I first met the CEO of Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, Tony Cancelosi,
in the summer of 2009. I was looking for a leader of a nonprofit who
was applying private sector business smarts to steer his organization
to business success. Tony recruited me to his Advisory Board shortly
after. Then I began doing pro bono
strategy, and eventually joined his Board of Directors where I sit
Why did I join? Tony was
#1. I was attracted to him as a leader and as a person. I could sense
his sincerity and generosity. I trusted his business savvy. He was
turning around an organization that was a Washington DC institution,
over 100 years old, a cause related nonprofit that was in a nosedive.
It was an attractive adventure to give to and my strategy work would be
a core contribution.
But the goal of the Lighthouse, providing independence to the blind and
visually impaired, was a mission already close to my heart. It
connected me to my mother, who is no longer alive. To the right is a
picture of the two of us around 1969.
My mother, Diana Weaver Kahan, received her PhD studying the cognitive
development of blind children and I was literally at her side during
much of her graduate work at the Texas State School for the Blind. I
grew up around the blind and visually impaired and forever connected
serving them to my mother’s presence.
As a result, I chose to give my time, energy, and commitment to
Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind before the turnaround had lifted the
organization out of a nosedive. It made me deeply happy to be doing
work that was an extension of my mother’s love.
I am proud to have been at the Lighthouse in the early days when it
secured a van so that it could reach those who would not make the
journey to an eye-testing facility. It’s often the case that people
isolate themselves when their vision begins to go, because it is such a
traumatic experience and impacts their identity. That is why it is all
the more important that the Lighthouse go to them. To learn more,
video from ABC Channel 7 that details the mobile van.
Today the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind is on the ascent. Tony has
been a wonderful pilot and is headed now for the stars. With millions
of dollars in government grants secured and a growth strategy being
assembled at this very moment, the future is looking good.
Find something this week that speaks to your soul and invest in it with
time, money, and effort. You will enjoy rewards that cannot be measured.
and sacred moments of our lives are those filled with the spirit of
– Joseph B Wirthlin