Leyla’s Story

Leyla was seemingly a healthy newborn when she was brought into this world by Noelia and Jovan Petkovich. As the months went by, though, something didn’t seem quite right.

At the encouragement of friends, Noelia and Jovan visited an eye doctor, and it was there that they were surprised with a diagnosis of aniridia, which occurs when the eye’s iris doesn’t form. They were told that Leyla was blind.

The family was devastated. Jovan cried at the doctor’s office. Noelia broke down on the way home.

Fear turned to determination. The family looked for resources, at first found only limited support, but then was referred to Vision Forward. Tina Mekeel, one of our Teachers of the Visually Impaired, stepped in to help. Jovan and Noelia felt immediate relief with Tina’s expertise and knowledge about vision loss in young children. With bi-weekly visits, they learned how to help Leyla use her other senses to learn and grow. They found encouragement when Tina was able to assess Leyla’s vision and confirm what the family had more recently suspected: even though aniridia meant Leyla could not see things in any level of detail, she could see shapes and light.

This year Leyla turned three, and with that came the possibility of Leyla leaving the secure cocoon of her family to attend Vision Forward’s preschool. Jovan and Noelia were excited for this next step for her. However, after carefully reviewing their tight budget they came to the tough decision that the cost to send Leyla to preschool was beyond the family’s means. Hope turned back to heartache.

Then the family learned that a cornerstone of Vision Forward’s mission is to serve people regardless of their ability to pay, and this is the part of the story that fills Jovan, Noelia and me with so much emotion.

Because of donors like YOU, Leyla was able to mark a milestone this September when she took her first steps into Vision Forward’s preschool

Leyla’s speech, which had been delayed due to the way vision loss impacts learning, is improving thanks to her work with Kyla Murphy, a speech therapist at Vision Forward. In just a few short months, her confidence has grown. Leyla still has a lot to learn, including pre-Braille skills, but the family already has noticed significant progress.

Thank you for investing in Leyla and others 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.