DKM First-Timer Program: A Tribute to an ACB Pioneer by Allen J. Casey

One would be hard pressed to attend an ACB conference and convention without hearing numerous references to one or more ACB pioneers who helped shape the organization in its early years.  Among the more frequently referenced pioneers is Durward K. McDaniel, ACB's first national representative and a mentor to ACB leaders and members for more than two decades.
 
In the dedication of "People of Vision" (2003), former ACB president Chris Gray acknowledges Durward's "indefatigable belief in people" and credits "his high ideals, his integrity, his commitment and values" as key elements of ACB's survival.  Throughout "People of Vision," authors James and Marjorie Megivern recognize Durward's efforts to lead ACB out of the political uncertainty of the early 1960s. 
 
M.J. Schmitt, a charter member of ACB and longtime board member, calls Durward the "guts and blood" of ACB, one who encouraged others to lead by becoming involved.  "Durward," she asserts, "attracted me to and kept me in ACB."  Former ACB president Oral Miller recalls Durward's "interesting technique" to attract one to ACB.  He would find a common interest with the individual – for Oral, bowling – then parlay the conversation into a discussion of the individual's place in ACB.  Oral spoke to the 1969 convention on the value of sports to the blind; the rest is history.  So it was with a group of young people involved in the Blind Leadership Council of Massachusetts.  Terry Pacheco, Marlaina Lieberg and Charlie Crawford were the beneficiaries of Durward's wisdom and encouragement.  Durward's commitment to recruiting and developing new leaders – of which M.J., Oral, Terry, Marlaina and Charlie are but a few – may stand as his most lasting contribution to ACB.
 
It is fitting, therefore, that ACB remembers Durward today through a special program which recognizes and encourages new leaders – the Durward K. McDaniel First-Timer program.  Each year two ACB members are selected as DKM first-timers.  Eligible applicants must meet each of the following criteria: be age 18 or older; blind or visually impaired; be an active member in good standing of ACB or one of its affiliates; and must not have attended a previous national conference and convention.  Each applicant will submit required supporting documentation to the committee: (1) a personal narrative describing the applicant's background, contributions to ACB and the applicant's affiliate and community as well as a statement of the importance of the first-timer experience to the applicant's growth as a future ACB leader; and (2) letter of recommendation from the president of the applicant's affiliate.  Applicants should provide current contact information, including mailing address, e-mail address and telephone number.  Applications must be received in the ACB national office not later than April 1.
 
Reasonable conference expenses will be covered for each first-timer: travel to and from Columbus; hotel lodging; per diem allowance for meals and incidentals; and appropriate conference fees.  DKM recipients are expected to be active participants in conference sessions and educational and special-interest seminars.  Questions may be directed to DKM committee chair Allen Casey at (336) 222-0201 or mahatmaac@aol.com.