When Camp Spark finally arrived, Judah was full of adrenaline. This was his first time away overnight from his family and his first time immersed in a full week of camp. Judah has two brothers and a sister, and they are all very close. His mother, Anastassia says, “I bought this large home, and everyone hangs out in the same room.” Their family deeply values relationships and spending time with one another. Judah is no exception and holds the same values true for his friends.
Judah didn’t know if he would have friends at Camp Spark, or what else to expect. As soon as he arrived, to his delightful surprise, he was greeted with overwhelming sounds and feelings of celebration.
“I felt welcomed. I walked in with my cane and my suitcase, and everyone was cheering.”
At camp, Judah was able to spend a full week participating in a variety of sports. Although some activities were familiar such as bicycling, swimming, and baseball, the activities at Camp Spark are specifically modified for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. For example, bicycling become tandem cycling, and baseball became beep baseball.
This was a place that Judah didn’t have to worry about a ball bouncing into him that he didn’t hear coming, or bumping into other kids on the playground, it was a place that was designed for him.
At home, Judah doesn’t let his visual impairments get in the way. He still bikes on a road bike using flat, paved pathways at public parks. He uses his other senses more like feeling and hearing, and he relies on others to guide him. He was excited to step outside his comfort zone at Camp Spark.
Camp Spark was the first time he would ride a tandem bike and felt nervous when he realized the handlebars on the back seat did not rotate for steering. This was different and new for Judah. Then, his counselor reminded him, “You can do this. You got this. If you fall, we’ll be there.” Judah conquered his fears and circled the track on the tandem bike over and over again with newfound confidence.
He made friends with other campers who shared similar experiences and could relate to each other. He learned about kids who have different levels of vision then him and learned to appreciate and empathize with others. “I understand that they get stressed and I’ve gone through the same thing…”
Before Judah’s week at Camp Spark was over, he had already decided he wanted to come back. “At first you’re a bit nervous, even the second time you might be, but then you have a blast and you realize it’s one of the best things you’ve ever done in your life.”
When Judah returned home from Camp, Anastassia noticed a change. He had always been encouraged by his TVI to advocate for himself in class, but now he was advocating for himself outside of class, at home, and with friends. He was speaking up to explain how others can help him in everyday tasks and taking charge of the things that he knew he could do himself.
“As he gets older, he’s not going to want to rely on others, so it’s helpful for him to say what he needs so his friends can understand and help.” He is building stronger relationships with his family and friends at school based on his experience at Camp Spark.
Camp Spark is designed to provide youth with access to inclusive sports and physical activity, as well as to instill a sense of confidence and empowerment, to build friendships and community, and to encourage children and youth to live a healthy lifestyle. After attending camp, more than 90% of our campers say they feel more confident to advocate for themselves at home, in school, and in their communities, which empowers them to lead happier, healthier lives.
“I want to be an astronaut…oh, and an inventor…I want to be a black belt in karate.” Judah, like all children, deserves to chase his ambitions and dreams. With programs like Camp Spark and the Lending Library, Judah gains more confidence, independence, skills, and supportive relationships that will empower him to achieve his goals.
Thanks to the generosity of individuals like you, NWABA will continue to break down barriers to sports and physical activities through programs like our Equipment Lending Library and Camp Spark to provide life-changing opportunities to more children, youth, and adults who are blind and visually impaired.