When Lily Walls started volunteering, the CNIB was still called the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. In the 50-plus years since then much has changed, from shortening the title officially to CNIB in 2006 to the disappearance of residences for the blind run by the non-profit.
The Saanich woman started her volunteering career in 1955 when she registered her visually impaired son Donald with the CNIB in Ottawa. Her volunteering spanned the country, as well as decades, as the family moved back and forth across Canada over the years.
Don recalls the impact his mom had on people throughout her volunteer work. Once she taught the hand alphabet to doctors and nurses, making the medical process less terrifying for their deaf and blind patients. He remembers a woman miserable with her failing sight feeling success and pride in the dishcloths Lily taught her to knit to near perfection.
“I used to drive a lot,” she said with a smile. “I’m letting other people drive me now.”
Over the years she was in the ladies auxiliary, served as the volunteer coordinator and on the board, among other duties. Walls was awarded for 52 years of volunteer service in 2008, and still attends the annual general meeting with her husband Gerry.
This year she’s being honoured with the CNIB Arthur Napier Magill Distinguished Service Award – the organization’s highest public recognition for volunteer services.
“When you have the knowledge, you like to pass it on because a lot of people need help,” Lily said. “It’s a help sometimes just to know where to go for help.”
Lily Walls’ work will be celebrated Sept. 5 with tea and ceremony at the CNIB office, 2340 Richmond Rd.