IAM General Vice President Rich Michalski and District 751 President and Directing Business Representative Tom Wroblewski were honored with the 2012 ‘Gift of Sight’ Award from Guide Dogs of America (GDA). The award, given annually in recognition of extraordinary efforts on behalf of GDA, was presented at the 32nd Annual William W. Winpisinger Charity Banquet in Las Vegas, NV.
This year’s ‘Gift of Sight’ award ceremony also included a posthumous recipient; Captain L.A. Kreimer, a German Army veteran of World War I who went on to train guide dogs for the U.S. Army and is today recognized as the founding father of the guide dog movement in the United States.
“This year’s award recipients, Rich Michalski and Tom Wroblewski, each have displayed extraordinary loyalty to the mission of Guide Dogs of America, but it is a special honor to recognize the early work and dedication of Captain Kreimer,” said IAM President Buffenbarger. “Not only did he develop the rigid guide dog harness that is still in use today, but he was the first person to really see the potential for training dogs to assist blind individuals.”
District 751 President Wroblewski thanked the team of volunteers who work year-round to sponsor fund raising events in support of GDA. “I come from a District where members put in over 7,000 hours of volunteer work,” said Wroblewski. “It is truly an honor to lead a District with so many selfless individuals.”
IAM Headquarters GVP Michalski was introduced by President Buffenbarger as an exceptional supporter of GDA, promoting the organization at every opportunity. “Not only is Rich on the board of directors at GDA, he was also the driving force behind getting General Electric to donate a top of the line digital x-ray machine to Guide Dogs’ veterinary clinic in Sylmar, California.
Recalling GDA’s earliest days when a retired Machinists union member founded the program after being told he was too old to qualify for a guide dog. Michalski said the program had grown with the IAM’s help to become part of the union’s culture. “We take care of our own,” said Michalski.