Founder of Seedlings Braille Books for Children is helping blind children all over the globe

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Have you ever heard of Seedlings Braille Books for children.

It's a small non-profit organization in Livonia which started in the basement of the founder and has now opened the world for blind children all over the globe.

Riley Letterman and Kelsey Locke are two of the most precocious girls you will ever meet. Riley loves to sing and entertain.

Riley Letterman says, "I ski downhill, I play guitar, I play piano, I do ballet, I do tap and I do jazz."

Not to be outdone -

Kelsey says, 'I love being outdoors, I love going on the swings."

And, yes, they both just happen to be blind. Riley lost her sight at age 4 after more than a dozen surgeries to her corneas and Kelsey was born without her sight.

But that hasn't dimmed the light on their love for reading.

Riley and Kelsey love coming to Seedlings Books for Children in Livonia where this non profit publishes braille books for children all over the world.

The Founder of Seedling Debra Bonde says, "How can kids succeed in school and beyond when blind children had so few books."

Bonde learned braille on a Louis Braille invention and started making braille books in her basement one book at a time.

It was such a painstakingly slow process she progresses to a braille writer manual type writer from the 50s and still used today.

Then her dad, Ray Stewart, an engineer built her first braille printer, he also paid for the first binding machine and donated his life to make sure Seedlings was doing what it was supposed to do which was getting books into a kid's hands.

By 1985 Seedlings began producing books.

Debra says in the print world the 200 books they made is a drop in the bucket, but in the braille community that's a tremendous accomplishment. Today, Seedlings sends books all over the world to blind children.

Debra says, "Last year we did 32,000 books. We gave half away for free, the other half we keep prices really low, $10 a book."

Without Seedlings most children who are blind would only have two to five books in a lifetime.

Debra lost her oldest daughter, Anna, to a drunk driver in 2001, so every year they raise money in her honor and have donated 40,000 books for free.  It's called the Book Angel Program and it allows all kids in the U.S and Canada three books a year.

For Debra, whose goal in life was simply to help make the world a better place for children, we say mission accomplished.

That's why we choose Debra Bonde as "Our Person of the Week".

To help raise money for Seedlings Books for Children, support their 30th annual Bowling for Braille Books: Saturday March 11th at Merri-Bowl Lanes, at 30950 Five Mile Road Livonia. Enjoy and afternoon of bowling while helping raise $50,000 for 5000 braille books for blind children.

Dave Rexroth will be among the celebrity bowlers participating.

For more information call 724-427-8552 ext. 301.

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