Participants assemble for the closing ceremonies at the Braille Challenge

June 16, 2020

Eunice and Arju may go to separate schools, but at the 2020 Ohio Regional Braille Challenge, the girls were inseparable.

During the Feb. 27 event at the Clovernook Center for the Blind & Visually Impaired, the 13-year-olds walked arm-in-arm after finishing their lunch, giggling and catching up on the day. Arju said they met at the challenge three years ago.

“The Braille Challenge has changed my life because I get to meet new friends,” she said. “And re-meet old friends.”

Eunice and Arju share stories at lunch.

Friends like Eunice and Arju both described the Braille Challenge (part of the Braille Institute’s national program) as a chance to try their best and have fun with others. These qualities have enabled the girls to more enjoyably improve their mastery of the braille reader. Many of the children in the annual challenge become pen-pals, further honing their reading and writing skills.

“My opinion is that you don’t come because you want to compete, but because you want to have fun,” Eunice said. “However,” she added, “I can write faster and I feel like I can read faster.”

The challenge pays dividends throughout their lifetimes, in academic success as well as employment preparation. Perhaps this is why the Ohio Regional Braille Challenge broke its attendance record this year, with 47 youths – 10 more than last year.

But the children don’t benefit alone. The adults who volunteer and contribute to Clovernook Center also are enriched through the challenge.

“It’s a monumental moment, watching these kids who have worked so hard, knowing this is their time to shine,” said Lisa Milliron, a teacher of the visually impaired at Butler County Educational Service Center, who brought a first-year competitor to the challenge.

Boy walking to the ceremony holding a sign that says "Braille Explorers" This year’s theme was Braille Rocketeers.“He wasn’t nervous at all!” she said. Milliron, also a member of the Braille Challenge Committee at Clovernook Center, was more nervous for her student than he was himself. “It’s because I wanted him to have a successful day.”

And that he did! During lunch break she sat with him, hoping for the best, and she got it. “He told me he was having a fantastic day.”

You could say that during the Braille Challenge, the children are the ones who give back.

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