Ahhhh - summer! It’s that time of year when youngsters participate in the longtime seasonal rite of passage: summer camp. And here at Guide Dogs for the Blind, we are thrilled to be a part of that tradition for youth who are blind or visually impaired. This summer’s first session of Camp GDB was held in early July. We hosted nine campers ages 14-17 for an in-person camp at GDB’s Oregon campus and nearby Oral Hull Park. The kids came from across the U.S. and Canada to participate in this free five-day camp, where everyone had the unique opportunity to experience the guide dog lifestyle.
Participants explored the independence, responsibility, and companionship of having a guide dog by getting hands-on experiences with our dogs. Each camper got to walk with a guide dog, groom and cuddle with dogs in our kennels, spend some time in our veterinary clinic, and care for dogs during overnight visits. They learned all about the specific orientation and mobility skills required to be a successful guide dog handler, as well as the fitness and endurance necessary for guide dog travel.
Jane Flower, GDB’s youth outreach specialist and one of Camp GDB’s staff directors, had this to say about Camp GDB in the Gresham Outlook newspaper: “Most of these kids have never walked with a guide dog, which is a very different experience than walking with a cane. The staff also wants (campers) to focus on how the dogs feel, their behaviors and what those behaviors might sound like. A lot of the kids maybe have never been around dogs or know anything about caring for them, but having a guide dog means owning and caring for an animal.”
14-year-old camper Mina Lamarra of Huntington Beach, Calif., also spoke with the newspaper: “I never knew if I wanted a dog or not,” she said. “I wanted to go to college, and I was wondering if I would have the time to walk or feed the dog. I just wanted to know if I wanted the added responsibility.” After her time at Camp GDB however, Mina can see a guide dog in her future. “Walking with the guide dog just changed my life! It makes everything so much more efficient and really unbelievably great.”
The dog experiences are certainly what makes Camp GDB unique, but there were also loads of traditional summer camp activities during the week: swimming, hiking, games, tandem bicycle riding, and of course, campfires with s’mores! Friendships were solidified, bonds were formed, and memories made.
A second session of Camp GDB is scheduled for late July, and will host participants ages 18-24. Visit the Youth Programs page of our website to learn more about Camp GDB and our other programs for children and families.
Read the complete article about Camp GDB in the Gresham Outlook: Camp in Boring builds confidence for visually impaired teens