BY KENDAL RAE JENSEN
The Ogden Association of the Blind, also known as OAB, is a membership organization of blind, visually impaired, and sighted individuals who seek to improve the lives of people with various degrees of vision loss in Ogden, Utah, and the surrounding region.
They provide social, educational, and recreational activities, along with classes to promote independent living skills on an as-needed basis in a classroom environment.
Their main objective is to support and connect the seriously sight impaired with resources, activities, and a welcoming and warm environment for connecting with those who face the same challenges while supporting their family and friends. An AFB (American Foundation for the Blind) study in 2016 found that more than 55,000 Utahns are blind. The OAB’s goal is to reach as many of those individuals through family and friends that they can.
Derrick Streets has been connected with the OAB for three years and found them through Weber Human Services. He was born in South-Central Los Angeles and grew up in a rough neighborhood where most youth chose a life of gang activity. Derrick took a different path, attended a private catholic high school, and was awarded a football scholarship to Tulane University that eventually led to a master’s degree program at Pepperdine University and a position in the NFL for the New Orlean Saints. His storied career also included being a high school teacher and champion football coach to offshore drilling and even to Disneyland before finding a long-time passion for law enforcement. He worked in the California Department of Corrections as a correctional and probation officer for many years and was exceptional at what he did. It was during this time, while trying to save an inmate in a prison riot, that he received an injury that started the decline of his vision. At the age of 57, a combination of this injury and hereditary illness led to a diagnosis of open angle glaucoma and macular degeneration. He has since endured eight surgeries and has completely lost his sight. Not without trials, he decided that he was not going to be a victim and made a plan to relearn the skills he needed to be an independent and productive member of society. He says his favorite things about the OAB are the warm and welcoming environment that he was immediately accepted into and the classes and activities that he gets to attend with his doting wife, Pamela.
Bill and Sandy Gibson have been long-time members of the OAB. Bill, who is visually impaired, was connected with the association by his parents and Jessie Anderson, a friend and mentor. They have both worked in many capacities in the organization and with others who serve the visually impaired since 1975. Bill shares that some of his favorite things about the OAB have been the support his wife, Sandy, has received from connecting with other spouses and caretakers in the group and the role modeling that happens within the group, especially with members like Dr. Lee Robinson, who has had a successful career and family and has served members of the group since 1988.
OAB President Kathy Stilwell raves about the activities and says that her favorites are the annual Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinner, and programs and outings like the aquarium, BBQs, cooking classes, exercise classes, and plays. These activities are scheduled once a month, with more frequency in the future.
If you know anyone who is visually impaired, please tell them about the OAB. You can find more information at ogdenassociationoftheblind.org or, to volunteer, call Kathy at (801) 479-9019. Meetings are on the second Saturday of each month at the Hope Center at 5051 S. 2000 W. in Roy. Visitors and friends are welcome.