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Submitted by Dr. Thomas “Tom” Zampieri
BVA Vice President BVA National Convention, Sparks Nevada is now complete.

For those who were unable to attend here is a short summary.
The National Board members arrived on Saturday, August 11, 2018 so they would be fresh and ready to attend their business meeting starting at 8:00 am, ending at 5:00 pm. The National Board members also met to conduct business on Monday and half a day on Tuesday.

Monday for the convention attendees, there were training and informational seminars, such as training with the Victor Reader (Trek), coping through Technology, and other informational seminars.  Monday, also included a tour of Lake Tahoe which many really enjoyed.

Tuesday at 10:00 am sharp - the Exhibit hall opened and a record number of vendors were present to bring us blinded veterans closer to the prosthetic devices that would improve the quality of our daily lives. Two of the largest convention supporters were Aira and ORCAM. 

Aira is video-equipped smart glasses, a smartphone app and one-button access to a network of trained professional agents. You get immediate assistance for almost anything you want to do without a sighted person nearby. It is like having vision in your pocket.​​

ORCAM, MyEye device is a Portable Small, lightweight, and magnetically mounts onto virtually any eyeglass frame.  Easy-to-Use Intuitively responds to simple hand gestures to Read Text Including: newspapers, books, menus, signs, product labels, screens and recognize faces Real time identification of faces is seamlessly announced.
Tuesday evening, everyone enjoyed a terrific dinner during the BVA President’s Welcome Reception. This year approximately 132 BVA members registered along with fifty guests or caregivers.

Wednesday, the official Opening Session began which opened to all members, guest and visitors. Following the first business session.  During the business session, the members were provided information on the operational and financial status of the BVA. Most everything covered is included in the BVA Annual Report. That report was emailed to members attending the convention.  The annual report will be mailed to members who did not receive the emailed copy.  Following that part of the business session, nominations of the National Officers were conducted.  Paul Mimms, who had served our Blinded Veteran community for many decades had to make the tough decision to withdraw and not run for his second term as National Vice President due to health issues.
For President were Joe Parker, Joe Burns and Mark Cornell.
For Vice President were Doctor Tom Zampieri, and Ed Eckroth.
For Secretary were Joe McNeill and Ernie Ferren
For Treasurer were Danny Wallace and Elizabeth Homes
Then all enjoyed more of the Exhibit Hall demonstrations. In the afternoon the Bylaws and Resolutions committee met. Four Bylaw amendments were submitted. All were reviewed by the BVA’s attorney and three were considered in proper order and one was determined out of order and therefore removed. The three Bylaw amendments were as follows 
One - Reduce membership dues to a one time flat rate of $25 for life and associate life membership to be in effect immediately for a period of five years. 
Two - Establish a council of highly experienced corporate leaders to mentor and advise the National Board of Directors.
Three - Replace in the current Bylaws the title “Executive Director” vice “Comptroller” to be the staff member assigned to the LMF Board of Trustees. This is because there is no longer a “Comptroller” .
All three Bylaw Amendments were recommended for approval to the membership.
There were 21 previous resolutions determined to be still valid and there were 6 new resolutions submitted. The first 21 were recommended for approval and the 6 new resolutions were all not recommended for approval.

Thursday, started with some more informational seminars, followed by the “Father Carroll Luncheon”. The guest speaker, Sharon Givannazzo was nothing less than spectacular. The standing applause at the end of her talk must have lasted 2 or 3 minutes. I asked the Executive Director if the speech was recorded.  Hopefully, if a successful recording, be looking out for it on the BVA’s website to be able to get in a podcast for us to listen to. NOTE:  BVA Podcasts are found on the BVA website (
Following the luncheon, the nominated candidates had their 5 minutes to tell the members why they should vote for them. After the campaign speeches, the individual Districts went into their assigned rooms to discuss and pass around ideas and information. These were the District Caucus periods. After the Caucus groups broke up, there were scheduled a tour of Reno.

Friday, the final day of the convention and the final business session of the convention. Prior to the election of officers, the Executive Director gave the membership the good news that BVA may once again be the proud owners of their own building in Alexandria Virginia. There is opportunity to purchase a section of office building at the corner of a major busy street at the perfect location.  After the sale of our really old building for $ 5 million in 2014, BVA was in search of a new residence but many opportunities slipped away or else were too expensive. The purchase were placed on hold while more important issues such as concentration on fund raising and restructuring of corporate expenses seemed to be of a higher priority.  This new place is listed at $2.25 million which our current Building Fund has $4 million.  We would have our own building.  Our building reserve fund would still have over $1,7 million left in the reserve fund. The National Board has given the Executive Director the go ahead to enter into a contract to purchase - the process of inspections will now be able to progress along.

The election of officer results are as follows: 
National President Joe Parker.
National Vice President Tom Zampieri.
National Secretary Joe McNeil.
National Treasurer Danny Wallace.
Appointed as District Director # 2 was Tim Hornick
Appointed as District Director # 6 was Kevin Jackson from Austin Texas.

Outcome of the Bylaws and Resolutions:

One – PASSED.  Reduce membership dues to a one time flat rate of $25 for life and associate life membership to be in effect immediately for a period of five years. 
Two – PASSED.  Establish a council of highly experienced corporate leaders to mentor and advise the National Board of Directors.
Three – PASSED.  Replace in the current Bylaws the title “Executive Director” vice “Comptroller” to be the staff member assigned to the LMF Board of Trustees.  This is because there is no longer a “Comptroller” .

The first 21 resolutions passed. Of the remaining 6, 3 failed to pass and the other 3 were withdrawn.
The convention ended with the Installation Banquet.  Floyd Everett of the Georgia Regional Group received the Irving Diener Award. The Irving Diener Award is the second most prestigious award which the BVA presents. This award is presented at the annual Awards Banquet of the BVA National Convention.  The Award seeks to honor those who have made an outstanding commitment to their BVA regional group and the organization as a whole rather than for his/her personal achievement in rehabilitation or employment.
The Florida Regional Group received the Bronze gavel Award for the highest percent of individuals moved from the Non member status to a life membership status.

Also, of note the BVA National Auxiliary presented a new Charter to the Emerald Coast Regional Group Auxiliary. Congratulations.
I believe all individuals I talked with had a great time. BVA hired an independent Parliamentarian to maintain order and to resolve disputes during the meeting and it worked very well.
Next year’s convention is going to take place in Tulsa Oklahoma.

The Greater Houston Regional Group needs to try and get the auxiliary started so we can be the new one next year. Currently there is NO official auxiliary as no elections have ever occurred, no minutes, no funds exist, so the need should be to ask the spouses and caregivers at the next membership meeting to go off and elect at least three officers. Then they submit their minutes, names, addresses to BVA national requesting to become new Auxiliary for Houston. Until such time as they hold elections, and provide minutes, there is no recognized formal auxiliary group for the Greater Houston Regional Group.