The Heartlander Newsletter: Fall 2016

Editor’s Message, by Timothy Hornik

Thank you for reading our latest installment of the Heartlander, the official newsletter of the Heartland Regional group of the Blinded Veterans Association. This issue covers our extremely busy fall season, consisting of our midyear meeting recap, experiences at the Kansas State Fair, letters of gratitude from participants of our fishing trip in partnership with KAMO Adventures, and our usual listing of peer support and VIST coordinators. If you are a blinded Veteran reading this and are not a member of the BVA, now is the time to join. A lifetime membership has been dropped to $20. Your support as a lifetime member allows us to publish these newsletters, operate our teleconferencing services, and execute programs like our meetings and outdoors excursions. Speaking about adventures, we will be heading back to Branson in April 2017 for our annual meeting, hosting more fishing trips, visiting the Kansas State Capital in October, and looking to assemble blind Veteran teams to participate in competitive adaptive sports. This will only be possible with your continued support and willingness to challenge yourselves to do more with blindness.

In Memoriam, Chester Leidy, by Timothy Hornik

In September the Heartland Regional Group lost one of our dearest members, Chester “Chet” Leidy. Chet served as the Kansas Regional Group’s President and other officer positions for over a decade, establishing the core group of members around the Wichita VAMC. This enabled the Blinded Veterans Association to remain active and present throughout Kansas during a time period when the membership steadily declined for numerous reasons. It is because of Chet we have the Heartland Regional Group today, advocating for Veterans with visual impairments across Kansas and Missouri.

Chester Leidy served in the Army during World War II, with the 361 Regiment of the 91st Infantry Division. His unit participated in the battles for Rome and other actions in Italy. During these battles, Chet received the Purple Heart after being injured by enemy fire.

Chester’s experiences and acquired skills enabled him to achieve tremendous Personal, family, and professional accomplishments. These include a wonderful marriage of 72 years with Mary Jane, developing Leidy Plumbing and Heating Company, and co-founder of Plumbers Association of Central Kansas, and a member of the Coast Guard auxiliary.

The first time I met Chet, he described himself as a spry old man. This barely begins to touch upon the energies he threw into every project. Whether it was fishing throughout Kansas or on the Gulf Coast, leading the BVA’s regional group in Kansas, or even driving to visit Mary Jane while at a long-term care facility before she passed after he was declared legally blind due to Macular Degeneration, Chet fulfilled all promises and enriched the lives of everyone he touched. Chester’s presence will be severely missed by all of us.

The Heartland Midyear Meeting Summary, by Paul Mimms

Heartland Regional Group held its mid-year meeting in Wichita KS on October 14, 2016. The event was held at Envision, a center for vision rehabilitation in Wichita. Robert Hamilton, Wichita VAMC VIST; Dr. Donald Fletcher, Envision’s ophthalmologist; Sanford Alexander, Envision’s advocate; Maggie Witte, Kansas Library Services; Heather Hogan; Douglas Olender; and Paul Mimms attended the afternoon event. The event was one of Heartland’s efforts to ally with other resources to provide support for members. The highlights of the meeting were a report on VIST services by Robert Hamilton, an update on available programs from Kansas Library Services by Ms. Witte, and Dr. Fletcher’s presentation on vision research he conducts at Envision.

Representing the Heartland at the Kansas State Fair, by Gus Adams

For the second year in a row, Sandy and Gus Adams devised and executed the Heartland Regional Group’s outreach booth at the Kansas State Fair. The team started to prepare by soliciting funds from individual Kansans to corporate sponsors. Most notably, Reiser Fine Foods provided a bulk of the support for the Heartland’s booth.

Sandy and Gus arrived to the fair grounds on September 15th, and managed to assemble the booth prior to a downpour. They manned the booth each day from 0800 to 2000, along with Koi Law, of Hutchinson, and Bob Hamilton, the Wichita VIST coordinator. Many people stopped by to learn about the Blinded Veterans Association and VA visual impairment services, achieving our primary goal to increase the knowledge about blindness amongst Veterans. The team also handed out membership applications to many interested individuals.

We all owe Sandy and Gus Adams, Koi Law, and Bob Hamilton our sincere gratitude for representing all of us visually impaired and blinded Veterans in the Heartland. The booth was a huge success in getting our name out and letting people know that we exist. This is best summarized in Bob Hamilton’s response about his experiences:

“VIST attended the Blinded Veterans Association, Kansas State Fair last week. Though there for a short time, VIST was able to make important contact with veterans and organizations such as Lions Club Sight van. Gus Adams, his wife and other members did excellent job planning and displaying BVA/ VIST material, a true outreach! My compliments and thanks to that crew and BVA in general. Hopefully, VIST can be more active at the 2017 booth!”

