Perkins Alumna a "Hero Among Us"
The crowd stomped their feet and clapped their hands at the Celtics game January 23 as the face of Perkins School for the Blind alumna Jaimi Lard appeared smiling on the jumbo-tron. Although she could neither hear nor see the applause, Jaimi was overcome by waves of appreciation as she sensed the vibration from the audience's stomping feet.
The Celtics Shamrock Foundation named Perkins School for the Blind spokeswoman Jaimi Lard a "Hero Among Us" for her work inspiring and educating others about the opportunities and possibilities for people who, like herself, are deafblind. Interpreter Pam Ryan was on hand, too. At halftime, Perkins received a gift of $50,000 from the foundation.
When she was born deaf and blind, doctors told Jaimi Lard's parents she would not be able to learn at all. But today Jaimi spends most of her time teaching others about the obstacles she faces - and overcomes - on a daily basis. Jaimi is a graduate of, and deafblind spokesperson for, Perkins.
Jaimi came to Perkins Deafblind Program at the age of five and graduated 16 years later. While an independent living counselor helps answer mail, pay bills and run errands, Jaimi relies on computer technology and large print software to complete a variety of other daily activities, including shopping, reading the newspaper and sending email. The Ride, a shuttle service for people with disabilities provided by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, takes her to work and other places.
After graduating from Perkins, Jaimi worked 13 years as a messenger at Brigham & Women's Hospital. In 1995, she testified before the U.S. Congress hearings on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act about the impact of educating individuals who are deafblind.
In June of 2000, Jaimi returned to Perkins as official spokesperson and today she gives presentations through an interpreter at schools and civic organizations and helps with tours for visitors to Perkins. In August of 2001 Jaimi spoke to the first ever pan-Latin American conference of parents of children who are deafblind to give them hope for the possibilities of educating their own children.
In July, 2006, Jaimi addressed the 89th Annual Lions International Convention, speaking to a crowd of 6,000 who rattled the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center with their stamping feet in response to her address. According to The Lion magazine (Oct. 2006) "Ms. Lard rallied Lions to continue to raise $150 million by July 2008 for Campaign SightFirst II."
Perkins is a Shamrock Foundation Focus Partner and January 23 was "Perkins Night" at the TD BankNorth Garden Celtics/Toronto Raptors game night. During the second full time out of the second quarter, images of Jaimi's work for Perkins were projected on the giant video screen and game attendees cheered her accomplishments.
To date, over 380 individuals have received the Heroes Among Us Award. This program is proudly presented by the Mass State Lottery. Last year the Lottery gave back over $920 million in local aid to the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts, and that local aid paid for public education and safety.
Jaimi is available for off-campus presentations to schools and community groups. To schedule a visit from Jaimi, call (617) 972-7335.