2017 Sarah Woolf Spirit Award Winner – Tony Velo

[Picture of Tony receiving the Sarah Woolf Award]

Tony Velo is the recipient of the 2017 CVI Sarah Woolf Spirit Award. Tony, 18, is a participant in CVI’s STARS program and was nominated by the STARS staff.

Tony Velo exemplifies the phrase “Independence With Dignity” by the way he conducts his relationships in the community. He has an outreach mindset and is continually looking to connect with others at all opportunities. Tony has been exercising his independence by his own involvement in raising money for STARS, Camp Sunshine, Camp Twin Lakes and St. Baldrick’s. He has his own business making jewelry, in which he often donates proceeds to these causes and uses his entrepreneurial position to continue to raise awareness for not only the blind community, but also awareness for youth with cancer.

In 2015, Tony created a video for a Camp Sunshine campaign at Kids Inc II to inspire them to participate in their annual fundraiser. In 2014 and again in 2017, Tony has committed to creating videos for STARS to introduce potential members and parents to the training and support CVI offers. Since 2014, Tony has been purchasing a booth at CVI’s annual hot dog fundraiser and entrepreneurial showcase to sell jewelry and help raise money for STARS graduates. Since 2013, Tony annually dyes his hair green for a month and then shaves his head to help raise awareness for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which seeks to end childhood cancers.

When Tony started attending STARS in the fall of 2013, he wanted people to believe he had enough vision to function normally. STARS has watched him go from no cane to using his cane every day and encouraging and advocating that others do the same. Tony has also mastered the skills of using the accessibility features on his iPad to accomplish as many tasks as possible—both academic and recreational. Tony has grown to the point where he now wants to teach and mentor others younger than him in STARS. He is also a marketer for STARS; encouraging each of his classmates receiving vision services to attend STARS events and programs on a regular basis, and he has brought some of them to visit so that they can get a first-hand experience. Tony often calls and texts his friends in STARS to keep them encouraged and participating. Tony truly embodies the heart of the Sarah Woolf Spirit Award.