• P.O. Box 65900 Washington, D.C. 20035-5900
  • 202-670-1038
  • P.O. Box 65900 Washington, D.C. 20035-5900
  • 202-670-1038

The Blinded American Veterans Foundation assists blinded and sensory-disabled veterans in attaining their full potential through research, rehabilitation, and re-employment.  It offers employment networking and rehabilitation and resource counseling, and provides funding for rehabilitation centers.  Other programs include placement services and a compilation of related statistics.  It also conducts research, educational, and charitable programs.  This valuable service is performed strictly with volunteers and no paid staff.

The Blinded American Veterans Foundation was launched in 1985 by three American veterans who lost their sight during service in Korea and Vietnam -- John Fales(USMC), Don Garner(USN) and Dennis Wyant (USN).

All had achieved successful careers despite their blindness. But the realization among them that many sensory disabled veterans had not had the opportunities afforded them led to their determination to form the Foundation and pursue its three main goals: Research, Rehabilitation and Re-employment. In an effort to continue the success of the foundation a new generation of board members have been added.  Michael Jernigan(USMC) and Brian Donarski(USA). Both Michael and Brian are American veterans who lost their sight while serving in Iraq.

From the beginning, it was determined that BAVF would not be a membership organization or a substitute for already established veterans service organizations. Instead, the Foundation was designed to become a nationwide focal point and clearinghouse for research, information dissemination and educational efforts. As a result, BAVF concentrates on:

  • Supporting medical research on sensory disabilities, as well as the development of improved sensory prosthetics.
  • Outreach programs to further identify issues of personal importance to veterans with sensory disabilities.
  • Informational programs directed at state and federal government agencies, the Congress and state legislatures, the private business sector and the general public.
  • The development of a nationwide volunteer corps to assist veterans with sensory disabilities.

Since its founding in 1985, BAVF has made major strides toward achieving its goals of advanced research, improved rehabilitation programs and wider re-employment opportunities. A few examples:

  • The Americane, which was developed through R & D grants from BAVF, has been certified by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a sensory aid and-with the assistance of the Disabled American Veterans' Blind National Chapter-has given more than 2,500 blinded vets greater mobility and independence.
  • Direct financial grants to VAMC's and Blind Rehabilitation Centers and Clinics have assisted in covering budget shortfalls, improved vital computer training capabilities and assisting visual impairment coordinators--as well as establishing educational trust funds for training VIC's.

These are but a few of the Foundation's achievements, and even fewer of its hopes for the future. But most importantly, BAVF's accomplishments--as was the intent of its founders-have been realized through the selfless efforts of hundreds of volunteers.

At the main entrance of the Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington, D.C., there are inscribed the words of Abraham Lincoln, taken from his Second Inaugural Address:

"To provide for them who have borne the battle, their widows, and their orphans."

No other words could more eloquently express the aims of the Blinded American Veterans Foundation. There are not words adequate enough to express BAVF's gratitude to the many friends who have helped us along our way.

GuideStar link regarding BAVF.

