Our daughter, Carman JoAnn Lay, was born on July 11, 2000 with Aicardi Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. Doctors told us that she would not be able to walk, talk, express emotions, or care for herself.

Carman started receiving physical, occupational and visual therapy within the first 3 months of her life. She was a very happy child, who laughed and giggled, loved rock and roll music, and found joy and comfort in her toys and her family. At the age of three she was accepted into and attended The Maryland School for the Blind (MSB), where she blossomed. Carman learned to walk unassisted. She began to reach out and hug people and she was learning to communicate with an assistive device. The staff at MSB talked about her beautiful smile and her outgoing personality and that she was a joy to teach.

A whole new world opened up for Carman and those who taught her and loved her. She not only achieved huge milestones for herself, but also changed the perspective of people around her, showing them that it is possible to achieve what sometimes seems impossible.

Suddenly and unexpectedly, Carman passed away on February 22, 2009. We were greatly touched by the tremendous outpouring of support from those who knew and loved Carman. We were amazed at how much impact a child can have on the world, especially a child like Carman who did not let her condition limit her. As her occupational and mobility counselor, Bill, told her, “Let’s go out and see what the world has to offer you, and what you have to offer the world.” Clearly, Carman had much to offer.

Hundreds of people attended her services and shared memories. With the donations we received, we decided to form an Endowment Fund for the Maryland School for the Blind and also the Carman Lay Foundation to benefit the students of MSB: to broaden their horizons, give them new and meaningful experiences, and show them the joy of life, much like our daughter, Carman, did for us. Our first annual fundraiser, Swirl for a Girl”, raised over $26,000, which will be used to fund a music room at MSB.

Please join us in helping children like Carman live a full and happy life. Whether you attend and/or sponsor the next “Swirl for a Girl” on April 26, 2014 or make a donation to the Carman Lay Foundation, know that you will enrich the life of a child with special needs. And, you will be amazed at the ripple effect of changes you help make, among MSB students, families, teachers, and friends.

Together, we can all achieve what is possible and what sometimes seems impossible.

Tricia and Gary Lay

To learn more about the Endowment fund or MSB visit their website www.marylandschoolfortheblind.org or call Mark Althoff @410.319.5728.
For more information on Aicardi Syndrome, visit www.AicardiSyndrome.org.