by Asmi Kothari
Mike Barker’s project started with the first day of his Landmark’s Self Expression and Leadership Program class on July 22, 2017. He was inspired to create the project because he is a patient of the Spectrios Institute for Low Vision, located in Illinois. Whilst attending a Spectrios gala event last April, Mike learned about the Seeing Is Believing Program, which is designed to help children of all ages throughout Illinois who have low vision receive diagnostic services and optical devices free of charge. The need for help far outpaces the supply of money needed to fund this wonderful program. He wanted to reach back and help young people achieve new heights.
Besides raising money for the program, a secondary specific goal of the project was to have a number of partially sighted elementary aged students attend a Chicago Bears home game.
The project did not move forward as smoothly as anticipated. There were some twists and turns and uncertainties along the journey. There was originally several no’s from the Bears a first. But eventually the project found life. They helped to meet and exceed the 2017 Seeing Is Believing fund raising goal by nearly 50% on Giving Tuesday in November. After he met with key officials from Spectrios and the Chicago Bears, the team created an opportunity for local kids and their families to attend a Chicago Bears game on Christmas Eve.
In total, the Bears provided tickets for 15 special needs kids and their families. For many of the children, this was their very first NFL game day experience. Total attendance from the group was 43 people. The Bears could not offer a direct monetary donation to the Seeing Is Believing fundraiser, but they really did help provide a wonderful experience for some very amazing kids and their families.
As far as the future goes, Mike will continue working with Spectrios in any way possible, and he would like to be a guest speaker at some local schools around the state of Illinois and provide encouragement and hope to those with special needs.
Some things Mike learned from Landmark: “There is nothing wrong here. Failure is OK. The success of any project is not necessarily measured by the end result. The creation of a project seemed so difficult at first. I learned transformation is possible, REALLY possible. Bringing something into existence that would not have happened anyway is indeed transformation. Landmark provided a wonderful platform within the SELP.”