Gaining Independence and Giving Back Lion Donna Taylor of Tennessee has always valued her independence. At age 20, she became a butcher, a profession she loved. “I had always heard it was a good trade, but it was hard for women to get into,” Taylor said. “When I heard it was hard for women to get into, I decided that’s what I was going to do.” But when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 40, she lost her vision within one month. “It was shocking; it was extremely difficult to lose. They told me I would never work again. All of the sudden I had to start asking for help and that was hard,” Taylor said. But with the assistance of the Fairfield Glade Lions Club, Taylor would learn a new way of life. Taylor’s life has been saved by a Leader Dog named Norman, which the club helped her obtain. Her children, ages 19 and 20, call the loving mutt a “lobster,” because he’s a Labrador-Boxer mix. Taylor, Norman and Ken Steadman, a Lion who played a large part in Taylor reclaiming her independence, travel throughout the area to show children what it’s like to be blind and how Norman helps people like Taylor get around. Q&A: Donna Taylor LION Magazine: How did the Lions help you get Norman? Donna Taylor: I went to Walmart. They had a White Cane Day and we saw the list of things the Lions club works with. My friend said, “Donna that’s what you need to get some of your independence back.” They set me up with all the interviews and stuff and contacted them and got the application. They flew me up there and flew me home. LM:What was it like meeting your Leader Dog? DT: Well, I knew he was mine. When I got him I knew that he was my baby. It was an instant bond. Norman was headstrong, independent and spunky and that’s why they gave him to me. I had him three days and I didn’t feel good and I went to bed that night and he started barking. These dogs are taught not to bark. When I called the trainers, they told me I didn’t look so well and took me to the hospital. If it wasn’t for Norman, I could have died from a diabetic attack. LM: How did you and Norman start volunteering at schools? DT: I had several incidents of people being very rude to me. I had a lady kick my cane and say, “Watch where you’re going” and I said, “I would if I could see.” I knew that if I taught children, they would teach their parents. We do our little demonstration and talk to the kids. At the end of it, Norman’s payoff is all the kids pet him and he usually tries to lick them all. So far, we’ve educated 6,000 kids about blindness and Leader Dogs. The best way to give back is to help the people who helped me get Norman.
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