The dog days of summer are upon us, and that can mean only one thing: time for Camp GDB! This year, our traditional summer camp for youth who are blind or visually impaired took two forms. The first was a virtual camp for teens ages 14-17, where all of the activities took place on Zoom during the last week in June. All campers received a box of goodies in advance to supplement the content of the online sessions (including s'mores makings!). The second was an in-person camp for young adults ages 18-24, and was held the last week of July at the Oral Hull Park & Retreat Center in Sandy, Oregon, very near our campus in Boring. Both camps are free of charge, and participants from across the U.S. got the chance to learn all about the guide dog lifestyle, with some fun and friendship thrown in for good measure!
"The week is designed to give youth the idea of what it might be like to live and work with a guide dog," said Jane Flower, GDB's youth outreach specialist. "But also, we like to just have a lot of fun and provide the opportunity for campers to connect with one another and make new friends."
Zoom camp participants had lively and interactive sessions throughout the week on topics ranging from dog communication and veterinary care, to game night and virtual campfires - complete with singalongs. Attendees of the in-person camp were able to participate in hands-on activities with our dogs, including walking with a guide dog, and having a dog in their care for overnight visits. The in-person camp also had daily excursions and activities, such as hiking, swimming, fishing, and even a visit to a llama farm!
"I came to Camp GDB to learn all about the guide dog lifestyle, because I just want to be prepared so that when the time comes, I can get my own guide dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind," said 20-year-old camper Taylor Talbot. "Walking with a guide dog was an incredible experience - it's so much better than walking with a cane! I'm able to move faster, I feel more independent, and I'm super excited for when I do get my own guide dog, to experience a lot of the social interactions that come along with it."
Another camper, 24-year-old Olivia Balyeat, has already applied to GDB and has been accepted to train with a guide dog in the near future. "I would recommend Camp GDB to anyone to anyone who's considering a guide dog because it's really great hands-on experience to walk with a dog, to speak with the trainers, and really learn everything there is about a guide dog before you make the final decision to start the application process," she said. "I'm definitely more prepared now to get my guide dog, more confident - I was a little nervous - but I definitely know, 100 percent, that I want a guide dog and I'm ready for that lifestyle."
Thank you to all of our staff and volunteers who made Camp GDB 2021 such a success - we're already looking forward to next year!
Check out a news story about the in-person Camp GDB from KPTV in Portland, and visit our Flickr account to see photos of Camp GDB.
Visit the Youth Programs page of our website to learn more about Camp GDB and all of the other free programs we have for youth.