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Taking Nothing for Granted

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues
It’s easy to overlook the value of the simple things in life: driving to work each day, reading a book or even just riding a bike on the streets of your neighborhood.

But imagine how difficult those things would be if you lost your vision. Would you still take them for granted?

Barret Jackman and B.J. Crombeen certainly won’t.

Both players spent Saturday morning helping kick off the second annual Tour De Unite, an event designed to raise money and awareness for the Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments and the Recreation Council of Greater St. Louis. Jackman and Crombeen served as celebrity guests and each captained a tandem bicycle ride with a visually-impaired child at Francis Park in South St. Louis.

Registration for the event was $30 for adults and $10 for children, and each participant could choose to ride a 10-mile, 30-mile or 50-mile course.

Crombeen, who helped kick off the event last year, said he didn’t hesitate when asked to return a second time.

“Just being involved last year and knowing how great of a cause it’s a lot of fun to get on the bikes with the kids,” he said. “It’s entertaining and fun to see their faces light up, so it’s an easy decision to come back.”

Both Crombeen and Jackman attended a practice session last week to help them get comfortable with the tandem bicycles. Each of them had an opportunity to ride with a blindfold to get a sense of cycling without sight. The experience gave Jackman a new appreciation for the bravery the children exhibit in participating in the Tour De Unite.

“They put a lot of trust in us,” Jackman said. “Just doing a few laps, you can see the enjoyment on the kids’ faces. For them to be able to go out with their impairments and ride, it’s definitely a good feeling for them as well.”

The Delta Gamma Center was founded in 1951 and has been providing educational services to children who are partially or fully blind. The center accepts children into their program immediately after diagnosis and teaches hands-on learning to help them in reaching their full potential. The organization also provides support to families who need help coping with the many challenges of raising a child with a visual impairment.

“Great things happen here,” said Debbie Naucke, the Executive Director of the Delta Gamma Center. “We get to watch children grow and develop (from an early age) up through high school graduation.

“(The Blues’) participation is incredible for a few reasons. First of all, it adds a very unique and wonderful dimension to our fundraising event. It also sends a message to the community that the Blues support cycling for everyone, and it also makes it a lot of fun. They’ve been incredible to work with.”

Debbie’s husband, Bill Naucke, volunteers at the Delta Gamma Center and said he, too, enjoys being involved. For him, it’s about more than just helping families and children.

“Once anybody does anything like this, you just get hooked,” Bill said. “One child just graduated from high school and he was here as an infant. He’s part of my family, and we like to think we’ve been a good part of his life growing up.”

The Delta Gamma Center is supported through fundraisers like Tour De Unite, individual contributions and grants from organizations like the St. Louis Blues 14 Fund.

Jackman, Crombeen and their Blues teammates are no stranger to helping with charity. Players spend countless hours in the community, often without attention of any kind, and they’re happy to get involved with the Delta Gamma Center.

“There are a lot of organizations that there’s not a chance you could say ‘no’ to,” Jackman said. “And this is another one (of those organizations).”

“It’s like any type of volunteer work,” added Bill Naucke. “What you put in, you get back 10 times.”

Each year, more than 400 volunteers contribute over 7,000 hours of service to the Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments. If you are interested in volunteering, call 314-776-1300 or e-mail To learn about financial giving opportunities, contact the Development Office at 314-776-1300, ext. 109.
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