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Sparking Growth Through Camp Spark Summer Sessions

Young athlete wearing a red bike helmet looks over his bike for safety while a counselors arms hold the bike up.Northwest Association for Blind Athletes just wrapped its eighth year of hosting Camp Spark—a comprehensive, residential sports camp for youth and young adults, ages 8-21, who are blind and visually impaired.

Two summer sessions were held at the Linfield University Campus in McMinnville, Oregon offering instruction to a total of 82 campers living in Oregon and Washington, as well as newly added campers from Idaho and Montana.

Throughout each week, campers participated in adaptive sports such as tandem biking, track and field activities, judo, goalball and swimming. Outside of these sports activities, campers also had numerous opportunities to learn and practice a variety of independence skills, preparing them to be more autonomous in their everyday life outside of camp. Through a partnership with Portland State University’s orientation and mobility program, campers had the chance to enhance their independence by learning and practicing travel skills on a college campus. Throughout the week, each camper set personal goals and with staff support, worked at meeting and exceeding these goals. These goals also extended outside of camp, allowing the impact to encompass all areas of each camper’s life.

A camp counselor is showing a tactile diagram of a goal ball court to a young camper sitting on the gym floor.A third session was held at the Oral Hull Foundation for the Blind in Sandy, Oregon and was tailored for children, youth and young adults who were blind or visually impaired and, additionally, had complex needs, with all sports and activities adapted to this group of campers. Each camper worked one-on-one with a counselor to guarantee that they were fully engaged in all activities from riding a recumbent tandem bike to socializing with their peers. In its second year, attendance has doubled at this session from six to thirteen campers in a single year.

A young girl with strawberry blonde hair and a pink swim shirt floats in the pool wearing swim goggles.With the growth this year, we saw many new faces along with our repeat campers. For some though, this was their last year to participate at Camp Spark. During their last night of camp, several campers shared the impact that Camp Spark had on their lives overall. Many reminisced about when they first arrived 5, 6 or 7 years ago and they had no idea what an impact Camp Spark would have on them. Looking back in this moment, they saw the friendships that were formed, the independence gained from learning what each person is capable of, and the confidence built as the older campers transitioned as mentors to the younger campers. Each one is also looking forward to the day when they could come back to Camp Spark as counselors and help others grow.

For more information about Camp Spark and our other programs, visit our website at www.nwaba.org.

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