GREENVILLE — The summer camp season is around the corner, and many families all over the country are already registering their children for summer camp. Campfires, nature hikes, swimming, crafts, and letters to home are all part of the camp experience. Campers can hardly wait to arrive to camp and experience the magic of summer camp. Parents can hardly wait for the moment of peace to arrive! But for children who are blind or visually impaired, a “normal camp experience” may seem out of reach.
Opportunities Unlimited for the Blind (OUB) offers a unique opportunity for children who are blind or visually impaired at Camp Tuhsmeheta (Camp T) near Greenville. We all know life can have its difficulties and challenges, but for children who are blind or visually impaired, simple daily tasks can be monumental obstacles. Often children who are blind or visually impaired suffer from a lack of social skills most children take for granted. Far too many are either overprotected or neglected, not because they are not loved, but because of misconceptions about blindness.
According to Gwen Botting, director of OUB, some campers who attend OUB camps are illiterate — unable to read large print or Braille effectively. Some can’t use silverware, tie their shoes, or button a shirt, not because they can’t learn, but because they haven’t been taught in a way that makes sense to them. Some parents don’t have the skills to teach children who are blind or visually impaired, while others seclude their children in an attempt to protect them from life. At OUB CAMPS programs, children learn social skills as well as critical life skills they are not able to obtain otherwise. These programs boost their chances of a lifetime of success.
OUB offers a wide variety of programs at Camp Tuhsmeheta and in other venues to give children who are visually impaired or blind the full summer camp experience, travel camps (called Camp-in-a-Box!) for older campers, and family weekend events throughout the school year. OUB CAMPS offers a variety of camps for campers to choose from.
At Camp Tuhsmeheta, OUB offers half-week camps for those who are a little nervous about being away from home, Master Chef (cooking) Camp, Music Camp, Braille Camp, and a sensory exploration camp. Travel camps include Survival Arts Camp at Sleeping Bear Dunes, Science Camp at MacMullen Conference Center near Houghton Lake, and a 10-day Adventure Camp to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula. OUB also offers year-round classes in Birding-By-Ear: learning to identify bird by sound rather than bird “watching.”
While the challenges of their disability are a daily struggle, at Camp Tuhsmeheta and other OUB events, these blind campers learn they are not alone. They gain the courage to try things they might not otherwise attempt, and find confidence with success. Half of OUB CAMPS staff are young people who are themselves visually impaired or blind, and they encourage the campers to learn through their experiences. Opportunities Unlimited for the Blind is one of the largest employers of young blind and visually impaired persons in Michigan.
As for many organizations, funding is one of the biggest challenges for OUB. Registration fees average $350 per camper for the special programs at Camp Tuhsmeheta and other OUB programs, but actual per campers costs can run as high as $1,200 per camper per week. The only way these programs can be made available is by support through grants and fundraising events.
The Grattan Irish Pub, also known as the Grattan Bar, is offering to give to OUB supporting programs at Camp T. A special fundraiser is being held at the Grattan Irish Pub, 11817 Old Belding Road, from 5 to 9 p.m. this evening. The Grattan Irish Pub will donate 20 percent of the total food bill to Opportunities Unlimited for the Blind when you order from their main menu. Just let the server know you are there for OUB or Camp T.
Staff and campers will also be there to answer any questions you may have. If you are unable to attend the dinner, but would like to sponsor a camper, or would like more information about how you can become involved, call Gwen at (989) 855-2430, or visit www.campt.org online.