Woman's vision gives visually impaired children brighter Christmas

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Woman's vision gives visually impaired children brighter Christmas

Dec. 23, 2005  News media contact: Tita Parham*  
tparham@flumc.org   Orlando {0420}

An e-Review Feature
By Nancy E. Johnson**

Poor parents can't afford to give their children the Christmases they see on television or in storybooks, and for the parents of children who are blind, the burden is even greater. That's why one small church in Ruskin became a Santa's warehouse for more than 150 children.

RUSKIN — Kenlyn South and members of her family are surrounded by just one load of toys for the visually impaired children she helps throughout the year. Photo courtesy of Kenlyn South, Photo #05-292.

Ruskin United Methodist Church helped collect boxes of toys and close to $3,000 for visually impaired children and their siblings, but it all started with one Ruskin woman who turned her life experiences into a gift for others.

"When I was on the operating table, I said Father, get me through this and I'll be of service to help children," Kenlyn South said. South was born with cataracts, an eye condition her father also had. She knows what it's like to be a child losing her vision.

"As a child, I didn't know the letter B from an eight. I'd come home from school crying," she said.

Doctors had said her eye condition could not be treated surgically. She couldn't read or drive, but in 1998, the Florida Division of Blind Services arranged for South to receive new, innovative surgical treatments. Her physician was a United Methodist layman. "He prayed with me and said, 'You'll either wake up blind or the surgery will work,' " she said.

After six eye surgeries and 12 weeks of recovery in 1999, South's eyesight improved dramatically. "I saw the color of the sky, and the trees no longer looked like big bushes," she said.

South got her miracle, so she decided it was time to give back. "I feel the Lord had me go through this so I could be of service to Him for kids," she said.

She began working with Rose Moye, a caseworker with Blind Services. Together, they work throughout the year to help 300 blind or visually impaired children who are at or near the poverty level. Most of the mothers work and have two, three or four children to care for on their own.

South made a Christmas appeal to Ruskin and Big Bend United Methodist churches.

"It's been satisfying. I'm surprised how many non-church members responded," said Sandi Rupert, the secretary at Ruskin United Methodist Church.

South turns all the monetary donations into Wal-Mart gift cards. Families can use them to buy food, diapers or clothing. Then, she fills her car with toys for the children. The kids who are blind aren't the only ones in the family with presents to open on Christmas. "We include the sighted siblings, too. I think it would be devastating for them if they didn't get anything," South said.

The woman with the big heart runs the program out of a small, spare bedroom in her house, but she hopes to expand and create a non-profit organization called Heart's Content. South is looking for businesses and individuals to partner with her to improve the lives of visually impaired children.

Individuals interested in helping South's ministry to blind children may contact Ruskin United Methodist Church at 813-645-1241.


This article relates to Christmas Outreach.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Nancy E. Johnson is a Florida-based, freelance television and print journalist.

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