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Award Recipients Honored for their Achievements in Academics or Community Service
TRENTON – New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Jennifer Velez addressed the crowd at the 8th Annual Blind and Visually Impaired Awareness Night Out with the Trenton Thunder at  Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton last night.This annual event is held to raise awareness about vision loss and to honor individuals for their achievements in academics or community service.


“The steadfast commitment of the Trenton Thunder and Arm & Hammer Park in hosting this event every year is very much appreciated,” said Commissioner Velez.  “This event provides the opportunity for our Commission of the Blind and Visually Impaired, in partnership with the State Library Talking Book and Braille Center and the Trenton Thunder, to recognize the achievements of individuals with vision loss and the opportunity to raise awareness of the more than 259,000 people living in New Jersey, who have some degree of visual impairment.”  


The pre-game ceremony was held on the ball field, during which four outstanding individuals were recognized by DHS Commissioner Velez, Bernice Davis from the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Director Adam Sczepaniak of the State Library Talking Book and Braille Center. 


The 2013 Honorees of the Eighth Annual Blind and Visually Impaired Awareness Night with the Trenton Thunder:


Kaleigh Brendle was recognized for academic excellence and unselfish commitment to helping others. Kaleigh is a musician  and a  National Braille Challenge Contestant, who is 10 years old and lives in Freehold. Kaleigh began learning Braille at the age of 3.  Her reading and writing skills earned second place in the 2013 National Braille Challenge, held in Los Angeles, CA.  Kaleigh also keeps busy playing soccer, swimming, dancing, singing and playing the piano.  Since the age of 5, after visiting an aunt who had lost her hair due to cancer treatments, every two years Kaleigh donates 11 inches of her own hair to “Locks of Love,” an organization that provides hair pieces for children affected by medical hair-loss. During the 7th inning stretch, Kaleigh sang, “God Bless America.”


Susan Vanino received the Trenton Thunder Scholarship for Leadership and Community Service. Susan, who is from Glen Rock, is a respected member of the blind and visually impaired community.  She is the immediate past program coordinator of the Adjustment to Vision Loss Program. During her tenure, Susan was instrumental in the establishment of over 60 peer-support groups for people who are blind or visually impaired.   Susan is a recent graduate of Ramapo College where she was a member of two honor societies and the Dean’s List and will continue her education by pursuing a Masters Degree in Social Work at New York University in the Fall.


Andrew Smith received the first annual Cathy and Herb Bodensiek College Scholarship for an exceptional level of academic excellence. This past June, Andrew graduated from Edison High School at the top of his class with a 4.1 GPA where he also earned a SAT score higher than 67 percent of all other test takers across the country. His participation in a variety of extra-curricular activities, including his school’s marching band and jazz ensemble, contributed to his selection for the 2013 Student Recognition award by the  Middlesex County Board of Education. Andrew will be attending Seton Hall University  in the Fall where he will major in Computer Science. 


Marshall Klein received the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award. Marshall is the retired Executive Director of The Lions Eye Bank of NJ, which operated under the auspices of The Eye Institute of NJ, where he also served as administrator from 1972-2005.  Marshall is the past District Governor of the New Jersey Lions and has held several posts in this international  philanthropic and community service organization. In 2005, he was the recipient of the Lions Ambassador of Goodwill award, the highest national honor that has been presented to only two other New Jerseyans. Marshall is the President of The Fund for the New Jersey Blind and a dedicated member of the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired’s Board of Trustees for more than 40  years. Beyond his work and serving on the Boards of several additional organizations, he is personally dedicated to improving the quality of life for people who are blind or visually impaired, dedicating much of his time and resources to helping others.

 The DHS’ Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired offers a variety of programs, most of which are free of charge for New Jersey residents who have a visual impairment. CBVI has been providing life changing services to New Jersey’s residents with visual impairments since 1910.  For more information about CBVI, visit:

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