When you ask sisters Anissa and Emma what their favorite activity at Camp Bloomfield was this summer, they answer enthusiastically: “Deep sea fishing!” Campers who are blind or visually impaired spent a day on the ocean with the California Yacht Club—just one of the enriching activities in the weeklong camp experience.
“Deep sea fishing was new to me,” says Emma, age 12, who is legally blind but partially sighted. “The waves were bumpy and that’s what made it fun.”
Anissa, age 16, who does not have peripheral or distance vision, appreciated another aspect of the experience. “The people with the yacht club asked us how well we saw,” she says. “They weren’t just assuming we were all blind. They asked if we could do things ourselves. They helped and asked us questions about our life.” Anissa caught a sand bass, and each of the campers got to take home a piece of the fish.
Deep sea fishing was just one of the stimulating activities that Mark Lucas, Camp Bloomfield director, organized for campers this year. They spent a day integrated into a city-run summer program
to change sighted teenagers’ perspectives of blindness and to improve the independence of Camp Bloomfield’s teens.
To encourage teens to think about career development, Mark arranged Zoom sessions with role models who are visually impaired and successful in careers at Southwest Airlines, the U.S. Patent Office and more. “We also did a lot of activities to improve their leadership and speaking skills,” says Mark. And the teens had plenty of time for fun, like playing in the waves at Long Beach.
Because Anissa displayed leadership skills and a willingness to help others, camp staff invited her to the elementary camp session. She helped the younger children, including Emma, whom Mark describes as “a carefree soul who loves life.”
Anissa has developed a system of hand signals and whistles that she uses to guide her sister, further evidence of her initiative and commitment to her sister. Going to camp with Anissa meant a lot to Emma, who uses a white cane when Anissa isn’t guiding her. “It was amazing,” she exclaims. “We got to do something fun together, instead of being busy with our homework.”
Diane, Anissa and Emma’s mother, is grateful for the bonds formed at camp. “Making friends with kids who have similar disabilities is valuable in building their self-confidence,” says Diane.
Will the girls go to Camp Bloomfield again? “Yes,” Anissa says. “I want to help more people. That’s what I like to do.” Emma responds emphatically, “Yes! With my sister.”
The staff will be eager to welcome Anissa, Emma and all the other campers with vision impairment back to Camp Bloomfield next summer. Since 1958, campers who are blind or visually impaired have enjoyed the magic of the Camp Bloomfield experience and we look forward to many more summers!
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September 20, 2021