Three years ago I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great to have a support group for people with artificial eyes.
I spoke this thought out loud to Jenny, and then to Jo Oosterhoff. Jo’s son Joey lost an eye to retinoblastoma.
Never did I imagine that Jo would transform an idea into action. But that’s exactly what she did.
And so ArtEyes WA was born. The group began as an online yahoo chat group for Western Australians. Jenny and I made a conscious choice to leave the group to its members.
We wanted people to chat openly about their experiences of eye loss and wearing an artificial eye.
Jo took the group further, planning and organising social events for more personal contact. As we’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, having an artificial eye can be an isolating experience.
By inviting people to mix and mingle in a relaxed and fun environment, we hoped to reduce this feeling of being alone, and foster a sense of normality among artificial eye wearers.
The hunch that a social group needed more than online contact was spot on. The first event – a picnic in Kings Park – proved hugely successful, with eighty people, young and old, coming along to meet others in the same situation.
Since then, we’ve had Pirates in the Park, Christmas in July, and a ten pin bowling afternoon. Each of these events attracted large numbers.
Jenny and I come along to these gatherings to help with their running, and to have a great time!
Once we saw how popular the group had become, we decided to expand it. To do this, we incorporated it with a group in New South Wales called The Cyclops Circle.
This name related only to the online discussion group: ArtEyes WA continued to be the name for the Western Australian support group.
But not everyone liked the new name. The link between the one-eyed cyclops and artificial eye wearers offended some people.
So the group has now taken on the title “ArtEyes”, dropping the WA tag, to include current and future members from all over Australia.
Jo is keen to expand the group and she recently set up a new webpage for ArtEyes. As Jo is Mum to two busy little people, we are keen to recruit some help for her.
We are looking for skilled people out there who may wish to help with the website and social events.
As ArtEyes becomes more visible over the net, our pool of knowledge and personal experiences will grow. Everyone involved with ArtEyes finds it a rewarding experience and I am sure you will too.
So if this sounds like something you are looking for in your new year please give us a call and we will put you in touch with Jo.