In Honor of Abby

Proud Grandparents Who Made a Difference at The Chicago Lighthouse

When their granddaughter, Abby, was born without eyes in 2005, Jon and Mary weren’t sure what to do. A friend of a friend, who has a son who is blind, immediately recommended The Chicago Lighthouse’s Birth-to-Three Program as a resource for guidance and support.

As soon as the family contacted us, Birth-to-Three Early Intervention Program Director Marla Garstka began to reassure them. “Our Program had successfully helped thousands of infants and toddlers since 1974, teaching them how to navigate a world for the sighted,” Marla says “I told them with confidence that Abby would be in good hands.”

“As soon as we learned of the Program’s success with other children, we began to feel better,” Mary says. Marla then worked with Abby, teaching her how to reach for objects even though she could not see them and helping her achieve important early childhood developmental milestones. “I don’t know what life would be like without The Lighthouse,” Mary says. “With Marla and The Lighthouse’s help, Abby was able to thrive, and our family also learned how to advocate for her.”

In 2006, Mary and Jon arranged to make a recurring monthly donation to The Lighthouse, and have continued their monthly contributions since that time. They wanted to be sure other children had the same opportunities as their granddaughter. “It started out as pure gratitude to pay back what they had done for us,” Mary says. “I want The Lighthouse to always be there. I don’t know what kids like Abby would do without its programs.”

Today, Abby just finished her freshman year in high school. She enjoys taking piano lessons and animatedly discussing politics and current events with her grandmother. Her favorite subjects are math (she says she loves solving quadratic equations!), and she especially enjoys her Spanish class. She earned A’s in all of her classes. In the future, Abby may participate in our Youth Transition Program, where she can learn more new skills and meet other teens who share her disability.

In appreciation for Mary and Jon’s ongoing support, we have a plaque identifying an area in our school as “Abby’s Place.” Mary wanted the plaque to symbolize all of the incredible “Abbys” out there whose lives can be transformed with The Lighthouse’s assistance. “I know every penny I give to The Lighthouse is going to help a child like Abby,” she says proudly.

A plaque commemorating “Abby’s Place” in our school recognizes Jon and Mary’s ongoing support.

Thanks to their unwavering support over the past 15 years, we have helped countless children who are blind or visually impaired throughout the Chicago area. We cannot thank Mary and Jon enough for their generosity over the years! And we love hearing about how Abby continues to thrive.

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