A weekend fundraiser aims to raise awareness of blind pedestrians and the issues they face.
The first ever Blind Poker Crawl will take place from noon to 6:30 p.m. Saturday in the South Cape. Hosted by the Vision Awareness Foundation, the event will feature stops at five downtown venues, where about 20 blind players will each receive a Braille poker card. The best five-card straight wins.
"It's a good way to bring awareness to blind pedestrians because we'll be walking through the downtown Cape Coral district," Michael Ulrich, president of the foundation, said.
Participants will use white canes, service dogs and sighted guides to travel from site to site.
"We'll be walking to each stop," he said.
Invitations to attend have been extended to both city and county officials. Ulrich explained that it will be an opportunity for local leaders to see what makes an intersection visually impaired-friendly.
If you go
Who: Vision Awareness
What: Blind Poker Crawl
When: Saturday, Sept. 6,
Where: South Cape businesses
BackStreets Sports Bar,
The Twisted Conch Seafood
Grille and Sports Bar,
Iquana Mia, The Dek Bar
and Ralph's Place
"I wanted to show them an example of a well planned out intersection," he said.
Ulrich cited Cape Coral Parkway East and Leonard Street as one.
"They redid that last year or the year before," he said of the city. "It's a really nice intersection."
It features more modern buttons that talk and beep to alert blind pedestrians.
"It's a lot more wider, and there's a bit more tactical stripping in the crosswalks," Ulrich said.
Officials will also be shown intersections that need work, such as making the crosswalk borders more prominent or installing buttons. He cited Vincennes Boulevard and Southeast 47th Terrace as one.
"It's a nightmare," Ulrich said. "It's an absolute nightmare."
The crawl will start out at BackStreets Sports Bar, before moving on to The Twisted Conch Seafood Grille and Sports Bar, Iguana Mia and The Dek Bar. The fundraiser will wrap up at Ralph's Place.
At each venue, a gift card to an area restaurant will be awarded to the player who draws the highest card. There will also be a "blind draw" - a 50/50-style raffle - at each of the stops. The proceeds from the raffles will be combined with what is raised at the annual Vision Awareness Walk-A-Thon.
"They go directly to nine local organizations that support, train and help the blind," he said.
Some of the groups that benefit from the walk-a-thon include Lighthouse of SWFL, Lighthouse of Collier, the Southwest Florida Council of the Blind and the Blinded Veterans Association.
Ulrich noted that raffle tickets can be purchased in advance from the five venues.
The 11th annual Vision Awareness Walk-A-Thon will be held Oct. 4 at Lakes Regional Park in Fort Myers. Organizers are expecting approximately 100 blind or visually impaired people to attend.
The cost is $25 and includes an event T-shirt, lunch and tickets for door prizes.
"It's just a real fun day at the park," Ulrich said.
Last year, the recipient organizations each received $500 from the walk-a-thon. In previous years, the Vision Awareness Foundation has been able to raise and donate up to $1,500 to each of the groups.
"We're always looking for sponsors," he said.
For additioanl information on the annual Vision Awareness Walk-A-Thon or to become a sponsor for the event, contact Michael Ulrich at (239) 540-7431 or (239) 565-5845 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
People can also contact Ulrich for more information on Saturday's Blind Poker Crawl.