VIPS honored Terri Connolly at our 12th Annual Beacon Awards as a VIPS Ambassador. The VIPS Ambassador Award is given to a special individual or organization who has displayed an outstanding contribution to VIPS, sometimes through generous gifts, other times through their devotion of time. Ambassador Award recipients have demonstrated their commitment to VIPS by taking the agency to a new level.
Terri Connolly has been a leader in education, a mentor, an advocate and a life-changing gift for VIPS, our team and families. Terri started in the field of education early when she obtained her Deaf/Blind Education Masters at the historic Perkins School. She joined VIPS early on as an early interventionist and although she left her full-time job here, she never left VIPS. Terri was instrumental in the development of our Play and Learn Program which continues today as the Parent Empowerment Program across the two states VIPS serves.
Terri was also one of the first teachers to develop the “cozy cave” – a dark, quiet space made of a blanket, creating a fort where parents and children could crawl inside. This cave provided a calm space for children with sensory overload, a concept that was helpful in the creation of the incredible Sensory Rooms now featured in two VIPS locations. Under the leadership of Pauletta Feldman, Terri helped write part of the At Home Parent University which VIPS was able to sell to American Printing House for international commercialization. Terri also created the very popular Friday Friends program which invited community children into our Kids Town facility to learn more about visual impairment.
As a great Helen Keller enthusiast, Terri arranged for VIPS to throw a Helen Keller Birthday Party celebrating teachers of students with blindness at the governor’s mansion hosted by former first lady Jane Beshear. Terri volunteers whenever and wherever needed and is always thinking of our team. Oftentimes great new learning tools will just show up on the counter for teachers to scoop up or during holidays, little thank you gifts for staff will appear with an encouraging and loving note. Terri has been known to even make the snack table at our VIPS Board Meetings an interactive learning experience with tactual exploration activities. Her kind and gentle spirit, tireless energy, infectious smile and selfless generosity fill us all with great joy!
Terri has supported VIPS as a staff member, a board member, the President of the Board, volunteer and along with her wonderful husband, Bob, an extremely generous contributor. The first street name in Louisville’s Mobility City was “Terri Lane,” a gift from her husband, Bob, and her five wonderful children to celebrate the work of this amazing woman. Terri is currently leading the very active and engaged Best Practices/Continuous Improvement subcommittee of the VIPS Strategic Plan.
VIPS is eternally grateful for all the years of service Terri has provided to us and the children we serve. Terri is a treasure and a friend to all she comes in contact with. Terri’s remarks upon receiving her award were inspiring and capture the essence of her compassionate and humble spirit.
“I thank you…for this privilege.
When one individual is recognized, we all know that many are also recognized. The many in my life are those who contribute to who I yearn to be.
I know you all are a lot like me – juggling balls and occasionally dropping a few. And our dearest of family and friends are picking up those balls for and with us. I think as often as I thank someone, I also ask forgiveness for balls dropped.
Friends and family make us who we are. Perhaps, we are most inspired by those we carry with us at all times in spirit.
How many times has my husband plumped up a guest list for an event and widened our ripple effect? How often has he altered his routines to be a little earlier here or a little later there? How often have my children joined me in activities and come to know VIPS by just being here or doing a little project? How often have my parents, sisters and extended family received a Christmas card with the dearest of messages from VIPS? We know that each one of us here this evening is created and molded by our personal experiences and what others bring out in us, what others make possible for us. Our voices joined together become many voices, reaching many others.
We each have a responsibility to contribute to each other’s being our best, from the smallest of words to the smallest of thoughtful acts to just knowing we are there for each other. There is no one else like you. You and I are enough, just as we are and as we continue to grow in our own ways.
An “ambassador” represents something. To represent VIPS? In a heartbeat, no hesitation. I have every confidence in the hopes, dreams and services, the children, the families, the staff and the supporters that come from here. Promote VIPS? What a privilege!
When you are passionate about and excited about and continually blown away by what happens here, the lives that are truly changed, you can’t help but mention it to a neighbor, a cashier, a nurse or the person sitting next to you in a restaurant or on an airplane. Yes, I’ve given my Board of Directors card to total strangers. So, we all depend on each of you; our dear family, friends and supporters. We are all ambassadors for the best of what can be.
With thanks to Helen Keller, we are again reminded that “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.”