Building a bridge through volunteering
Bill Blight’s connection to the Maritimes runs strong and deep. For the man who grew up between Hillsborough and Moncton, N.B., and now lives in Halifax, N.S., it’s his connection to Prince Edward Island that holds a private sense of accomplishment.
A connection so strong, it can carry 4,000 cars across 12.9 kilometres of durable, high-grade concrete and reinforced steel.
From 1991 to 1997, Bill was the project engineer for the Northumberland Straight Crossing Project – the Confederation Bridge. Growing up, Bill’s father told him stories about the plans for the bridge between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, but neither of them imagined that he would be the one to build it.
As a boy, Bill's mother found him and his older brother were both happiest in their playpen. By the time that Bill was two and his brother was four, the family had found out this was because of severe myopia, or near-sightedness.
“I had a strong upbringing,” Bill remembers. “I was taught to do the best I can each day in everything I do.”
For Bill life was much the same as with any other child growing up at the time. Though his glasses might have put him in the ‘geek’ category, he didn’t see himself as different.
After going through school and getting his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, Bill began his career as an engineer.
“I can say that the Confederation Bridge was, without a doubt, the highlight of my career,” Bill says.
As the Northumberland Straight Crossing Project was nearing completion, Bill began to experience a significant sight change. From 1997 to 2001, his vision significantly deteriorated. By 2006 Bill was declared legally blind.
At this point he reached out to CNIB, to begin working on all sides of his changing vision, from the social and emotional impacts to his mobility skills. He attended peer counseling and realized that he wasn't alone.
As his independence increased, Bill became eligible to apply for a guide dog. In 2013, he was matched with Craig, now always by Bill's side.
With his growing comfort with his own vision loss, Bill began looking to give back to the CNIB community. He became involved as a volunteer, taking on several different roles.
Bill was an active member of the Nova Scotia–Prince Edward Island Division Board, and was the chair for from 2013 to his retirement from the position in September 2016.
"The future of vision rehabilitation in Nova Scotia is, in large part, due to Bill's passion for making a difference in the lives of individuals with vision loss," says Pamela Gow-Boyd, Regional Vice-President for CNIB Atlantic. "He was instrumental in securing funding for vision rehabilitation through his participation in meetings with the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services and the Nova Scotia Department of Health & Wellness."
Bill has twice shared his experiences at sold-out Dining in the Dark fundraising events – receiving much-deserved standing ovations each time.
Bill's professionalism, leadership and dedication are easy to see in all he puts his mind to, from volunteering with us at CNIB – and through his 39 years as a Professional Engineer.