The Blind Children’s Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1938 by Southern California Delta Gammas. Each year the Center serves approximately 100 children who are blind or visually impaired and provides an array of support services for more than 350 family members. Our goal is to optimize each child’s development and opportunities to lead a meaningful life through a comprehensive program beginning with early intervention, followed by an educational curriculum specifically adapted to the needs of each student.
We are committed to a family-focused approach where parents, siblings, grandparents, and caregivers are included in the educational process every step of the way.In keeping with best practices, our programs are fully inclusive with sighted children integrated in each class, providing unique opportunities for social interaction and acquisition of critical skills. Our multidisciplinary team of experts utilizes leading-edge technology and adaptive devices to help our students who are visually impaired keep pace in the sighted world. As a model program, the Center impacts communities globally through presentations, conferences, and research grants, as well as a full suite of publications for families and professionals. In all, more than 750,000 copies of our publications have been distributed in 75 countries, and translated into 17 languages.
Throughout our long history a dedicated community of friends and supporters has sustained our vital work. We neither seek nor receive government assistance and are not a United Way Agency. Rather, the Center’s funding reflects the generosity of private donors and the trust of foundations and corporations, which allows us to provide these life-changing services at no cost to our students and families.
To foster the development and education of children—birth through 2nd grade—who are visually impaired in an inclusive, family-focused setting.
As the 1936 Delta Gamma National Convention ended, all alumnae and collegiate chapters understood their mission. They were to return to their communities and seek out projects to support Delta Gamma’s new philanthropic project, aid to the blind and sight conservation.
Within the year, Southern California’s chapters had enthusiastically endorsed the project, and selected Dr. Lillian Ray Titcomb, M.D., retiring head of the Department of Medicine at U.C.L.A., to form a committee to research the needs of the blind in the Los Angeles area. When their investigation disclosed that there were no provisions for the care and education of young children who were blind, the committee recommended that the Southern California Delta Gammas develop and support an agency that would serve the needs of preschoolers who were blind or visually impaired.
The Presidents and representatives from each Southern California alumnae group were invited to serve on the Board of Directors of what would soon become “The Nursery School for Visually Handicapped Children.” Fundraising began immediately with some groups collecting and rolling coins from collection banks placed in strategic locations, while other groups planned elaborate benefits. Betty Fenimore, one of the original committee members remembered, “Everyone was giving their time and energy to fulfill a vision. Now look, we’ve been copied all over the world!”
The Nursery School for Visually Handicapped Children, now known as the Blind Children’s Center, officially opened in a private home on October 3rd, 1938 with the purpose of training and educating children for entry into elementary schools. Dr. Titcomb enhanced the vision further by forming a Cradle Club in 1940, which was designed to meet the needs of the many parents and their infants.
The Nursery School, by the early 1940s an established organization, had moved twice and needed its own permanent home, a structure that could be built specifically to accommodate the needs of preschoolers who are blind. An inspirational report made to the 1946 Delta Gamma national Convention held in Pasadena, California, brought attention to the need and generated financial support from Delta Gamma Chapters in 25 states.
Local Delta Gamma groups rallied to plan a series of fabulous star-studded benefits. Muriel Reynolds, another of the original Committee members, recalled one such “colorful affair in the gardens of Harold and Mildred Lloyd’s beautiful Beverly Hills estate, when Esther Williams did a striptease, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was master of ceremonies, Biddy Banton and the Hollywood starlets modeled and sold Rubel jewels, and Frank Sinatra sang! The event yielded $65,000, which was a fortune at that time!”
Further fundraising and publicity generated funding and articles in Photoplay, Screen Guild, McCalls, Look magazine with a feature article — “Our Baby was Born Blind” — in the Saturday Evening Post. The Nursery School soon became nationally recognized as a model program. By 1952, over 2,000 American and international guests had visited the school. Medical and educational professionals eagerly sought information and studied the school’s educational methods.
Additions to the school program, as well as new projects developed over the next few years. A residence program was designed to accommodate children from remote areas. Recognizing the need for a holistic approach, psychologists, social workers, and other professionals were added to the existing staff to provide a support system for the entire family. In 1966, the name of The Nursery School was changed to the Blind Children’s Center to reflect this wide range of comprehensive services.
These days Delta Gamma alumnae fundraising activities are generously supplemented by friends and Southern California collegiate chapters. Not only does the Center benefit monetarily from these groups, but Delta Gamma collegian visits have inspired several young women to make a career decision to work with children who are visually impaired.
More good news arrived in 1984. The Center had been named as a beneficiary of the Margaret Bundy Scott Trust and could now realize some long-held dreams— the development of educational and medical outreach projects in addition to daily preschool activities. Additionally, with initial funding from the Scott trust, the Center published numerous booklets, videos and CDs designed for parents of children with visual impairments and other professionals working in the field. To date, over 760,000 booklets have been translated into 17 languages and have been distributed to individuals and groups in all 50 states and more than 75 countries.
In 2009, the Center expanded again after a successful campaign. We were fortunate enough to add Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade classes to our existing infant class and preschool program. As we move forward, we remain grateful to the Delta Gamma founders who launched the Center 80 years ago, and all of our supporters who have sustained us ever since.