On Sunday 4 November, about seventy people came along to the Art Eyes “Picnic in the Park” social event armed with blankets, chairs and picnic hampers.
Kids of all ages, their parents and grandparents turned up, all with the shared experience of living with an artificial eye. This was the fifth ArtEyes event since the group started, and the third picnic we’ve organised.
Eye loss can cause social isolation and feelings of being alone. One of the goals of the ArtEyes group is to prevent such feelings and to make living with an artificial eye a more normal experience.
At this picnic, you wouldn’t have known that most people there had an artificial eye. The atmosphere was easy-going, warm and friendly.
The only difference was that the topic of eye loss and what it meant to have an artificial eye could be raised comfortably with others who understood.
Looking back on the first picnic two years ago, when nobody knew one another, it’s clear how the group has changed. People have developed acquaintances and friendships – it’s like an extended family.
Everyone felt free to mix and mingle, and help out by passing food around. And when someone new arrived, they were greeted and made to feel welcome.
Aside from eating and socialising, there were the typical picnic games. Kids and parents struck up a friendly cricket match, a warm up for the three-legged relay Jenny had planned. The idea was that two races would be held, but at the end of the second, no-one wanted to stop. A competitive spirit had surfaced, with calls of “best of three!”, then “best of four!”.
It’s great to see friendships forming between the kids. For kids, having a friend with an artificial eye like them alleviates that feeling of being different, of standing out from their school mates.
They can compare experiences, feel just like any other kid, and gain strength from one another. When the kids weren’t running around or playing cricket, they were passing around plates of food, especially the potato chips.
As part of the organising group, we felt much more relaxed too. At the first picnic, we had many an anxious moment. Would anyone come? What sort of activities should we include to keep everyone entertained? How much food should we bring? These stresses, along with the overall concern that everyone has a good time, of course are normal for anyone planning their first event.
This year, we asked people to bring along a salad or plate of nibblies as a contribution. The response was amazing. We were inundated with scrumptious salads, a huge selection of fruit, and delicious home-made nibblies to accompany our sausages, hamburgers and chicken wings. No-one went hungry.
A big thank you to everyone for your generous contributions, and for helping out with various jobs on the day. Special thanks go to Jo. O for coordinating these events and for being the driving force behind the Art Eyes group. Jo has recently upgraded the webpage and the address is www.arteyes.org.au
For next year, we’re planning to have a picnic on the same day in every state. The Ocularists Association of Australia is keen to make this happen and will help by mailing out flyers. In Perth, we’ll design the flyers and include each state’s venue and contact details.
But for this to work, we need your help! It’s not hard to organise a picnic. All we need is one or two people from each state to put their hand up as state co-ordinators. We’re happy to give any support you need. If you think you’d like to be involved, please contact us.
Let’s make this a successful Australia-wide event for ArtEyes in 2008.