Empowered Woman of the Week; Jen Walker

Hello everyone! This week’s “Empowered Woman of the Week”, is Jen Walker. Jen is a woman from Ohio, who reached out to me via social media, to tell me of her support of my project. Jen also shared with me a little about her life and her projects. I knew upon learning about Jen’s brave fight for sight that she was someone I needed to speak with for “One Model Mission”. Jen is a mother, wife, teacher, and someone that has been slowly losing her eyesight since her early adolescence. I read Jen’s story and started to cry. I think every day we have these small luxuries that we can use. Things that we take advantage of. A few things being our senses, our health, and ability to do normal daily tasks. Jen doesn’t have that luxury with her eyesight. Jen cannot drive, she falls, she can’t see her daughter’s complete faces, yet she still stays more grateful and positive than many people I know. Jen not only teaches schooling, but in her free time, she organizes charity events and works with her fellow vision impaired. Jen also supports many charities for the blind and the vision impaired. She also supports a charity giving people in need, seeing eye dogs. Jen is currently waiting on her seeing eye dog. Jen is in her early 30’s yet she uses a cane. Many women, including myself, would feel insecure doing so, however Jen has accepted it and no she doesn’t think twice about it. She doesn’t let her eyesight compromise her life and her passions. It was so refreshing to hear from someone that is so selfless and sweet, even with her condition. I don’t want to give too much away, so here is Jen Walker! Enjoy her story of determination and positivity! 

  1. Tell me your full name, age, and where you’re from.

 My name is Jen Walker, and I am from Columbus, Ohio. I’m a born and raised Ohioan! I have

lived in Toledo, Cleveland, and now Columbus.

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At age 14, I was diagnosed with a degenerative retina disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa. At age 28, I became legally blind due to my lack of peripheral vision.

  2. Tell me a little about your upbringing? What were you like as a young girl and teenager?

 I had a wonderful upbringing. I grew up in Avon Lake, Ohio. Our town was small and

quaint and located right on Lake Erie. As a young girl and teenager, I was often

apprehensive of doing anything in the evening or during the night. I felt I couldn’t see

very well in this setting. Come to find out, this was the first sign of Retinitis Pigmentosa.

 

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 3. What did you want to originally be when you grew up? Did you ever think you would be

where you are today? What made you want to become what you are today?

 I always dreamed of being a teacher! I have been a teacher for 11 years, and just

recently decided to move into a small group teaching setting due to my vision loss.

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 4. When did you move to Los Angeles and how come?

n/a

 

5. How did you get started doing what you’re doing and how did you really start to

become successful? What does success mean to you?

 At age 14 I was diagnosed with a degenerative retina disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa. At

age 28 I became legally blind due to my lack of peripheral vision. By 30 I was using a

white cane and had turned in my driver’s license. I will continue to lose more peripheral

vision as time goes on. Because of this, I became involved with the Foundation Fighting

Blindness. This foundation raises money for scientific research, cures and treatments of

degenerative retina diseases like RP, Stargarts Disease, Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis,

and Age-Related Macular Degeneration and more. This is a national foundation, but my

husband and I run the Columbus Chapter. Together with a group of other Columbus

residents affected by vision loss, we plan and host events.

 

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My goal is to get even more Columbus businesses to support the locally blind/visually impaired community.

 6. Tell me about your business and the projects you’re currently working on?

 For the Foundation Fighting Blindness Columbus Chapter, we are working on our annual

Swing for Sight golf outing, where on some holes, the golfer is blindfolded! Our biggest

event is our annual Dining in the Dark. We sell tickets for dinner, but it’s not your

average dinner. Diners are expected to wear blindfolds for their entire meal. Those of us

with visual impairments will give tips and offer advice. The diners then experience what

it’s like to have a meal without sight. Often people say the background noise impedes

any social interaction with other friends, Also, some noted the frustration in finding the

food on their plate and the isolation that comes with being blind. After dinner, patrons

can take off their blindfolds and participate in our silent auction, dance on the dance

floor, and even pet a guide dog puppy-in-training!

 My goal is to get even more Columbus businesses to support the local blind/visually

impaired community.

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Some days, when I first lost a good amount of vision, it was hard to get up and move on.

