SMS Engineering shares their generous spirits.

SMS Engineering’s United Way workplace campaign was an event-filled week.

The Winnipeg-based engineering firm, which shares a birthday with United Way (happy 50th anniversary, SMS!), began their workplace campaign last week by hosting United Way agency speaker Denise Allard.

Denise is a client and volunteer with CNIB, and an advocate for people with disabilities.

“She told a fascinating story of her life. It was really good,” said SMS’s employee campaign chair and engineer-in-training Andrew Schinkel.

The SMS United Way campaign committee, from left, Sheila, Bridget, Andrew, and Jason, with breakfast.

The SMS United Way campaign committee, from left, Sheila, Bridget, Andrew, and Jason, with breakfast.

The week included events and activities like a Ukrainian lunch and putting green and basketball contests, and ended with a full breakfast Friday with bacon, pancakes, fruit and all the fixings.

“SMS has been a big supporter of United Way,” said Sponsored Executive Tamara Borgesen Kaminsky, who was interested to learn that SMS was involved in the design of United Way’s Main Street building.

Sponsored Executives Zoran, Enisty, and Tamara with Ukrainian deliciousness.

United Way Sponsored Executives Zoran, Enisty, and Tamara with Ukrainian deliciousness.

Andrew was pleased with the participation of his co-workers.

“Ultimately it’s to give back to the community. To help others.”

Thank you, SMS, and happy birthday!

Bridget on bacon duty!

Bridget on bacon duty!

Sponsored Executives Evelyn and Curtis helping get breakfast served.

Sponsored Executives Evelyn and Curtis helping get breakfast served.

Blind woman finds CNIB helps to cope.

Winnipeg Free Press, Saturday September 25, 2010. Reproduced with permission.
By: Matt Preprost. Photos: Trevor Hagan.

Her sudden loss of vision sent her into depression.

Shirley Matheson’s blindness remains a mystery to her.

It’s been nearly five years to the day that she lost most of her vision in, quite literally, a matter of seconds — there one second, gone the next.

It was a Monday, and the human resources consultant had left her office to drop off a handful of mail.

“I dropped the letters in the mailbox, turned around back to my office, took a few steps and I heard voices, but everything was blurry,” said Matheson, who’s legally blind in her right eye and has only 30 per cent vision in her left.

“I was scared to death. What was happening to me? Have I had a heart attack, a stroke… what’s going on?”

Two years and endless appointments later, Matheson was told she wasn’t a candidate for restorative surgery to remove the blockage preventing blood flow to her retinas. Her doctors could not determine how or why the blockage occurred.

Matheson’s life quickly plunged into the darkness associated with her medical condition.

“I cried and sat in my house and did nothing for two years,” she said, adding she refused to go the Canadian National Institute for the Blind for help. “I was very confident that my vision was going to come back. I was stubborn. I did not want to give in to the fact this was going to be my new way of living.”

Matheson eventually accepted the loss of sight and has become one of the most popular speakers for the CNIB, sharing her story to people across the country.

This year, the Manitoba and Saskatchewan division of the CNIB received more than $400,000 from the United Way to help fund their counselling and support programs.

“Once I attended a couple of the sessions, I thought, ‘This isn’t so bad,’ ” she said. “I saw people who had gone through the same things I have and they’re living through it, so why couldn’t I?”

It’s still a tough battle for Matheson, who said she still can’t hear someone say, “See you later” without being brought to tears, but she continues to battle through it.

“Until I went to the CNIB, I wasn’t really living. I was like a hamster on a wheel trying to find that miracle cure so I could have my vision,” she said. “I didn’t have the confidence to do anything. But I can do anything; I’ve just learned how to do it differently.

“I just do more of what I can do and life is good.”

Life changed in an instant for Shirley Matheson.

She was in the middle of a typical work day-full of appointments and meetings-when her vision blurred.

“Within a few steps all I could see was a blur of people…it was like I was looking at an impressionist painting.”

Shirley Matheson, back at work.

“With help from a counsellor and peer support group, I learned to see past my challenges and recognize my strengths.”

Shirley had suffered a blockage of blood flow to her eyes which left her without vision in her right eye and very limited in her left.

“I cried for months thinking about the people I could no longer see and the things I could no longer do.”

Shirley became depressed, refusing even to leave her home. When her family staged a support intervention, she reluctantly called United Way agency partner CNIB.

“With help from a counsellor and peer support group, I learned to see past my challenges and recognize my strengths.”

Today, she’s back at work, supporting people whose lives have been impacted by injuries.

“Without the support and understanding I received, I don’t think I would be the person I am today. Now I believe I can do anything.”