George Wurtzel, the new Construction Manager at Enchanted Hills Camp for the Blind, can tell a tale or two.
“I have lots of stories, it can overwhelm people. [For example,] I was on the 1980 USA Cross Country Ski Team in the Para-Olympics in Geilo, Norway. I was an exchange student in Japan; my art was featured at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit; I ran a thriving furniture/woodworking shop; I’ve raised Arabian horses and I’ve flown a plane…I’ve done a lot of different things. I’m blind, but that isn’t what defines me, it’s my accomplishments and actions that make me who I am, a feisty guy with an unquenchable thirst for adventure.”
George attended the Michigan School for the Blind from 2nd to 11th grade, where he learned mechanical and carpentry skills and learned to cross country ski. Eventually, “I started my own millwork shop and went to college to learn production furniture making, where I was later employed constructing high-end furniture prototypes. I also designed the triangular wooden display cases for veteran’s flags which have sold over a million pieces. Later I started and ran a kitchen cabinet and countertop fabrication business and became a licensed builder and remodeled many homes.”
More recently, George gained significant experience in a camp setting when he was hired to be Executive Director of Opportunities Unlimited for the Blind and also developed innovative programs at Camp Tuhsmeheta, a camp run by blind people for the blind in Michigan. George’s years of experience working at camps and in the blindness field mean that George will play many critical roles at Enchanted Hills.
George’s biggest current project for EHC is turning the dilapidated Upper Barn, once used mainly as storage, into a tactile craftsman workshop. The work is partially funded by a grant from the DeLong-Sweet Family Foundation. George continues, “Once the barn has been completed, one of the campers’ first projects will be to construct a sign honoring DeLong-Sweet’s commitment to Enchanted Hills. The beautiful spacious workplace will be named after the Foundation. In the workshop, campers will learn woodworking, pottery, ceramics, leather-work, sculpture, and any other craftsman hobbies we can fit in this lovely space. People, even people who are blind, often mistakenly think the blind cannot use table saws, nail guns, welding torches and so forth because it’s ‘too dangerous.’ With the right training, blind craftsmen and women can safely construct anything they put their minds to.”
In addition to overseeing the construction projects at Enchanted Hills and teaching the campers craftsman skills such as woodworking, George plans to be active in all programming at camp. “I raised horses, so I certainly plan to lend my expertise to the horse program and the newly created Horse Camp, where blind campers learn how to care for horses and other animal husbandry skills. I also plan to expand some of the excursions at camp to add even more variety to the campers’ experience, switching things up year after year. Blind youth arrive at Enchanted Hills itching to do incredible things like sailing a two-mast schooner; I want to be sure campers leave each year having experienced something new. I have a hard time sitting still, so I already know I’ll be running around with Rick (EHC Site Manager Rick Taggs) and Tony (Camp Director Tony Fletcher) to make camp fun, exciting, and impactful for all the campers.”
Enchanted Hills Camp for the Blind is about more than building confidence and self-esteem. Camp, for so many blind youth, is also about meeting blind friends and role models who can sit at the campfire with the kids and “blow their minds” with stories of their accomplishments. “Role Model/Mind-blower”- perhaps this should be George’s official title. Learn more about George at his website www.gmwurtzel.com or read this 2007 article in the NFB’s Braille Monitor .
If you’d like to get in touch with George, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.