Board MembersMeet the board!
Board President and Co-Founder
Joseph Burton is a resilient individual who does not let unfortunate circumstances dictate the outcomes of his life. Joseph was raised in group homes and foster homes throughout his life and while in these homes he was placed on many forms of medication that resulted into him becoming obese. Joseph also has a disease known as Retinitis Pigmentosa and was told by his 20th birthday and he would become blind. Since Joseph’s 24th birthday, he has lost over 100 pounds by converting his lifestyle to an all-around wellness lifestyle. Joseph is the president, creator, and founder of the Hearts For Sight Foundation, where his goal for the organization is to provide superior nutrition, adaptive fitness, and occupational development services to the blind and visually impaired communities including those with diabetes. Joseph is an inspiration to many in the blind and visually impaired community. His energy and enthusiasm for life shows through his willingness to do whatever it takes to create opportunities for others around him.
Board Secretary and Co-Founder
Racquel Decipeda recently earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services and Management from the University of Phoenix. She had been diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa and also has moderate bilateral hearing loss, but had never let her disability stop her from living a full, productive, and independent life. Racquel’s passion is to work with blind people like herself and other people with disabilities. Racquel is also a member of the San Fernando Valley chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California and chairperson of the Membership Building Committee, Events and Workshops Planning, Sports and Activities Committee, and Best in Tech Planning Committee. Racquel serves as secretary and member of Board of Director for the Audio Internet Reading Service of Los Angeles (AIRSLA), a nonprofit organization that records a wide variety of podcasts for people with low vision or dyslexia. Racquel is also a member of the Parents-Professional Advisory group at the Therapeutic Living centers for the Blind. Racquel’s personal mission statement is “I do not let my blindness stop me from living the life I want”, and that’s what she hopes to share and advocate to everyone and to the clients of Hearts For Sight Foundation.
Joes L Dimas
Board Member, Chief Financial Officer
Jose L. Dimas started his real estate and banking career in 1992 where he helped dreams come true for families and individuals who thought they would never own a home. Several years later, Joe became an office branch manager for Fixed Rate Funding and was their lead trainer. His uncanny ability to motivate and inspire those around him allowed Joe to find great success within the mortgage industry. In 2013, Joe was asked to bring his charismatic energy and his motivating abilities to Marquez Products for Independent Living. He currently assists with promotions, consulting, and financial advising for Marquez Products. Since this time, Joe Dimas has continued to work with seniors and individuals within the blind and low vision communities. Joe is a proud member of the Atwater Village Lions Club Chapter where he supports the clubs mission to empower volunteers to serve their communities, meet humanitarian needs, encourage peace and promote international understanding. He serves as Chairmen of the Membership Committee. Joe Dimas’ body of knowledge and perspective has allowed Hearts for Sight Foundation to move forward in our mission. Joe currently serves as the organizations Chief Financial Officer.
Jorge Marquez has a special insight and passion for enhancing the lives of the visually challenged. He started working for the Braille Institute of America in 1986 through his summer high school program. While attending California State University, Jorge continued to work for the Braille Institute enhancing the lives for visually challenged persons. Jorge’s educational background in teaching Spanish Literature has allowed him to have many blind/ visually impaired persons gravitate towards him. He continued to service individuals at the Braille Institute of America because he says, “Even though I am fully sighted, I appreciate the Braille Institute for creating the opportunity for me to help, assist, and support blind/visually impaired people”.
In April 2012, Jorge took an early retirement from the Braille Institute and created his own business called “Marquez Products for Independent Living”. Jorge sells special products for the blind/visually impaired that enable independence and self-sufficiency. He says “he enjoys his job because he is making a difference in the lives of those who need it most. When people buy my products, I enjoy seeing them happy.” Jorge has a strong passion for life and it shows through his character to go above and beyond for the people he serves. Whether that is through traveling from San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, Ventura, or Santa Barbara Counties as well as the desert cities, his passion is to help the blind is unmatched.
Board Member, Trainer / Digital Media Content ManagerAlexis grew up in Silicon Valley and has an Economics B.A. from University of California, Berkeley. During his time there, he was diagnosed as having Stargardt’s Syndrome. Known also as Juvenile-/Early-Onset Macular Degeneration, the rare genetic condition gradually destroys central vision leaving peripheral vision relatively intact.