 

 7. What is your greatest achievement thus far, and what or who inspires you?

 Sometimes, your greatest achievement can be just getting out of bed. Some days, when

I first lost a good amount of vision, it was hard to get up and move on. But, I realized I

needed to keep going. With a supportive family, a therapist, and a strong church and

faith…I have gotten out of bed every day.

 Another accomplishment I feel I’ve had is connecting to others with vision loss. So often

people are diagnosed with these horrible diseases that offer no cure or treatment. It is

essential for those to connect with others in the same position and that have “sight” on

the future, and how it can be wonderful, even without vision. This often entails helping

others find services for the blind, through their state government programs, learning

how to advocate at one’s workplace, and getting tools like Orientation and Mobility

training.

 

 8. For people who want to build or grow their business or brand, what advice would you

give?

 I would say with non-profits, don’t be afraid to try something new and exciting! Take

risks!

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 9. What career and life advice would you give young girls who look up to you?

 Much of my reason for working through my trial is my faith. I have learned to not have

idolatry in thinking, “If I just had this…or just had that…life would be perfect.” You have

to find peace in whatever trial or circumstances you have been dealt. A cure or a

treatment or a different outcome may not be what God has planned for some of us. So,

try to find out how you can use your situation to inspire others or make yourself an even

better person.

 

 10. What are you most looking forward to in the future?

 Receiving my guide dog from Guiding Eyes for the Blind!

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 11. What is your ultimate life goal?

 Showing my two daughters that I could find the resources and tools needed to

overcome my disability, no matter how hard it was.

 

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Never assume a person with a white cane or guide dog has zero vision.

 

 12. What are things that people assume about you, that aren’t true?

 People usually think “blind” means that you see black. Blindness is actually a broad

spectrum. People with visual impairments see the world in many ways. Some struggle

to read print, see faces, and notice details. Some, like me, notice detail in the center of

our vision, yet have no peripheral vision. So, you may see a person who is blind using

their phone or reading. Never assume a person with a white cane or guide dog has zero

vision.

This is a photo showing how my eye sight looks…..

This is a photo showing how my eye sight looks…..

 

 13. What is something most people don’t know about you?

 Many say, “You get around so well!” But they can’t see my emotions on the inside.

Every step I take is full of anxiety of if I will trip or run into someone. I cover up my fear

very well, almost too well!

 

 14. Why do you think women empowerment is so important?

 Women offer a different perspective. We may notice things differently, and see things

in a different light. The more perspectives, the better!

 

The older I got, the more I realized that other people aren’t focused on me. I was so concerned about how I looked with my cane, when really, no one cared.
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 15. What would you say your best qualities are?

 I try not to sweat the small stuff…I’m just happy if I get a ride to the grocery store!

 

 

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16. How can women support each other more?

 Check on your friends! If they seem quiet or angry, it may be an underlying issue you

don’t even know about.

 

 17. How can women feel more confident?

 Helping others, and worrying less about yourself . Sometimes we focus too much on

ourselves and forget to reach out to those less fortunate.

 

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 18. How do you overcome insecurities? How can others overcome their insecurities?

 For me, I hated (and still kind of hate) using my white cane. It’s a glaring sign that says

“I’M DIFFERENT”.  The older I got, the more I realized that other people aren’t focused on

me. I was so concerned about how I looked with my cane, when really, no one cared.

Everyone else has their own life, and some of my insecurities were projected by what I

thought was happening…not what was reality.

 

 

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19. What are the things in life you value the most?

 PEACE, in all things. I learned a lot about peace from getting deeper into my faith I

distinctively remember having an anxiety attack at night thinking through how I would

raise my girls without being able to drive. My mind wandered and wandered. Then, I fell

to my knees and said out loud, “God, I am trusting in you that you’ll provide whatever I

need to raise my girls.” Since then, I have been at peace without a license.

 

 

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20. What does it mean to you, to be an “empowered woman”? How did you become

empowered?

 I became empowered thanks to all the kindness from other men and women that

offered rides, words of encouragement, prayers, and helped me grow as a person.

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Thanks so much Jen for your share and interview. I can’t imagine losing my sight slowly. A basic sense that many of us take for granted! Best of luck with everything! XOXO

Below is Jen’s Instagram as well as two charities she supports! Check her out!

www.fightblindness.org

www.guidingeyes.org

@jen_fights4sight

Katy JohnsonComment