Shannon Baillie – The Artful Fundraiser: Connecting with the community and raising funds for CNIB

2018 Eye Appeal Bursary Winner Richard Harlow with Shannon Baillie, founder of the Eye Appeal Art EventShannon Baillie is a petite dynamo, a longstanding volunteer who has helped CNIB British Columbia raise hundreds of thousands of dollars through the immensely popular Eye Appeal Art Event fundraisers.

Shannon first became involved with CNIB in 1997. She joined a committee that was raising funds to build a second floor for the CNIB office in Victoria. Shannon and the committee came up with an innovative idea for a gala event, "We thought why not engage artists, who work in a mainly visual medium and value eyesight, to create and donate artwork to help provide services for those losing their vision?". The idea was a hit.

Shannon reached out to the local artistic community on Vancouver Island and found a variety of people eager to donate their talents to help the cause. Renowned Canadian artist Robert Bateman even agreed to be the honorary chair and in 1997 the first ever Eye Appeal Art Event was launched!

This signature event celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017 and over the years has grown to include a Public Exhibition and Artists' Reception as well as a bursary award given to a CNIB client who is studying visual or performing arts.

Shannon speaks glowingly about the 2018 bursary recipient; Richard Harlow, "Richard is inspiring to others, he speaks so movingly about the help he received from CNIB in dealing with his sight loss, also how creating accessible art is so important to him."

In 2009, Richard's art studies at Emily Carr University were interrupted when he was diagnosed with a rare disease called Leber hereditary optic neuropathy. It left him with only limited peripheral vision. Over the following years, Richard used CNIB services and programs, which helped him adapt to life with his remaining vision. Now he is back creating art, but he uses textures to make his paintings tactile.

Richard is just one of many clients Shannon has made a connection with during her long running association with CNIB. It's an organization she truly believes helps others and can change lives. Says Shannon, "It's been an extremely rewarding experience working with CNIB and the people it serves. I encourage others to consider donating time or financial resources to support CNIB, especially since funds raised stay in our community. I've had the opportunity to see the difference even a small donation can make for those who live with vision loss – for example providing a reader so a child can enjoy the simple pleasure of reading a book or going to summer camp. My advice: give until it feels good!"

Creating a fundraiser that has been going strong for 20 years is a tremendous accomplishment, and we offer our heartfelt thanks to Shannon for being such an integral part of the Eye Appeal Art Event. Says Shannon, "It's a huge team of people, including a very talented committee, the sponsors, our generous art community and the army of volunteers who make it all happen. We all work together to raise funds for those with vision loss who need our help. Vancouver Island is a place that believes in community and we're always there for one another."