else is up.”
The group meet monthly and like to keep things casual, with no formalities, minutes taken or anything like that.
Christine, a former hairdresser, who still has some vision, about 70 percent in one eye and five percent in the other, takes a lead in organising the group’s outings, which are varied and often wonderfully creative.
“We’ve done things like go ten pin bowling. It was such a hoot!” Wendy laughed.
“For people who don’t see very well, it was all about a bit of fun!”
There’s been Christmas in July, and games where players must be, ironically, blindfolded to guess what item is in front of them.
This week it was a trip to Virginia Nursery, and in November, a Melbourne Cup themed event will have members punting on a special race Christine has devised.
“We have a good laugh, if nothing else!” Christine said.
But at its core, it is much more than a laugh, with members able to give and receive advice from one another, as they share in their common experience.
“It’s more about the social side of things, because it’s very easy to be isolated, and we’re all too young to be sat at home staring at four walls,” said Wendy.
“Life’s too short for that.”
And it is a group that is inclusive of partners and family of vision impaired people as well.
Mark Ruciack, Wendy’s husband, attends the gatherings, acknowledging how important they can be for everyone involved.
“Anybody who is starting to get into this situation, they can come along to this group too, and the members can give them ideas of how to go about managing their vision loss,” he said.
New members, no matter what their level of vision impairment, are most welcome to join in the frivolity and fellowship of Barossa Blindies.
“And we’re always looking for volunteers to help as guides,” added Christine.
To join the Blindies for their next outing, contact Christine on 0417 876 197.