The little boy came into the speech-language pathologist’s office determined to make a statement. As the tall blond woman with the bright blue eyes sat across from him, he lifted his shirt to show some angry words inked across his bare belly.
She didn’t react. Not at all. It was as if nothing had happened.
Kim Skibsted says one of her co-workers later recalled the incident as one of the most effective “behaviour extinguishes” she had ever seen.
What the little boy didn’t know — and never found out — was that Skibsted’s big blue eyes are prosthetics, replacing the eyes she had lost to complications of diabetes.
She didn’t react to the antic because she didn’t see it.
The pain in her left eye had become so bad, Skibsted said on Saturday, that she felt relieved to have it removed.
In the 25 years since then, she has earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in her chosen field and recently gained recognition as the top fundraiser for Saturday’s Night Steps fundraiser, a first-time event for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind in Red Deer.
By Friday afternoon, she had more than doubled her goal of $2,500 and was on her way past $5,600 on Saturday afternoon.
It’s the same kind of drive that kept Skibsted going after her eyes were removed.
“I can’t sit still.”
She dove headfirst into her new lifestyle after a series of eye surgeries, taking courses in Braille and typing and embarking on a career in speech-language pathology with a Children’s Rehabilitation
Services team at Alberta Health Services in Red Deer.
Skibsted had already set the fundraising bar a few years earlier, as a top fundraiser for Sight Night, held in support of Alberta Sports and Recreation Association for the Blind in Calgary.
She jumped aboard when the CNIB announced that it would hold a Night Steps event in Red Deer, purging contacts she had made including family, friends and a slough of professionals.
Her bank, her doctor, her dentist, her chiropractor, her oculist and dozens of others opened their wallets without a flinch among them.
As she approached each goal, Skibsted would raise the bar again, sometimes throwing in a bit of her own money, just to finish the push.
“Honestly, it’s been so easy,” she says, walking through an immaculate condo decorated in her favourite colours and featuring her favourite images on its walls. She sees them in her mind’s eye, based on how people have described them for her. She points to a Banff photographer’s signed image at the entry to her suite. It’s a grey owl, beady yellow eyes focused sharply forward as it flies toward the lens, wings spread wide against the darkness.
The only trouble she has is if she encounters something out of place. Skibsted throws her head back and laughs as she talks about the fright she felt when she accidentally wrapped the vacuum hose around herself. She thought someone was grabbing her.
And, about those lucky putts at the charity golf tournament, they were all flukes, she said. Someone bangs the flag in the hole, someone else places her feet, and then she simply swings the putter.
“I’m no golfer.”
And then, she laughs some more.