Mark Joslyn and Jose Eguiguren

Beverly Ridge Lions Club President Mark Joslyn presents a $500 donation to Jose Eguiguren to support the Braille Across America virtual challenge.

Started by the National Braille Press (NBP), the first Braille Across America 2021 virtual running challenge raised over $137,000 and covered 13,754 miles to spread awareness about the importance of braille literacy across the country.

From March 17 to April 19, the Braille Across America team worked to walk, run and bike coast to coast, and it exceeded initial expectations of raising $100,000 and covering 26.2 miles.

Jose Eguiguren, a local resident and member of the Beverly Ridge Lions Club, had personal motivations for getting involved in Braille Across America. 

Jose’s father, Byron Eguiguren, lost his sight as an infant in Ecuador and became the first blind person to graduate from an Ecuadorian university. 

The NBP has a long-standing history of supporting the blind community.

Founded in 1927 by Francis Lerardi, the NBP aims to empower the blind and visually impaired with programs, materials and technology supporting braille literacy and learning through touch.

Lerardi lost his sight in 1898 at 12 years old after a dynamite cap in a box of nails exploded near him. 

He worked selling newspapers and as a shoeshine. It was not until WWI that Lerardi realized that no source of news media was available for the blind. 

Most blind people at the time relied on friends and family to read them the news. Lerardi published the first edition of The Weekly News on March 17, 1927. 

After three months, demand for the publication grew so much that it went national. 

Today, NBP produces books, tests, textbooks, technology books, children’s books, airline safety guides and other braille materials for the blind community. 

Throughout his life, Byron Eguiguren regularly subscribed to NBP publications, and he is still enjoying them today.

By chance, Jose Eguiguren saw an email sent to his father from the NBP about its Braille Across America challenge, and he decided to take part. 

“Braille books cost more than regular print books, so only a small percentage of people have access to them,” said Eguiguren. “I believe that, if you can educate the blind community through braille, you can empower them, so I immediately wanted to get involved.”

Eguiguren talked with leaders of the Beverly Ridge Lions Club in seeking help to meet his goal and to share his father’s story.

The Beverly Ridge Lions Club contributed to his efforts by donating $500 to Braille Across America.

Eguiguren had never been involved with anything like Braille Across America, but he was confident that the Beverly Ridge Lions Club would support his effort. 

“I want to emphasize the Beverly Ridge Lions Club and their donation,” said Eguiguren. “My initial goal was $262, and the Beverly Ridge Lions Club helped me more than exceed that goal.”

Established over 60 years ago, the Beverly Ridge Lions Club is a member of Lions Clubs International, one of the largest non-profit humanitarian organizations in the world. 

The Beverly Ridge Lions Club serves the blind and deaf, and its members strive to empower volunteers in the local community to serve their neighborhoods, meet humanitarian needs, encourage peace and promote international understanding. 

Information about the Beverly Ridge Lions Club is available by contacting club president Mark Joslyn at (773) 727-2253 or at markjoslyn@ymail.com.

Through support from organizations like the Beverly Ridge Lions Club, the NBP, Braille Across America and people like Jose Eguiguren, the blind community will have access to over 5,000 new braille books. 

For more information, visit the National Braille Press website; to donate to the Braille Across America event, visit classy.org.