A late businessman has donated an astounding amount of money to a charity he has never publicly supported before his death.
Scroll down for videos
Bryan Bashin, who lost his sight as a teenager, is the founding director of Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. His amazing story began when he received an e-mail about a generous donation.
“A businessman has passed away. I think you might want to talk to us,” the message read. Turns out, a man named Donald Sirkin had donated a multimillion dollar estate to Lighthouse, but that wasn’t what just left Bashin astonished. It was the fact that Sirkin was never even in the donor list for the past few years that left the good charity in shock.
Lighthouse has been a long-running charity that has helped numerous visually impaired individuals. Although there has always been a considerable amount of donations coming in each year, Sirkin’s donation just skyrocketed the yearly budget by the millions—$125 million to be exact.
So who was Donald Sirkin?
Bashin was just as curious when he received the anonymous donation. So together with director of development, Jennifer Sachs, they traveled to the late businessman’s home in Seattle. They both found out the touching reason on why Sirkin had donated so generously to Lighthouse.
Upon reaching the residence, which has now gone to the charity’s name, they discovered the truth behind the good Samaritan: he had become blind.
Upon investigation, which included Bashin and Sachs interviewing people closed to Sirkin, he turned out to be a charismatic, stereotypical businessman. He manned a massive insurance company before his death. But in between his 20s and 30s, his eyesight deteriorated, and like many who experience gradual blindness, he was in great denial.
This was something that Bashin could identify with. When his own vision began to falter as a young man, he too didn’t want to admit to himself that he was turning blind.
“I didn’t say the B word,” Bashin recalled. “Instead, I used euphemisms if I had to. I used the lingo of the day: visual impairment, low vision, visual challenge, that kind of thing.”
Talking about Sirkin, Bashin completely identifies with his situation.
“Most never use a cane or a dog or Braille or any of the things that are identifiably blind,” he told NPR. “In the blind community, we say we’re in the closet, and it is just like being in the closet in the gay community. You try to pass and you try to be somebody that you’re not.”
Sirkin isn’t alone. In a 2012 survey, roughly 20.6 million Americans have experienced significant vision loss whether by disease or natural conditions. There is no exception to the numbers, as many of these people are employed or successful in their chosen field.
Lighthouse wants to make sure that the money goes into good use. They have had a long-standing project in building a new headquarters in San Francisco. They posted this plan on their official Web site:
“The new headquarters will feature dedicated accessible fitness and art rooms, a 12-person blindness skills training kitchen, a blind technology demo lab, and a volunteer center, all just 15 steps from [public transportation].”
Lighthouse is naming their new office as the West Coast Center of Excellence.
Even though Bashin may have never met Donald Surkin, who became a recluse over the years he had gone blind, he is taking his kind act and paying it forward.