Vickie Kennedy overcomes losing sight, helps others adjust to life without vision

Volunteering to help those with serious vision impairment

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Vickie Kennedy was born in Honolulu and is a graduate of Sacred Hearts Academy and Mount Saint Mary’s College. Since then, her whole career was tied to education until she was diagnosed as going blind in 1978. From that moment on, she immersed herself in volunteering with organizations helping those with serious vision impairment.

For the last 25 years, she has been intimately involved with the Foundation Fighting Blindness (No. Cal Affiliate), Guide Dogs for the Blind (San Rafael, CA), Guide Dogs of Hawaii, and the Hawaii Association of the Blind. As president of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, she started “Save Sight Sunday,” an information symposium at University of California Berkeley’s Low Vision Clinic. She also published a fundraising cookbook to raise funds for research into retinal degenerative eye diseases. As a board member of Guide Dogs for the Blind, she founded its annual “Support our Canine Heroes,” a wine gala fundraiser.

Having gone through it herself, Kennedy is always willing to lend a hand to those who have been newly diagnosed as going blind. She says helping them realize the world is not coming to an end is cathartic and is able to share with them the resources available to those with vision loss — from assistive technology to possibly being partnered with a guide dog.

“In every role, and in life, you will always come across challenges that may seem overwhelming. Don’t let them stop you from achieving goals,” Kennedy says. She encourages people to study the challenges and find ways to deal with them. “Yes, you will go through some tough times, but with perseverance you can learn from them and become stronger.”

She believes that in life, your attitude is everything. “Having a sense of humor can really help, too, when dealing with a lot of emotional and physical challenges,” she says.

Kennedy was partnered with her first guide dog, “Freida,” in 2000, her second guide “Angela” in 2008, and is now with her third guide, “Buddy.” For years, she and her husband were involved in pet visitation volunteering at Queens Medical Center and Saint Francis Hospice with both Freida and Angela.

Her words of advice to today’s youth? “Don’t take anything for granted,” she says first. Second, she says to learn all you can in school because you never know where life will take you. Finally, she says to keep an open mind to all possible careers. “And please try to help those less fortunate along the way,” she adds.

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