The Heartland Regional Group will be executing precisely what Bob requests, increase in activity in 2017. However, it’s the intent to be more active throughout both Missouri and Kansas, so if you have an idea for an event, send us an email at

Fishing with Blindness and KAMO Adventures, compiled by Timothy Hornik

September featured a first for the Heartland Regional Group, a fishing trip. Partnering with KAMO Adventures, Shelton Ponder, Doug Olender, and Koi Law joined three other Veterans with disabilities from September 22nd to 25, for a weekend of fishing, peer support, and all around fun. This trip was executed by Bill Eckert, KAMO Adventures, co-founder, and his willingness to assist the Heartland live our motto of blinded Veterans assisting our fellow peers. These next articles depict the empowering effect the trip had on each individual.

Fishing for Enjoyment and Catching an Awesome Trip, by Shelton Ponder

Since I am not a regular fisherman, I was completely engrossed with excitement as this trip unfolded. My enthusiasm was minute in comparison to meeting James Wilson, who is a fantastic individual and got the trip off to a great start. I did not feel one iota of apprehension once we made contact and during the entire trip, whether on the lake, or at the house. The detailed care and sincerity tendered by the staff and volunteers was unlike anything I have ever experienced, except for the Hines Blind Rehab Center.

The fishing was terrific. Our guide, who name is Les Jarman, added to the exuberance, from the first time we met until we said our good byes. Les made every moment on the lake just superb. I was fascinated by the beauty surrounding the lake as we approached the different locations where Les knew like the back of his hands.

I caught more fish in two days than the few times I have gone fishing. Each catch was heart throbbing in ecstasy since I never knew whether I had a trophy catch or one that had to be thrown back. Though there was some good size catches,
I never despaired when I did not land a big one. There was the next cast, and the rush was just as great.

People I became acquainted with were always enthusiastic as I was during the entire trip. We all experienced a shared closeness, whether we were seasoned or a novice. I gained a new perspective of realizing the preparation everyone took, thus freeing the Veterans to enjoy the marvelous event. Also, I am going to invest in some fishing equipment and go fishing in the area. You might say I am hooked.

Crappie Fishing, But Catching Bass and Fun, by Koi Law

Thursday night when we got there it was all about getting to know the veterans the staff and the sponsors. We had steaks potatoes and drink a lot. Also they let us know what to expect the next day and played some cards. It was just kind of a relaxing evening. Bill gave all the veterans camouflaged soft side coolers to keep that our drinks cold why we were out on the boat and fishing lures.

Friday morning we got up or part of us did early Doug and I were going to cook breakfast but there wasn’t enough room for both of us in the kitchen. So he cooked by himself. I was just up to keep him company. From there we headed out to the lake where they had five volunteers with boats waiting to take us out on the lake. I caught several fish. We finished until about 1 o’clock and then headed back to the farm. Where we sat and talk with the staff and drink some more. Later that evening
we had hamburgers, Brats, potato salad, salad, and chips it was just a great meal. Later on that night we played poker again. The staff but in for $20 and the veterans got to play for free. And then we all went to bed for an early morning wake up.

Saturday morning Doug and I got up and cooked breakfast. After that we headed out to the lake where we had the volunteers with the boats waiting for us again. We finished until about 2 o’clock. The people in our boat were fishing for Crappie but apparently I was fishing for bass because that what I was catching. Then we went back to the farm set and relaxed and had a LOT more beer. And later that evening we had a great spaghetti dinner. We played poker and some pool just had a great time hanging out with each other.

Sunday morning we got up cleaned up the rest of the house packed up and headed out on my way. It was a great weekend. And something I would love to do again.

Catching the Limit, Plus some, By Doug Olender

We ventured to the KAMO Adventures lodge on September 22nd, and were treated to a steak dinner and got to meet everyone.. Friday we had breakfast and then when fishing on Stockton Lake. Most of us caught Fish and returned to KAMO Adventure’s lodge, for some target practice, some poker, and time to talk. After breakfast on Saturday, we headed back to the lake, and in the evening resumed the fun. Prior to leaving, our guides asked if we might be interested in another day of fishing, which I graciously accepted. On Sunday while most people were waking up and preparing to return home, my guide and I reeled in a 24 inch 6.5 pound walleye.

I cannot thank KAMO Adventures enough for the stellar weekend. I had so much fun I have not slept this well in over 23 years. If you ever have the opportunity to join KAMO Adventures for any of their fishing or hunting trips, I recommend you stop and go.

