Author: Sharon Lovering
Arlington, Va., Oct. 15, 2015 – This afternoon, nearly two dozen people, most of whom were blind, gathered across the street from Ballston Commons. Most wore red T-shirts with a picture of a white cane and the slogan “Keep Calm, It’s Only a Cane” across the front. Some brought spouses; some brought students; several brought their kids, including one woman who brought her two-year-old (who happens to be blind). Organizers Marybeth Cleveland, Gina Schmid and Mary Filicetti, with help from a couple of teenage girls, set up an easel and posted a sign reading “October 15th, White Cane Safety Day” in print and braille, with a picture of a white cane down the middle. A vision teacher from Arlington County Public Schools practiced the dance with one of the organizers.
Finally, at 12:45 p.m., everybody was in line and ready to go. Smells from the various food trucks – burgers, barbecue, chicken, and just about everything in between – wafted through the air. One of the teens waited for the cue, and when she got it, turned on Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.” And the group began to dance the Cupid Shuffle! Curious workers watched from the bridge between the mall and the office building, as well as from ground level in the office building and on the sidewalk with the group. Some who were standing in line at the various food trucks stopped to watch and needed reminders to move up and place their orders. Sharon Lovering and Paul D’Addario stood to either side of the group, each with a basket of fliers and goody bags, and handed the items out to curious passersby.
The dancers had good rhythm, moving in sync with the music. Nobody crashed into anyone else. The most frequent thing folks bumped into – and knocked over – was the easel holding the sign.
A few minutes later, the group danced again, this time with an energetic introduction of White Cane Safety Day. More people stopped to watch. Some thought the group was soliciting donations. Several people pulled cash out of their wallets, and were surprised to learn the group wasn’t taking money. They happily accepted the information Paul and Sharon handed out. Some took pictures; some took videos. Many applauded afterward.
After several group shots, participants started leaving – some to go to lunch, some to get back to work, some to head home. The organizers, with the help of the teens and a couple of people who stayed, took down the sign and folded up the easel, took the camera off the tripod and folded it, packing the items in their large tote bags. Once everything was cleaned up and put away, the group that remained broke up.
Next year, the organizers hope the group will be bigger!