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RebuildEHC

Essay: A blind camper on why Enchanted Hills Camp is important

After the fires at Enchanted Hills Camp, we were flooded with kind words and fond memories from campers throughout our 68 years of operation. In honor of the many memories we all share from Enchanted Hills Camp, as we get ready to rise from the ashes, we’ll be publishing regular stories from campers and members of the EHC Community on our blog. Here’s the first in a series of three, by longtime camper Maycie Vorreiter.

Summer’s Finest Moments: An EHC Reflection

By Maycie Vorreiter

“I want to wake up at Enchanted Hills, where the songbird sings “hello”. And the sun comes a creepin, into where I’m sleepin’, and the redwoods whisper low. I wanna wander through the wild woods, where the rippling waters flow. And come trickling back to Enchanted Hills, to the camp that we love so!”

– Enchanted Hills Camp theme song

My introduction into the world of Enchanted Hills camp, (EHC) began at the age of six, when I attended my first family camp. It was my first time meeting other blind people, kids and adults alike, though at that time, I only remember the kids. The first activity I did was boating. My Dad, brothers and I all got into a paddle boat and paddled around the pristine lake. I didn’t know then how big a part of my life EHC would become. Every year I was pulled back, both by my excitement to see everyone I’d met the year before, to meet new people and to do so many of the activities I enjoyed; arts and crafts, boating, horseback riding, swimming, and later, OJ Radio.

EHC is where many bonds have been created, and today, those bonds are stronger than ever. I met my best friend of twelve years at my second family camp. At first she didn’t want to talk to me because she thought that I was a boy, but that’s another story for another time. We used to love running up and down the ramps of the Lakeside cabins, mostly because of the clattering sound our canes made as they rattled over the planks.

In 2007 at the age of nine, I attended my first youth camp, along with my best friend, who was scared initially. Somehow, I managed to talk her into going, and I will never forget that first no parent camp experience because it was my first time being away from home by myself. Two memories from that week stand out to me. The first happened one night when all the counselors in our cabin (we were in the Shoshone cabin) left for what was probably a staff meeting. I was attempting to fall asleep, but I couldn’t. It was too quiet, and something about how silent it was just made me start laughing. I tried to stop because I knew someone would tell us that we needed to be quiet, but I couldn’t. Soon, the rest of my cabin mates were laughing, and I’d say we laughed for a good five minutes before a counselor came in and said, “You’d better stop, or I’m gonna put you all in separate cabins.” Instant silence.

The second memory from my first youth one session took place near the end of that week. We were all gathered near where the campfires were held, and we were told we would be making a time capsule. A Perkins brailler was passed around, and we were given sheets of paper. What I wrote that night I cannot recall, but I know that whatever it was was a page long. Many years from now, I hope to read that again.

Every year new memories were made, every year new counselors came and went. Every year new activities were added, such as woodworking, new people were met and EHC found it’s way into my heart, where it always will be. What makes EHC special are the campfires, hay rides, (typically at the end of family camp) talent shows (where I performed many times) campers, staff, activities. What makes EHC the place to be is the laughter, the music, hanging out with new friends and old friends, and the wishes that everyone makes at the end of a youth session closing campfire.

I’d like to conclude with a memory that, as of this writing, happened just a few months ago. Just two months before the fire. In August, I attended Music Academy for the first time, and this was one of the best sessions I’ve attended. On the evening of the EHC performance, I stood on the stage at the Redwood Grove theater, and as I was getting ready to sing, I was asked to talk a little about Music Academy. As I talked, I could feel my nervousness for the performance I knew was about to happen, but I also felt contented. Everything at that moment was so peaceful around me, and the sense of togetherness was in the air. It’s a moment I will carry with me forever. It’s a moment I will keep as EHC begins rebuilding. It’s a moment I look forward to experiencing again when I return.

Maycie performs 'Doctor My Eyes' at Music Academy 2017 on the Redwood Grove Theater stage.
Maycie performs ‘Doctor My Eyes’ at Music Academy 2017 on the Redwood Grove Theater stage.

Maycie Vorreiter is a student at Santa Rosa Junior College and EHC camper from Northern California. You can also read about Maycie’s braille yearbook.

Want to share your story? Head to the Enchanted Hills’ Facebook page and comment or post a picture of your favorite EHC memory.

A Salute to the Firefighters of LA Fire Department Engine 98

In early October, one of the most damaging wildfires in California’s history reduced part of our beloved Enchanted Hills Camp to ash and smoke. It destroyed most of Lower Camp, including staff housing, cabins that house hundreds of campers each summer and the beloved Redwood Grove Theater stage, as well as parts of Upper Camp.

You can help us today with a tax-deductible contribution to rebuild Enchanted Hills.