Alexis has been actively involved with low-vision/blindness and disability issues since 2002 and has made a life-long study of somatics and wellness. He is trained as a Peer Support Specialist and promotes mindfulness, radical acceptance and individual empowerment.
In his spare time Alexis volunteers as a docent at the lovely and restorative Gardens of the World.
Dr. Bill Takeshita
Dr. Bill Takeshita is an optometrist who specializes in low vision rehabilitation. He is the chief of optometry at the Center for the Partially Sighted in Los Angeles, CA and he is the consulting director of low vision at the Braille Institute. Dr. Bill ironically lost his vision at the age of 49-years due to a retinal disorder. He states that his personal experience of losing his vision has given him very special insight that has allowed him to overcome his blindness.
Board Member, Technical Advisor
Charlie Richardson lost his sight at the age of 20 to Optic Neuritis, inflammation of the optic nerve, which the cause was unknown. Though this was a tragic event for Charlie and his family, the real tragedy would have been to let it stop him from living life.
After completing a certificate program for computer programming at Baruch College in New York City, Charlie took advantage of a work experience program through the Northeastern Association of the Blind of Albany and Rockefeller College, later being hired as a regular employee. A few years later, with the encouragement of friends and family, Charlie entered the Business Enterprise Program in New York and made that a 20 year career. In the last 10 he served as Chairman of the Elected Committee of Blind Vendors working with the Commission for the Blind on administering the program. Charlie also served as Chairman of the New York State Association of Blind Vendors, Chapter president of the National Federation of the Blind Capitol District, a board member for the National Federation of the Blind of New York, a board member of the State Rehab Council for New York and Co-chair of the Executive Board for the Commission for the Blind in New York.
While living in Southern California Charlie was approached to serve as a board member for Hearts for Sight. Charlie, while at one time in his life being a self-proclaimed “Health Nut,” believes in proper nutrition and exercise is the key to combating disease and ailments that most people accept as part of getting old. Charlie also believes in giving back to the community and touching as many lives as he can directly and indirectly.
Charlie acts as a technical advisory member of the Hearts for Sight board since moving on to Florida.
Natalie Nankin, R.N., M.S.
Board Member, Advisor
Natalie Nankin, R.N., M.S. is a native Californian. She attended Mt. Sinai School of Nursing where she obtained an R.N. degree in 1954. Subsequently, she attended the University of Redlands and obtained a B.S. degree and a M.S. degree in Nutrition. She has practiced in several medical fields (surgery, transplant coordinator at UCLA, nutritionist in Century City specializing in diabetes and private practiced in nutrition.) Natalie has lectured and been involved with diabetes education for the Braille Institute, Audio Internet Reading Service Los Angeles (AIRSLA), Accessible World, and the Center for the Partially Sighted. She is happily married, had two children and five grandchildren and lives in Encino California.
Dr. Gerald Nankin, O.D. M.OPT.
Board Member, Advisor
Dr. Gerald Nankin is a Native Californian who attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he obtained his A.A. and B.S. degrees. He then attended U.C. School of Optometry, where he obtained his Master of Optometry and Doctor of Optometry degrees. Dr. Nankin has been in private practice, specializing in contact lenses, visual therapy, and low vision since 1955. Dr. Jerry found many ways to give back to his community by providing contact lenses lectures, donated his time for the Los Angeles Free Clinic, Audio Internet Reading Service Los Angeles (AIRSLA), and Center for the Partially Sighted. He is happily married with two children and five grandchildren. Dr. Nankin is newly retired and living in Encino California.
Board Member, Advisor
Leslie Spoone lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband, Dan. She was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) at the age of eight and has experienced significant vision loss over the past 40 years. Leslie has never let her vision loss slow her down. She is an avid exercise enthusiast, who received an AFAA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America ) certification as a Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer in 1998.
Once Leslie earned her certifications, she taught Aerobics classes at many fitness centers throughout the Orlando area. In 2004, Leslie opened her own fitness center (Git Fit), where she demonstrated her business and personal training skills.
Leslie is also an advocate for visually impaired people and she is the president of Council of Citizens with Low Vision International, a special interest affiliate of the American council of the Blind. Leslie believes that exercise is essential to the personal well-being of all individuals and it should be accessible to everyone. Leslie is excited about the Hearts for Sight mission and believes blind and visually impaired individuals should strive to lead healthy, independent lives.