The NOPBC proudly announces the members of our 2015-2016 Board, elected at the NOPBC Annual Meeting (July 7, 2015):
Officers (two year term thru 2016)
President: Kim Cunningham (Texas)
Kim is married and the parent of two adult sons, Ricky and Ryan, and one adult daughter, Kayleigh, who is blind due to retinopathy of prematurity. Kayleigh is currently a senior in college majoring in elementary education. Kim joined the NFB in 2007 after attending her first NFB National Convention. Kim has served on the Texas Parents of Blind Children (TPOBC) board for 7 years and is the current president of TPOBC. Kim’s husband, Bobby Cunningham, is a behind-the-scenes supporter of the NOPBC creating databases and being our official photographer. She also serves as a parent coordinator for the Texas BELL programs. Kim has a passion about Braille literacy and has advocated for many Texas families in the education system. She also stays busy trying to keep up with her 6 grandkids!
Committees: POBC Contact Coordination, Membership, Awards, Nominating
Second Vice President: Holly Miller (New Jersey)
Holly has been a board member since 2010. She is a supervisor with a major food service company and helps run her husband's electrical business. She lives in Oceanport NJ with her husband, two sons and three Greyhounds. Holly became involved in the National Federation of the Blind when her son Hank's school refused to provide Braille instruction. After a lengthy Due Process hearing, Hank is now well on his way to becoming a successful Braille user! Along with being on the board of NOPBC, Holly is the president of Parents of Blind Children-NJ.
Secretary: Pamela Gebert (Alaska)
Pamela and her husband, Steve, are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. Pamela worked for the Army Medical Department and Steve is a retired Naval Flight Officer. The Geberts have three children: a son in high school, a middle school-aged daughter and a son in the fifth grade. Their middle child, Julia, is a cane user and Braille reader. Her blindness is caused by an optic pathway glioma tumor. The Gebert Family lives in Anchorage, Alaska where they enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including Nordic and alpine skiing, sledding, gardening, hiking, camping and fishing. Pamela is President of the Alaska Blind Children's Resource.
Treasurer: Sandra Oliver (Texas)
Sandra Oliver is an audit partner at Ernst & Young LLP and President of the Texas Parents of Blind Children division. Sandra is also a wife and mother to three smart and beautiful boys aged 11, 10 and 7, with youngest son, Nick, born totally blind. Nick has grown up going to NFB Conventions and attending BELL programs since he was 3, and is a smart, strong Braille reader and independent young man!
Board Members (one year term)
Jean Bening (Minnesota)
Jean lives in Arlington, Minnesota with her husband Allan. They have one daughter, Megan, who is entering her senior year of college majoring in Information Technology and minoring in Psychology. Megan lives independently in an apartment off campus. When Megan was diagnosed with LCA at 6 months old, they did not know anyone who was blind. They got involved with the NFB/NOPBC when Megan was 6 years old. Jean notes she became a board member of the NOPBC so she could be a resource for parents of blind children, to share what they have learned in the 21 years of raising their daughter, and to reassure parents that their blind children can grow up to be independent, successful adults.
Kimberly Banks (Florida)
Penny Duffy (New Hampshire)
Penny lives in New Hampshire with her two children, Sam (age 13) and Abby ( 11). Abby became blind at age 6 due to a rare genetic mitochondrial condition. Penny found the NFB and NOPBC a few months later in late 2010. "Finding the NFB was a great stoke of luck. Choosing to stay and raise my daughter with the NFB philosophy is one of the best parenting decisions I have made," she notes. Abby is an active girl who joined a ski racing team this winter. She goes to regular public school and is a braille reader.
Penny is president of the NH Parents of Blind Children and also on the National Federation of the Blind-New Hampshire 's board of directors. She has recently started working in the public education sector in finance. Penny has a strong passion for Braille literacy and striving everyday to help both her children to "Live the life they want."nny
Penny works in finance in the education sector and is also pursuring a pursuing a bachelor's degree in communications.
Rosina Foster (Missouri)
Rosina Foster is the mother of 3 children, 2 of which are blind, and 1 that wishes she was. Living in a very rural setting with little blindness information she struggled to know what her children should be doing even though she had high expectations. Finding the NFB in early 2007 and the NOPBC later that year she was hooked with all the possibilities and begin to get "fired up". Wanting information was the main goal, until the realization hit home that she was lucky to have the experiences with the NFB that she did. She sent her sons to every possible program and summer training she could. The difference was shattering and she intended to get more involved. She helped to restart her state Parents group, and joined the national board in the hopes that she could share her experiences with other parents and families to help lessen the struggles they were or would go through.
