THE LIONS CHANGED MY LIFE The Right Gift at the Right Time Growing up in Michigan, Theresa Schuler was always looking out for her brother, James Kelm, five years her junior. She was protective as any older sister would be, except that she had more than the usual worries: at age seven, Kelm was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. Kelm became legally blind, and as his vision continued to deteriorate, Schuler watched her brother struggle. She immersed herself in books about Helen Keller to better understand his challenges. Schuler couldn’t have been happier when Kelm received a Braille writer/reader from Lions in St. Joseph in 1976. They both agree that this gift provided the key to unlock the possibilities in life for Kelm—who went to college, was a professional musician and is currently a minister studying for a master’s degree—and helped Schuler rest easy knowing her brother would be OK. Q&A: Theresa Schuler and James Kelm LION Magazine: Why was the Braille writer such an important gift? James Kelm: I attended the Michigan School for the Blind until I was mainstreamed into public high school in 10th grade. That’s when I really needed the writer. There was a significant river between where I was and where I wanted to be in my education. The Lions provided a bridge so that my energy could be focused on learning, rather than trying to figure out how to get to the material. Theresa Schuler: I was always so proud of James, but it was hard to watch him hitting brick walls. When he received the Braille writer, it gave him a chance to shine. It was a turning point in his life. LM: It sounds like the Braille writer provided you with a big boost. JK: If I’ve ever wanted to do something, I’ve figured it out, and my family has helped me get there. But I have to work within a world that’s not accessible and with people who don’t always understand what that’s like. The Lions provided me with the best gift they could at a crucial time. TS: The writer really helped James excel. That meant so much to me. He’s always beaten the odds when he receives help so that he can do something on his own, not have it done for him. LM: The Lions may not have realized how much they impacted your lives. JK: As I’ve gotten to know the Lions, I appreciate that they approach blind people on an equal basis and genuinely want to help us operate effectively within society. Other groups may buy things or make donations, but the Lions go one step further by directly participating and really changing people’s lives. TS: That’s why I became a [Vadnais Heights, Minnesota] Lion a couple of years ago. I wanted to give back, and I knew the Lions would be right for me.
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