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Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 9:09 pm | Fog/Mist 60º

 
 
 
 

Bill Macfadyen: Larry Crandell Is on the Record for Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic

Taking advantage of every opportunity, Mr. Santa Barbara holds a fundraiser on his birthday

At 86 years young, Larry Crandell has it all: Fame, fortune, family and rugged good looks.

OK, so three out of four isn’t bad.

But rather than rest on his laurels — or Larryls, if he will ... and he would — Mr. Santa Barbara threw himself a party and, doing what he does best, he turned it into a fundraiser. Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic was the beneficiary of Friday’s breakfast bash at Moby Dick Restaurant on Stearns Wharf, but each celebrant came away with a renewed appreciation for the Silver Tongue who has talked more people out of more money than perhaps anyone in the history of Santa Barbara.

In his now familiar style, Crandell started right in with his audience, lobbing compliments to the gals and good-natured insults at the guys. Around 50 people turned out — family and friends, all of them Larry fans. Among the dignitaries on hand were Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum and Goleta City Councilman Michael Bennett. Blum’s husband, Joe, Crandell’s longtime physician, was there, as was Westmont College President Gayle Beebe, old Crandell crony Silvio Di Loreto and Lois Mitchell, executive director of The Orfalea Fund.

Tim Owens, Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic’s executive director, provided some sobering statistics about the challenge the nonprofit organization faces. An estimated 35 percent of high school students with learning disabilities will not graduate, he said. About 54 percent of those with such disabilities abuse alcohol or drugs. Most staggering, he said, is that 70 percent to 85 percent of the U.S. prison population has learning disabilities.

But amid the gloom, Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic has a great story to tell, and it does so one taped book at a time. Known as the nation’s educational library, RFBD serves a clientele that cannot effectively read standard print because of visual impairment, dyslexia or other physical disabilities. The Santa Barbara chapter now has 1,200 students, up from about 350 four years ago. And the service’s reach is expanding at such a pace that Owens’ goal of 2,500 students does not seem far-fetched at all — a good thing since he estimates that as many as 15,000 Santa Barbara County residents could benefit from the program.

Amanda Howard is one of RFBD’s success stories. Growing up in Colorado, Howard said she knew something was wrong but didn’t know what, nor was she ever diagnosed. In fact, she didn’t learn she was dyslexic until she was tested, by chance, as an SBCC freshman. That diagnosis led her to Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic and she said the experience changed her life, scholastically and personally. The bubbly communications major will graduate next year from California State University Channel Islands.

Westmont College President Gayle Beebe was among the well-wishers at Larry Crandell's party for Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic.
Westmont College President Gayle Beebe was among the well-wishers at Larry Crandell’s party for Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic. (Kristen Reed photo)

Kristen Reed’s path crossed with Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic when she was in the sixth grade but her journey back to the organization was no less serendipitous. Reed, who has cerebral palsy, graduated from Westmont and went on to work at the Carpinteria Boys & Girls Club. One day she was asked to provide RFBD with a testimonial about her experience and, in the course of the interview, realized it was the place where her heart felt most at home. Today, Reed is RFBD’s educational outreach director and she says she has the privilege of daily spreading the word to children who need what RFBD offers more than anything else.

Closing the sale was retired Santa Barbara County District Attorney Stan Roden, an RFBD board member. Roden said an associate had convinced him to become a volunteer reader for the unit and over the ensuing months, he began noticing that the law texts he was recording were becoming more and more advanced. Curious to know who was listening to what he was reading, he discovered that one client was a highly regarded judge in Northern California. But it illustrated why Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic is such vital a service and why Roden has been involved ever since.

Larry and the Crandells, during a break in the musical action.
Larry and the Crandells, during a break in the musical action. (Kristen Reed photo)

Whenever two or three Crandells are gathered together, there is sure to be singing, and Friday was no exception. Michael, Larry Jr., Leslie and Steven Crandell, and two of Crandell’s granddaughters, Sarah Luoma and Maren Crandell, led the serenading of the family patriarch with three classics: “Raisin’ Money,” with apologies to Gus Kahn and his “Makin’ Whoopee;” “Larry, Larry,” sung to the tune of “Daisy, Daisy;” and “Till There Was Lar,” with apologies to The Music Man and “Till There Was You.”

While Crandell clearly relished basking in the adulation, he confided later that he actually derives more pleasure doing something for someone else. His math may be a little off, but not by much. Besides, who’s going to argue with the birthday boy?

Click here for more information on how to support Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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