EVENT HONORS LONG-TIME SUPPORTERS ANN & DON WALKER
By Miriam Raftery
January 31, 2010 (El Cajon)—Home of Guiding Hands (HGH), the El Cajon-based nonprofit which has provided services and support for children and adults with developmental disabilities for over 40 years, will pay tribute to Ann and Don Walker at its “Heart and Hand Gala” at Loews Coronado Bay Resort on Saturday, Feb. 6. The gala is HGH’s largest fundraising event.
Over 300 revelers are expected to enjoy this year’s “Explore-Quest for the Forbidden Temple” theme--searching for hidden treasure, betting on silent and live auction items, enjoying a gourmet dinner with wine, and dancing to music of The Heroes--all while fulfilling favorite “Indiana Jones” fantasies.
Honorees Don and Ann Walker have made Home of Guiding Hands a part of their family circle for more than 20 years. But making a difference has always been a part of the fabric of the Walker’s lives. After long careers in business and education, the couple now devote much of their time to their nonprofit organization, The Insight Vision Center. The Center works with local schools and community organizations to provide low-income students who are struggling in school with life-changing evaluations and vision therapy.
A wall of pictures welcomes visitors to Ann and Don Walker’s Rancho Santa Fe home, a joyful assembly of children and grandchildren laughing and smiling through the decades. It’s an ideal backdrop to the life this couple has built, with family at the center.
It only seems natural that their children have learned from their parents’ example: Ann and Don’s son John, who fought and won his own battles with vision-related learning challenges, is now The Insight Vision Center’s executive director. Another son, Dave, followed his father’s footsteps in the reverse osmosis water purification field and, now runs Avista Technologies, a multinational San Marcos-based company that provides products for water treatment systems. Dave is also the president of the Board of Trustees of the HGH Housing Corporation and he and his family are active volunteers with The Miracle Network, which gives children and young adults with special needs a chance to play sports. Oldest son Dale is the Director of Golf Operations at San Diego State University, and contributes his time and talents to a variety of local organizations, especially those that help at-risk children.
Both Ann and Don have served on the HGH Board of Directors. Don was the Treasurer during the crucial transition period when the Lakeside campus was sold and individual, six-person homes were being purchased throughout East County. After stepping down from the board, Ann and Don still sit on the Board of Governors, an advisory group.
The Walkers, who are long-time gala attendees as well as tireless volunteers, are characteristically modest about their dedication and why they continue to support Home of Guiding Hands year after year. Says Don, “It was eye-opening to see how the residents benefitted from all of the programs, it was really something. We got involved, and then just kept on trying to help. It’s left a lasting impression on our lives.” Adds Ann, “It’s very easy to have a great deal of empathy for a child with developmental disabilities, but sometimes people forget that those children grow into adulthood and they still need our care and support.”
Home of Guiding Hands provides a nurturing environment for adults with mental retardation and related disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy and epilepsy. It operates 28 residences throughout San Diego County, and also provides in-home respite and community living services throughout the region. Its latest residence was opened in 2009 in Encinitas specifically to serve teenagers with autism.
The gala is presented by Grossmont Healthcare District. Other major sponsors include Union Bank of California; Heramb Charitable Foundation & Doris Heramb; The Stephen and Lynne Doyle Family Foundation; Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians; Barona Band of Mission Indians; BIA Cares, and Wells Fargo Bank. Tickets are $175 per person; there is a special $125 per ticket price for first-time attendees. For ticket information, please contact Rachel Carney at (619) 938-2854 or Rachel@guidinghands.org or visit the Home of Guiding Hands website at www.guidinghands.org.