Calvin Echevarria was worried about not being able to be there for his daughter after losing his vision to diabetic retinopathy. Today, he's her mentor.
Calvin Echevarria never thought his life would change the way it did. Back in 2005, he worked two jobs, including one as a FedEx driver, while raising a 3-year-old daughter with his wife. He even bought a home for the family. But things took an unexpected turn when he was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, which took away his eyesight.
“I was on top of my game. I thought I had it all. I thought I was Superman,” the nearly 50-year-old told the Orlando Sentinel. “That’s basically when life slapped me in the face and I went blind. And I couldn’t keep a job.”
Echevarria was most concerned about how he would provide for his family without his eyesight. He wanted to make sure that no matter what, they would be taken care of. "At first, like, 'Heck with the money, heck with the house we just got. I don't care about that. All I care is about my wife and my daughter,'" he told CBS News. "I'm like, 'How am I going to see my daughter grow?'"
Echevarria had to make changes and develop independent living skills like walking with a cane to adapt. He was keen to learn more and work on skills that could help land him a job. That's when he discovered the nonprofit Lighthouse Works in Orlando. He was one of their first employees when the company began in 2011 and has been there ever since.
"Seven out of 10 Americans who are visually impaired are not in the workforce," said Kyle Johnson, the president and CEO of Lighthouse Works. "And we knew that people who are blind are the most highly educated disability group on the planet. And so, very capable people, who want to work and contribute. So, we created Lighthouse Works to help them do that."
The organization was started initially as Lighthouse Central Florida in 1976 to help the blind and visually impaired learn independent living and job skills. In 2011, their company Lighthouse Works in Orlando was formed. The company provides call center and supply chain services and hires people who are blind or visually impaired.
Working in a fully accessible office space has been a great experience for Echevarria. "It gives me a purpose. It makes me feel better because I can actually be proud of myself, saying, 'I provide for my family,'" he said.
The best part is that his daughter was so inspired by her dad that she too is now an employee at Lighthouse Works. He always wanted to provide for her and he ended up doing something even better: becoming her mentor. "You know, little kids come to their parents, and all of a sudden when they become teenagers, they go away and they hardly ask you," he said. "Now, we're going back again to those days [when] my daughter used to come to me all the time. And I still feel needed."