Joe Quintanill of National Braille Press in Boston holds a copy of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration in braille during an event at Post 221 in Bedford, Mass., with Past National Commander Jake Comer on April 5. Photo by Kayana Szymczak/The American Legion

CWF grant helps blind youth read

At the young age of 5, Joseph Quintanilla was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. The condition gradually caused impairment to his vision until he became legally blind. The Cambridge, Mass., native pushed braille away thinking that listening to books would be easier and more effective. "Boy, did I make a mistake," Quintanilla said.

Now, as vice president of development and major gifts at National Braille Press in Boston, Quintanilla is ensuring that blind children have an opportunity to read. "The only way blind children can read is braille. Listening is not reading," Quintanilla said.

Last fall, The American Legion's Child Welfare Foundation supported Quintanilla's efforts through a $10,370 grant to the National Braille Press. The grant helped create braille books on the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, as well as braille tactile brackets of the alphabet and numbers. This allows blind children to know what a print letter and number feel like to compare it to the braille version, Quintanilla said. The CWF check was presented to Quintanilla at Post 221 in Bedford, Mass., on April 5, by National Commander Denise H. Rohan, Past National Commander Jake Comer and Post 221 Commander Jon "OC" O'Connor.

"It's important for blind kids to be able to read, but it's also important for them to understand how our country was founded and what the Constitution means for all of us," Quintanilla said. "Having material like this available to them and the parents fosters the sense that reading is important. We are thankful for the Legion's support."

The Constitution and Declaration of Independence braille books are being distributed across the country to blind children. More than 130 have been requested since promotion efforts began a week ago. Quintanilla said it costs two to three times more to produce books in braille than print. "That why this grant is especially significant because it's allowing us to do something that we wouldn't necessarily be able to afford to do. And making that available gratis to the kids.

"The American Legion is important to us and our work. And just like the national commander (Rohan) said, it's supporting the American family no matter what the circumstances or challenges they've had. We are very honored to be a part of your community."

CWF provides grants to nonprofits for projects that contribute to the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual welfare of children. The CWF application is online at www.cwf-inc.org. Applications will be accepted starting May 1 and must be postmarked to American Legion National Headquarters no later than July 15.