What Being a Mom Means to Tracy Kinoshita

Tracy Kinoshita’s son Michael was diagnosed with rod-cone dystrophy when he was just five months old. The cones are the photoreceptor cells that allow us to see fine details and to filter light. Michael’s cones did not form completely, leaving him with low vision.

Now age 22, Michael just graduated magna cum laude from William Jessup University with a degree in psychology and was named the 2018 Outstanding Graduate in the psychology department. Michael, who has been running track and field since the seventh grade, also recently received the Golden State Athletic Conference’s Cliff Hamlow Award for outstanding character, as well as athletic and academic achievement. Next up, he’s preparing to get his master’s degree.

Michael had quite the journey to get to where he is today, and Tracy and her husband Steve made sure they were there to support him, step by step. From navigating the school system, working with teachers and ensuring Michael received what he needed, it was an uphill battle. But throughout it all, Michael remained hard-working, inspiring and faced his challenges head-on – just like his mom.

“As a parent, it is difficult watching your child struggle and go through challenges, especially those they do not have any control over,” Tracy said. “I am very proud of the young man he has become. I’ve always told him: The story of someone’s life has many chapters, with each chapter just being a small portion of the overall story. Some chapters are exciting, some are sad, some are short and some are long, but when you look back at those successes, failures and challenges, those chapters are what made you an amazing person.”

Tracy joined the Society for the Blind board of directors 18 months ago after learning about the life-changing services they offer to blind and low-vision individuals, youth and children in the community.

“My husband and I were two working parents with a visually impaired child, and we struggled to get Michael connected with the types of services Society offers. Now, as a parent on the other side of things, I knew I wanted to get involved more deeply, ensuring that other parents and children know the great resources available here,” Tracy said.

Tracy has a true passion for expanding the youth services provided by Society for the Blind, and as the parent of a child with low vision, she takes her role as an advocate for youth seriously.

“What I hope to bring to the board is a passion for helping youth, and starting to see the education system in our community really engage and reach out to children who are visually impaired, blind or have low vision,” Tracy said. “I want to see Society’s youth programs grow.”

Society for the Blind is currently working on its biggest fundraising venture to date: the Vision 2020 comprehensive campaign to raise $5 million by 2020. The group has already raised $3 million toward the goal. Providing vital funding for youth services is one critical aspect of Vision 2020 – and an aspect that Tracy values as a board member and Vision 2020 donor.

“Vision 2020 is about looking toward the future and ensuring we are prepared to serve blind and low-vision people of all ages in Sacramento who need our services,” Tracy said. “It takes money to get and keep these programs running, and we truly rely on financial support from the community to be able to provide these services. I really encourage people to come down and visit Society for the Blind and tour their programs because the fabulous thing about being there is you’re seeing the staff and instructors, many of whom are blind, being mentors and leaders in the workforce. They are demonstrating that you can achieve success.”

At the end of the day, Tracy is inspired by the courage, strength and achievements of her son, Michael – and she sees that reflected in the time she spends giving back to Society for the Blind as a board member, parent and advocate for change.

“Society’s youth programs are so valuable because they’re about recognizing your abilities not your disabilities,” Tracy said.