Meet our Board

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Michael Jernigan

President

Michael Jernigan is a Marine who proudly served with Company E 2nd Battalion 2nd Marine regiment.  On August 22, 2004 while on a deployment in Iraq, Michael’s platoon was on patrol when it was hit by two 155mm artillery shells buried under the ground.  The Improvised Explosive Device threw him 20 meters from the Humvee.  Michael suffered life threatening and life changing injuries that day.  45% of his cranium was crushed in.  He had shrapnel enter in his right eye and exit through his left eye, cutting everything in between.  He had to have two fingers reattached and his right hand fully reconstructed.  He fractured his patella and cut his femoral artery.  Michael went through 30 major surgeries in the first 12 months and spent 16 months in hospitals and rehab facilities. Since the attack Michael has taken his second chance at life and turned it into something that is never taken for granted.  He volunteers his time whenever it is needed and always offers a helping hand.  Since being wounded he has graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of South Florida, was featured in the HBO documentary Alive Day, has been a contributing writer to the NYTimes.com Home Fires blog and was recognized as Learning Ally’s 2012 National Achievement Award winner.  For his dedication and continual community service Michael was awarded the ‘Veteran of the Year Award’ from his hometown of St. Petersburg Florida.  In 2006 Michael Co founded Paws for Patriots at South Eastern Guide Dogs; which provides guide dogs and service animals to veterans.  He has touched thousands of lives through his motivational speaking, peer to peer counseling and now his work with the Blinded American Veterans Foundation and the Corporal’s Corner blog.  Michael’s continued service to others has not gone unnoticed and on November 9, 2017 Michael was awarded ‘The Ross Perot Patriot award’.  He has turned the most traumatic experience of his life into a life filled with a new purpose; to help others gain their vision.  Michael’s favorite saying is, “It wasn’t until I lost my sight, that I gained my vision”.  Too often people solely rely on their eyes to see, but miss out on life’s most precious moments, the ones you can’t see, but only feel.  Michael truly embodies what it means to be a Marine, “honor, courage, commitment”.
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Brian-Lee Donarski

Vice President

Brian-Lee Donarski a.k.a. Ski grew up in Roseau, Minnesota graduating from Roseau High School in 1987. He enlisted and served 10 ½ years in the United States Marine Corps and was honorably discharged in 1998. On September 11, 2001, Ski waived his VA benefits, and ultimately re-enlisted in the United States Army in 2004. During a combat mission Donarski’s truck hit an improvised explosive device (IED); he was EVAC in March 2006 from the Anbar Province, which resulted in serious wounds. He suffers from 4 traumatic brain injuries (TBI), post-traumatic stress (PTS), back injury to L1-S1 and a stable burst fracture in his neck at C4-C7. He lost vision in his right eye, which requires the use of a prosthetic lens. He has had multiple surgeries on both shoulders and arms repairing the clavicle, triceps’ and biceps. Brian spent 13 months rehabilitating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. His daughters by his side, they helped teach him to talk, walk, write and read all over again. He continued to be overwhelmed by physical and mental trauma but remained positive and strong. He turned to the game of golf, which helped his healing continue by slowing things down in order to process daily life skills. Ski redeployed to Afghanistan in 2008, successfully completing his missions with 2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne). He completed the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School (OCS) and was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Military Intelligence Branch as an All-Source Intelligence Officer 35D in 2009. While attending Military Intelligence School, he was struck by a pick-up truck, which triggered his TBI, PTS and resulted in additional injuries. After several years in various medical centers, he was medically retired and honorably discharged from his service in August 2012. Brian is the recipient of many awards and decorations for his service, including the Purple Heart and Combat Action Badge for his actions in combat. Ski continues to utilize golf as a source of healing and helping others through charity work. He has won many tournaments and placed successfully in others. Having success at the Warrior Open invitational hosted by President Bush in 2012, 2013 and 2014. He is recognized with his true courage in George W. Bush’s book Portraits of Courage. Brian’s involved with numerous non-profit charities. He serves as the National Community Ambassador for Virginians For Veterans (V4V), mentors and conducts inspirational speeches which includes Hope For The Warriors, advocate for Military Service Initiative (MSI) at the George W. Bush Presidential Center Team43 among other organizations, and assists disabled children at specialized camps. These efforts directly support wounded service members, their families and children with special needs. None of this can compare to the pride Brian has as a father of his two amazing daughters, McKenzi and Maya. He truly loves his M&M’s with all his heart.
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Don Garner

Treasurer

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Dennis Wyant

Secretary

Dennis, one of the four founding members in 1985, is the National Secretary of the BAVF. Professionally, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Veterans Employment under President Carter and Director of the GI Bill of Education and the V A’s Vocational Rehabilitation program worldwide. After retiring as the V A Regional Director in Indianapolis IN, Dennis and his wife, Jane Feldman, moved to Florida. Currently they are Guardians ad Litem, Therapy Dog partners with labradoodles Mulligan and Lilly, and Tai chi students.