Living in rural Missouri, she says, "the NFB has become the family I always wanted to have!"
Jennifer Gandarias (Washington)
Jennifer Gandarias grew up in Northern California, moving to Washington to attend college at Seattle Pacific University. A 20+ year resident of Washington State, Jennifer has spent much of her life in the classroom. She has extensive experience teaching at both elementary and secondary levels. Jennifer and husband, Frank, have two energetic boys, who keep life interesting and engaging. The older son lost his vision due to late onset Hydrocephalus at the age of 7. The sudden loss of vision in her son led Jennifer back to school, earning a M.A. in Technology Leadership and Instructional Design at George Washington University. Current passions are accessible technology, mobile learning, and educational policy.
As a family they have learned to move from medical tragedy, to action, and then to advocacy. Her son is now an active and precocious 12 year old, which balances his time between athletics, jazz piano, and education. While issues with debilitating headaches and shunt performance continue to disrupt daily life, blindness does not hold him back from achieving his dreams and passions.
Currently, Jennifer works as a secondary English teacher, EdTech consultant, and is the president of the Washington State Parents of Blind Children group. While her time is spread thinly among personal passions, she feels it is an honor to advocate for children who are blind and their families.
Pat Renfranz (Utah)
The older of Pat's two teenage daughters has been totally blind since birth. Caroline just graduated from high school and, after completing the blindness skills training program in Utah, will attend university having earned a full academic scholarship. Only after attending their first NFB Convention in 2005, and subsequently becoming active in the NOPBC, did Pat and her family feel a part of a community sharing a common goal: To allow her daughter and others like her to thrive to the best of their abilities. She has loved learning about tactile graphics and has worked extensively on issues such as the timely provision of accessible instructional materials and appropriate testing accommodations. First elected to the NOPBC board in 2007, she has served as treasurer since 2009. Although currently she works at home, she earned a PhD in biology, and worked as a scientist and university instructor.
Frances Hammond (New Mexico)
Frances Hammond is married with four children. Her oldest daughter, Arianna, is blind and she is 10 years old. As a family, they have been active within the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico since 2011 when they attended their first NFB National Convention. Frances has been the Secretary/Treasurer for the Parents of Blind Children of New Mexico since 2012. In addition to NFB and POBC work, Frances volunteers at her children's school and at different Church functions. She has a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from the University of New Mexico and she has done some graduate work. It is her belief that her daughter can live the life she wants and she wants to help other blind people and the general public achieve the same belief.
Melissa Riccobono (Maryland)
Terri Rupp (Nevada)
Terri Rupp lives in a quiet suburb of Las Vegas with her husband Aaron, daughter Marley, and son Jackson. Terri and Marley both have Optic Nerve Atrophy. In 2006, Terri realized that her, "Fake it till you make it," motto was no longer working and decided to attend the Louisiana Center for the Blind where she learned Braille at the age of 23. She has served on the board of the National Association of Blind Students as 1st Vice President and President, worked as an intern at the National Center, and served as President of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada before stepping down to dedicate herself to raising a family. Terri writes about her adventures as a Blind Mom in the Burbs at www.blindmomintheburbs, which is where she's began sharing about her Marley and Me saga. Knowing the battles her daughter will face, having had lived them herself, Terri is her daughter's biggest advocate. Today she is the President of the Nevada Organization of Parents of Blind Children, President of the Souther Nevada Chapter of the NFB of NV, and pleased to serve on the NOPBC board.
