“Give me something to visualize,” said the 16-year-old, who is blind. “Describe something that represents the object so I can see it in my mind.”
Describing what you see to someone who cannot can be tricky, but for the campers and volunteers of the Oklahomans Without Limits (OWL) summer camp, it’s part of the fun.
Sponsored by NewView Oklahoma, the nonprofit formerly known as Oklahoma League for the Blind, OWL pairs blind and visually impaired youth with a sighted buddy for a week of activities. The annual program wrapped up this year’s camp last week.
“There’s lots to do,” said Brookshire, a first-year camper. “I personally like the swimming and storytelling. You get to learn stuff, too, which is cool.”
With the theme of this year’s camp being art and culture, more than 70 campers descended on places like the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, Science Museum Oklahoma, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and the Myriad Botanical Gardens. They also completed hands-on art projects with local artists.
As fun as the week was, sponsors said the camp reinforced a deeper message.
“People come to this camp and leave completely changed,” said Barbara Jansen, OWL camp director. “It’s a beneficial experience for not only the campers, but the sighted buddies as well. We really want to give people a new view when it comes to the blind and visually impaired.”
Kelli Haworth, 15, said participating as a sighted buddy was challenging, but rewarding.
“Your eyes have to be their eyes,” said Haworth. “It’s difficult sometimes, but worth it. These kids are so strong. They just have to do things a little differently sometimes.”
Isaac Long said volunteering with the camp has changed his life.
“This has really been en eye-opener for me, as ironic as that sounds,” said Long. “These kids are just like us, only they can’t see.”
The benefits to campers and volunteers are clear by their return.
“People just keep coming back,” said Jansen. “They have that first experience, and something about it makes them want to return.”
Said 13-year-old Shaylin Wells, “I like all the activities. This is so exciting. Do I get to be on TV?” When informed her words would appear only in print, she became disinterested.
“We’re about to go upstairs to the gymnastics,” Wells said. “Maybe I’ll go do a backflip.”