Brockport brings day of Camp Abilities to campus
Camp Abilities Brockport is a week-long summer event but Friday, Feb. 19, it held a special one-day version of the camp on campus.
The one-day camp is associated with the summertime camp directed by the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The event takes children to different places to learn and play in the City of Rochester area.
“They always ask us to do a sports day, a recreation type day,” Camp Abilities Director Dr. Lauren Lieberman said.
For the past 12 to 14 years Camp Abilities has put on one-day events for blind and visually impaired children.
“It gives kids with visual impairments an opportunity to participate in sport,” Graduate Assistant Alexandra Stribing said. “They all get to meet up and see each other.”
The event was shorter than the summer camp running from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. yet there was still a decent turnout.
Although the summer camp has drawn as many as 55 children from all over New York, Friday’s event brought in 15 children from the Rochester and City of Buffalo area. Last year there were only four participants in the event, but this year the 15 to 20 student volunteers were matched just about one-on-one with elementary-aged partners.
“Even though it was seemingly short, it was a good in-depth day of experience,” Lieberman said. “A lot of my students that volunteered had a one to one [ratio] and some of them had never worked with a child with a visual impairment before.”
Students who volunteered were undergraduates in physical education or gradual students working on Masters degrees in adapted physical education.
Throughout the camp they were gaining experience for their future careers.
“I think this really solidifies [the questions] ‘Am I going into the right field? Am I doing what I should be doing?’” Lieberman said. “Their success and watching the kids learn made them realize that they really love what they are doing.”
Students got real world experience with the kids and learned a lot about just working with children.
“You just have to really get to know the child you’re working with because no child is the same,” senior Nicholas Faulds said. “Finding out interests of the child and knowing what motivates the child to do well is very important.”
The college lends its facilities and resources to the camp as it benefits both the students and the kids in attendance.
“Brockport has been very receptive to hosting these events,” Lieberman said. “Our dean [Dr. Mark Kittleson] even came by.”
The children had the opportunity to learn the sport of “beep baseball”. Beep baseball is played the same way as regular baseball but the ball has a beeper which allows the visually impaired to detect where to swing. The team “The Pioneers” visited to demonstrate how to play the sport.
Beep baseball was just one of the activities and modified sports they planned during the day. “Beep kickball”, gymnastics and “goal ball” were also on the agenda created by the students running the event.
The students had been planning the one-day event for more than a month to make sure everything would run smoothly, although they could not plan for everything.
It was this Friday at the same time the for about an hour. The outage hindered everyone from ice skating, but did not affect the day or the children’s moods overall.
“The ice rink was closed so we just improvised and taught some dances,” Graduate Assistant Kelsey Linsenbigler said.
The children loved the dances and did not seem to mind missing the rink; they were still had fun learning the “Cupid Shuffle” and the “Cha-Cha Slide.” They also did an “energizer” dance which got them moving.
“It was a good day to be active and do something different during their break,” Linsenbigler said. “A lot of kids on break, they just sit home all week long, they don’t do really get out and do a whole lot.”
Not having all the resources and modifications at home leaves some students unable to play sports, which is one of the reasons mini-camps like this exist.
“One thing I always feel guilty about is: Camp Abilities is a week and then the kids, what do they get to do related to sports the rest of the year?” Lieberman said. “I really want to make sure they get more exposure.”
All the mini-camps are just as anticipated by the children as th e main summer camp and they are still looking for more to join.
“Some kids wish we could do camp all year round,” Linsenbigler said.
There are three one-day Camp Abilities events throughout the year to help the kids stay active in August, October and February.
Families also participate in the events as well. This mini-camp incuded a girl who also had Cerebral Palsy, who was accompanied by her mother and sister.
“Her mother wrote me the most heartfelt email thanking us for letting them come and allowing her sister to volunteer,” Lieberman said. “It really meant a lot to them because this girl has very few opportunities to participate in activities like our camp.”
Camp Abilities marks a time for many blind and visually impaired kids to play and learn with their peers and gain valuable athletic skills in an inclusive enviroment.
“Some of those kids, they are the only person they know with a visual impairment,” Linsenbigler said. “They’ve never met anyone else with a visual impairment.”
Dr. Lieberman and the students are now turning their attention to the summer camp, already preparing packages to be sent to families, looking for volunteers to participate in the week-long camp. Several of the students who participated in the one-day camp have plans to return in the summer.
More information about Camp Abilities can be found at campabilities.org.
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