Annual Meeting 2017 by Paul Mimms

It’s time to start planning for the Heartland’s annual meeting. Scheduled for April 20th to 23rd, we will be returning to the Westgate Branson Woods Resort, in Branson, Missouri. This decision stems from the overwhelming reports of excellence from both our members and invited guests. The basic room rate for a two bed room is $63.00 plus tax. You can examine this location by visiting,

If you wish to attend but are concern with transportation arrangements, we are looking to arrange for car pools and arrange for buses. If you might be interested in these actions, contact Paul Mimms at as soon as possible.

Teleconferences for Support and Growth, by Timothy Hornik

One of the hardest parts of being visually impaired are transportation barriers. We in the Heartland resolve this obstacle through teleconferences from peer support to learning more about becoming an advocate for the blind. Please consider attending or sharing this information.

General Teleconferences

Heartland Regional Group Monthly Teleconference

  • When: Second Tuesday of the month
  • Time: 1100 or 11:00 Am CST
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940

BVA Discussion Teleconference

  • When: Second Monday of the month
  • Time: 1300 or 1:00 Pm CST
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940

Monthly Guide Dog Teleconference

  • When: third Wednesday of the month
  • Time: 1100 or 11:00 Am CST
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940

Technology Specific Teleconferences

Blind Vet Tech Monthly Tech Talk

  • When: third Thursday of each month
  • Time: 1900 or 7:00 Pm CST
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940

Blind Vet Tech MacOS Monthly Talk

  • When: second Thursday of the month
  • Time: 1900 or 7:00 Pm CST
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940

Hines Blind Center Alumni iOS Talk

  • When: first Tuesday of each month
  • Time: 1000 or 10:00 Am CST
  • Phone Number: (800) 767-1750
  • Access Code: 44125

Hines Blind Center Alumni Windows Computers Talk

  • When: first Thursday of each month
  • : 1000 or 10:00 Am CST
  • Phone Number: (800) 767-1750
  • Access Code: 44125

VIST Roster, By Timothy Hornik

The Visual Impairment Services Coordinators are our gatekeepers for the VA’s Blind Rehab Services and training. Below are the VIST throughout Kansas and Missouri. Their position is to serve visually impaired Veterans.

Kansas City VA Medical Center

Paul Clary, Phone: (816) 861-4700, Ext: 56294

Columbia VA Medical Center

Lauren Swift, Phone: (573) 814-6458

St. Louis Cochran VA Medical Center

Kevin Jacques, Phone: (314) 652-4100, Ext: 54121

VA Medical Center of the Ozarks

Paula Ellington, Phone: (479) 443-4301, Ext: 65364

Eastern Kansas VA Medical Center

Dawn, Phone: )913) 682-2000, Ext: 53825

Wichita VA Medical Center

Bob Hamilton
Phone: (316) 685-2221, Ext: 53682

Quick Tech Tip, by Timothy Hornik

Did you know your iPhone can simplify dialing phone numbers which requires access codes or standardized prompts? For example, the number for your VIST coordinator requires you to dial the main number for the VA, then wait to press several other numbers to reach the VIST. Well, you can set up a contact for your VIST which will allow you to just press that contact and all of the dialing is automatic. This works by adding commas or semicolons to the phone number, like (866) 555-555,,,1,2,3. Here are the steps to do this on your iOS device:

  • Open or create a contact where you are dialing a number requiring an access code or numerical prompt system.
  • Press the Edit button in the upper right corner of the screen.
    Double tap on the field where you insert the phone number.
  • After typing in the phone number, determine if you need to insert a pause (aka comma) or a wait (semicolon).
  • Press the shift button, visually it contains a few symbols like plus and number sign.
  • Find the pause (aka comma) where the 4 button previously was located.
  • Find the wait (aka semicolon) where the 6 button previously was located.
  • Note: The pause will insert a brief pause into the dialing sequence so multiple commas may be required. The wait inserts a break in the dialing, so you will have to press a button in the in call options screen to continue entering the numerical sequence.

    For more about tech or how to get more out of your devices, join me on Blind Vet Tech teleconferences, search for Blind Vet Tech in your Podcast searcher, or visit:

    Final Note, By Timothy Hornik

    Thank you for your continued support of blinded Veterans across the Heartland. We can not fulfill our obligations without your support of our blinded Veteran peers and the Heartland Regional Group. If you are a blinded Veteran but not a member of the Blinded Veterans Association, I request you take full advantage of us and become a member. Lifetime membership costs $20, regardless of your age. If you are interested contact the BVA at:

    • Blinded Veterans Association
    • (800) 669 7079

    Without your support of the Heartland Regional Group or the Blinded Veterans Association at large, visually impaired Veterans will lose the only congressionally chartered Veterans Service Organization advocating for programs, services, and benefits for blinded Veterans. Ask yourself what can you do to assist another blinded Veteran, and not what can someone do for you.