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Tuesday, January 22 , 2019, 7:41 pm | Fair 50º


Todd Rogers Champions Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic

Olympic gold medalist pays tribute to mom as event highlights audio textbook service's success stories.

Olympic gold medalist Todd Rogers with his mom, Heidi, who struggled with school because of dyslexia. Rogers was one of several
Olympic gold medalist Todd Rogers with his mom, Heidi, who struggled with school because of dyslexia. Rogers was one of several “champions” who spoke at Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic’s recent fundraising luncheon. (Eric Isaacs photo)

Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic’s annual fundraising luncheon took on an air of celebration as more than 350 people turned out to honor as “champions” the many print-challenged students who use the nonprofit organization’s audio textbook service to overcome their disabilities.

Several champions were on hand to underscore the recent event’s theme, including Todd Rogers, the Olympic gold medalist in beach volleyball, who told of his own struggles to overcome adversity to become a champion. Rogers raised his gold medal for all to admire and then shared how much his mother struggled with reading while growing up because of her dyslexia.

“If only RFB&D’s audio books were available to her when she was going to school,” said Rogers, whose mother, Heidi, was in attendance at the luncheon at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort.

Rogers invited his mother to stand to the applause of everyone there. “Mom, you’re my champion!” he said in closing.

Other speakers included Alexis Hulsebos, a senior at San Marcos High, who started using RFB&D’s service two years ago. Hulsebos began her talk by holding up five of her own medals from her 4-H Club. When the laughter subsided, she talked about her own struggles with reading because of dyslexia and other disabilities.

“Reading was so hard for me before I found RFB&D,” Hulsebos said. “Now that I’m using it, reading is easier, I’m getting As and Bs,” then pausing, “and for the first time, I’m looking forward to going to college!”

Thirty-five individuals who served as “table captains” for the event invited luncheon attendees. And because of generous sponsorships from Montecito Bank & Trust, Venoco Inc. and Wells Fargo Bank, the lunches were free for all those who attended.

“Wow! There’s no telling who will show up for a free lunch especially these days,” joked Tim Owens, executive director of the organization.

But Owens’ talk became more serious when he went on to explain that those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia are at a higher risk for dropping out of high school, alcohol and drug abuse, and getting in trouble with the law.

Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic board member Stan Roden made a heartfelt appeal for multiyear pledges.
Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic board member Stan Roden made a heartfelt appeal for multiyear pledges. (Eric Isaacs photo)
“RFB&D offers a preventative solution, if students struggling with the printed word can receive the reading tools they need at an early age,” he said.

Those tools from RFB&D are audio textbooks and the students who use them learn through listening.

Owens went on to explain his five-year vision to quadruple the number of students that RFB&D serves in Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Luis Obispo and Kern counties.

“Right now, we are only serving about a thousand students,” Owens explained. “But there are a least 13 times that many who aren’t being served and who could benefit with RFB&D’s help. RFB&D is a sound investment in education, our community and our future.”

At that point a video was shown with more stories of success from students who used the service.

Before the luncheon ended, long-time board member Stan Roden asked those in attendance to consider giving multiyear gifts to the organization. The table captains passed out envelopes and pledge sheets and many guests proceeded to write checks.

To date, Owens said, there have been more than 130 donations, roughly 38 percent of those who attended, and the total of cash gifts and pledges is now at $78,000. Click here to make an online donation.

Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, a nonprofit/volunteer driven organization, is the largest provider of recorded textbooks nationwide. More than 200 local volunteers helped record 185 textbooks last year, adding to more than 50,000 textbooks to the national RFB&D library in Princeton, N.J.

Tim Owens is executive director of Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic.

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