Karen Koscinski: Master of the Game

A man in an orange shirt is standing with his wife, in an abstract-patterned dress. Both are smiling

The fabric of Vision Forward comprises threads of all the people who have woven their service and stories into our 104-year history. And if some of that fabric was used to create a volunteer quilt, Karen and Norman Koscinski would be represented by a block right in the middle—colorful, unique, and central to the whole design.

The Koscinskis were introduced to Vision Forward through one of Norman‘s friends who lived in Hawley Ridge Apartments. He liked to play bingo at Vision Forward (then known as the Badger Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired), so eventually Norman and Karen joined him in the fun.

In 2006, Norman took on the job of bingo caller, with Karen as his assistant. Both were also volunteering in other areas—Karen with the Life Skills program and Recreation and Welfare Committee (RecWel) and Norman with property maintenance.

Fast forward to 2013 and the Koscinskis could be found most days of the week in the lower-level meeting halls conducting not only bingo, but also popular games such as Uno, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Farkle, and Family Feud, as well as a variety of themed trivia games (Wisconsin Trivia, Christmas Trivia, Food Trivia, etc.).

The highlight, the granddaddy of all the games, was Marathon Bingo, which was an all-day event held once a year. Not only did Karen and Norman host, but they also purchased prizes and brought snacks, desserts and beverages to go with the sandwiches each player brought to eat. It was a day filled with fun and camaraderie, and the players looked forward to it all year long.

But when COVID-19 hit in March 2020, all recreational activities were suspended indefinitely in an effort to keep participants, volunteers, staff and clients safe and healthy.
And then Norman died unexpectedly in March 2021.

Karen lost her best friend and life partner of 55 years.

The players lost a dear friend and missed their weekly connection to others. And there was lingering uncertainty about when games might resume and who would lead them.
But, when the games returned in July 2021, so did Karen.

Karen took on game days by herself and was grateful for meaningful work to keep her busy. She admits it was a lot easier to manage everything when she and Norman shared the duties. However, she says seeing people happy and doing something they enjoy makes it all worth the effort.

This past March marked the two-year anniversary of Norman’s death. As a special tribute, Karen and her two children, Dawn and Dan, as well as her son-in-law, John, hosted Marathon Bingo in Norman’s honor, replete with special food and prizes, some made specially by her daughter-in-law, Linda. It was a great celebration of a life well-lived!

In her 17 years of volunteering, Karen has proven herself to be more than just a game leader—she is a good friend to all. From escorting players to the game room, to providing encouragement and a listening ear, to bringing treats to share with the group, Karen is a true comrade. Her volunteer service has allowed her to really get to know the participants and share in their lives, both the happy times and the sad.

“I really enjoy it,” says Karen about her volunteer role at Vision Forward. “I enjoy the people. They’re just like a family. We’re like a family.”

And Karen, you are a very valued member of our Vision Forward family!

Join Karen by investing in people living with vision loss.

Together, with your support, we can positively change the present and future of people of all ages who are blind or visually impaired.