December 5, 2022

When Holiday Spirit and Louisiana Loyal Combine

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The holiday spirit infects many of us throughout the last couple of months of the year. We find ourselves more grateful, generous, and giving to those around us. At LWCC, Louisiana Loyal has a similar impact, but it lasts all year. Combine the two, and you get our Holiday Giving Contest, an innovative initiative in collaboration with our agent partners that allows people to vote for worthy nonprofits to receive part of a $20,000 donation.  

In 2021, our Holiday Giving recipients included three exceptional organizations working to improve Louisiana and the lives of its citizens in drastically different, but equally important, ways: Kids Join the Fight, Affiliated Blind of Louisiana (ABL), and Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. Placing second with 31.9% of the votes, ABL knew immediately where their $6,380 donation would go.  

“Our campus is 18 and older, but for a long time, we’ve wanted to extend our training to younger kids with a camp,” explains ABL State Coordinator, Chyvonne Blanchard. “We had the facility and the dorm space, but we didn’t have the staff to dedicate to it. With this donation, we knew we could finally make this camp a reality.”

In a world designed for sight, navigating blindness can be a steep challenge, particularly for those who are young or have acquired blindness later in life. The ABL Training Center serves this unique need for the thousands across Louisiana affected by visual impairment. Adults live on their campus for anywhere from three months to a full year while they receive training on critical life skills like working with technology, home and personal management, cane travel, and braille. ABL works with these participants to help them transition into a life where they can pursue higher education or a career.  

While the work done at the ABL Training Center is clearly important, the organization has long wanted to help extend those services to children, helping them not only better prepare for their future, but also to help them connect with a larger community of their visually impaired peers. However, lack of staff and funding has prevented this dream from developing into a reality - until LWCC’s Holiday Giving donation helped them bridge the gap.

“The funds we received helped us secure counselors for the one-week camp and paid for field trips,” says Chyvonne. “Thanks to this donation, the cost to each participating family was zero.”

On Saturday, June 25, 2022, the inaugural Camp ABLE kicked off with a Family Fun Day complete with accessible activities, karaoke, a petting zoo, pony rides, ice cream, and much more. It was an amazing start to an even more incredible week that would include a field trip to the zoo, a 22-foot water slide, job readiness training, and independent living skills like walking through the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s campus, grocery shopping, and meal preparation. The kids were even able to undertake a shopping excursion where the entire store shut down for them, and personal shoppers stayed by their sides. By the end of the week, the positive impact on the campers was evident.

“Lots of friends were made, new skills were learned, and a positive attitude about living with visual impairment and blindness was instilled in the Camp ABLE participants,” notes Chyvonne.

The self-confidence and preparation the participants of Camp ABLE developed are precisely why this program has been a long-time dream for ABL. The feedback has been phenomenal, and plans are underway for the next camp, which they hope to extend to two weeks.

While the reward for the children of Camp ABLE was great, so was the reward for LWCC and our agent partners. There are several opportunities throughout the year for us to do good throughout our state, but seeing the real-life impact and positive outcome for such a unique and deserving group of children feels extra special.

Tensey Pricer, Agency Relations Manager, says, “Reading and hearing about what all of the nominated charities are doing around our state is really humbling. I love that the Holiday Giving Contest has created a new way to connect with our agency partners in a meaningful way. But more than that, it allows us to come alongside them to elevate and celebrate a cause that means a lot to them.”

Thanks to the Holiday Giving Contest, Christmas came a bit early this year for ABL, LWCC, and our agent partners. More specifically, it came during a week in June at a camp in Lafayette for visually impaired children, and it may have just been our merriest yet.

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