Carol Castellano (New Jersey)
Carol Castellano is the Director of Programs for the NOPBC, and co-founder and former long-time president of Parents of Blind Children-NJ. Carol and husband, Bill Cucco, were happily awaiting the birth of their first child in 1984 when they were shocked with Serena's entrance to the world four months early. Her subsequent seven and a-half month hospitalization in the NICU was grueling, and taught Carol and Bill "more than we ever wanted to know" about premature babies and the difficulties that could befall them. In a hospital room in North Carolina, while awaiting news of one of Serena's surgeries, Carol and Bill were introduced to the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and its parents division, the NOPBC. As Carol tells the story, "The hospital social worker brought us some literature about blindness to read. He warned us that while this organization had some pretty good literature, we should stay away from them because they were radical and militant. My ears perked right up! I called the NFB as soon as we got back to New Jersey." Carol continues, "I loved the NFB and NOPBC from the start because they were the only organizations we encountered that said outright that our blind child had a right to a full, satisfying life and that we did not have to be grateful for crumbs thrown from the table." Serena's birth proved to be a turning point in Carol's career. She began researching and writing articles on the prevention of premature birth and was invited to join a select group of parents, physicians, and ethicists to discuss the difficult issues of decision-making in neonatal intensive care. The proceedings of this conference resulted in a landmark article, the first ever to be coauthored by parents and physicians and published in the medical journal Pediatrics. At this time, Carol also began publishing pieces on bringing up a blind baby.
Carol was asked to serve on the Statewide Consumer Advisory Board of the NJ Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. As Carol tells it, "It was a time of deep state budget cuts. I realized I was probably the only parent in the state who knew that cuts were planned to the education of blind children budget. Somehow, I had to let other parents know about the impending cuts so that we could work together to stop them." Carol contacted the few other families she knew and proposed that their small group became an official NOPBC affiliate, and thus, in 1991, Parents of Blind Children-NJ was born.
By this time Carol was attending national conventions of the NFB, where her talents were recognized by a wider circle. In 1991 she was elected second vice president of the NOPBC, and in 1997 was appointed to the Federation's national Scholarship Committee. She was the first sighted person ever to serve on that committee. Carol was elected first vice president of the NOPBC in 1998, served as president from 2009-2010, and became Director of Programs in 2011.
Carol was appointed by several NJ governors to serve on the State Human Services Advisory Council and the State Rehabilitation Council and has collaborated on many projects with the NJ Commission for the Blind. Carol's efforts have been recognized with the Diana Cuthbertson Parent-Professional Collaboration Award from the Statewide Parents Advocacy Network, the Mary O'Donnell Advocacy Award from the NJ Commission for the Blind, and the Twig Award from the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children.
Since 1988, Carol has written many articles and has made presentations in states across the country on the education and development of blind children. For 22 years she organized and conducted POBC-NJ's parent seminars and teacher trainings and co-edited POBC-NJ's newsletter In Touch. Carol is the author of four books, The Bridge to Braille: Reading and School Success for the Young Blind Child, Because Books Matter, Making It Work: Educating the Blind/Visually Impaired Student in the Regular School, and Getting Ready for College Begins in Third Grade: Working Toward an Independent Future for Your Young Blind Child. After several years of service on the advisory committee, Carol was hired as Outreach and Recruitment Coordinator for The College of New Jersey's Teacher of the Blind/Visually Impaired Program.
Carol feels very fortunate to have found the NFB while Serena was still a baby. Federation philosophy enabled her and Bill to regard Serena as a normal person and to bring her up with high expectations. Most important, Carol points out, is that because of Federation philosophy, Serena has high expectations of herself. "Serena has become an independent young woman, determined to make her mark on the world because of the Federation. The Federation was our backbone as we battled to get Serena what she needed—and many times that was just getting the school to look at her as a normal student." Carol continues, "So many times, when someone would say to us, 'But she can't do that, she's blind,' we could respond, 'Oh yes she can. We know plenty of blind people who do that,' because we had met so many capable, active people at NFB events."
Carol's family enjoys hiking, traveling, and vacations at the Jersey shore. Daughter Serena just completed graduate courses at the Rutgers University School of Social Work and son John works as a policy analyst in the office of the governor of Rhode Island.
President Emerita: Barbara Cheadle (Maryland)
Barbara Cheadle, President Emerita, is one of the founders of the NOPBC and is the founding editor of Future Reflections magazine. Barbara, who served as NOPBC President for 23 years, also worked for many years at the NFB's National Center for the Blind in Baltimore, where she directed children's programs and served in many other capacities. Barbara and her husband John's fight to get Braille instruction for their son Chaz (who has partial vision) was widely publicized in the early 90's and was one of the factors that turned the tide in the campaign for a Braille literacy provision in the 1997 IDEA amendments. Chaz earned a BA degree and works as a computer support specialist. He and his wife Emily have just had their first child.