Yet a good part of camp did survive, thanks to the courage of Los Angeles Fire Engine #98. These firefighters risked their lives to save as much of camp as they could and are now, as we write this, in harm’s way as they fight the treacherous fires in Southern California.

A note on the back of the partially charred Redwood Grove sign, which was hand carved by blind woodworker George Wurtzel, reads: “LAFD Engine 98. We saved this, wish we could have saved more.”
A note on the back of the partially charred Redwood Grove sign, which was hand carved by blind woodworker George Wurtzel, reads: “LAFD Engine 98. We saved this, wish we could have saved more.”

We can never thank these brave firefighters enough for the perilous work they did to save Enchanted Hills for blind campers. But in mid-November, we tried. Camp staffer Chris Lawyer and his partner, Jessica Marenoff visited LAFD #98 to give thanks in person on behalf of the LightHouse. The couple’s feelings for Enchanted Hills Camp run particularly deep: not only did they meet at the camp, but, tragically, they lost their onsite home and all their possessions in the fire.

“It was very important for us to thank them, not only on behalf of the LightHouse and Enchanted Hills, but for me and Jess personally, for saving the camp we love so much, that has so much meaning to our story,” says Chris, who has since relocated to Fairfield with fellow EHC site staff member Matt Beard and their partners.

They arrived at the Los Angeles fire station with hearts full of gratitude for what was saved and had an eminently satisfying conversation with Alexander Hermann, one of the first responders at EHC. Hermann told Chris and Jess about the fire crew’s efforts to save EHC, describing the first thing the crew saw when they arrived: the Staff House (Chris and Jess’ home) had already burned down and was still smoking.

He recounted how the crew worked their way through the camp, extinguishing as many flames as possible, despite obstacles like large trees blocking the road that had to be cut up and removed. They got to the Redwood Grove Theater just as fire was destroying the stage, but were able to save the hand-carved benches made by blind woodworker George Wurtzel. Alexander felt compelled to leave a touching note at the entrance to the theater: “We saved this, wish we could have saved more.” Alex wrote the note himself and went to post it on the sign, to which his fire chief laughed and said, “You can’t leave that with the bad handwriting.”

As Chris told him of camp’s history and founder Rose Resnick and described all the site staff do at Enchanted Hills, Alex and his team were amazed by everything that camp offers and symbolizes for the blind community. They expressed to us their sadness for what we lost: “We really wish we could have done more,” he said, echoing his sentiments from the handwritten note.

Chris Lawyer and Jess Marenoff, wearing their maroon EHC t-shirts, pose with firefighter Alexander Hermann in front of the grill of a giant red firetruck.
Chris Lawyer and Jess Marenoff, wearing their maroon EHC t-shirts, pose with firefighter Alexander Hermann in front of the grill of a giant red firetruck. Chris and Jess gave Hermann EHC t-shirts for the heroic crew.

We’re so thankful for the work of these valiant firefighters, for everything they fought to save and everything they succeeded in protecting. Now it’s our turn to do the work. So many of you have expressed your sorrow for the destruction at camp. So many have asked what you can do.

Start right now by making a tax-deductible gift to support our rebuilding efforts. The year is almost over, so don’t wait to donate!

Now, more than ever, Enchanted Hills needs your support and donations. To give by mobile device, text REBUILDEHC to 501-55.

p.s. Every dollar donated is tax-deductible and will go to ensuring that the coming years will bring new growth and opportunity for blind campers.  Donate or contact Jennifer Sachs at 415-694-7333 or jsachs@lighthouse-sf.org and tell her you want to help “Rebuild EHC.”

Join the #GivingTuesday Movement on November 28 to Rebuild EHC

Join the #GivingTuesday movement on November 28 and donate to rebuild Enchanted Hills. Help us reach our $10,000 goal to rebuild one of the 10 cabins lost.

The holiday season is about giving, and this year we’re participating in Giving Tuesday, a one-day annual movement to spread the spirit to charitable organizations like LightHouse.

A view through the gutted staff house at Napa County's Enchanted Hills Camp.
A view through the gutted staff house at Napa County’s Enchanted Hills Camp.

In 2017, more than ever, we need your year-end charitable contributions. As many of you know, LightHouse suffered the greatest loss of our history this past year to our beloved Enchanted Hills Camp in the wake of the California wildfires. This year, we turn our Giving Tuesday efforts toward rebuilding EHC. Join the #RebuildEHC movement and make a tax-deductible donation to help us reach our goal of raising $10,000 on November 28, to contribute to the material cost of each of the 10 cabins we lost in the fire.

Over 40,000 organizations including small businesses, nonprofits, government agencies and major corporations in 98 countries have joined the #GivingTuesday movement over the last four years. Mark your calendars for the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to help us reach our goal.

Donate to #RebuildEHC

You can also support our fundraising efforts by sharing our Rebuild EHC page on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #RebuildEHC. In your post, tell why YOU decided to support our efforts to Rebuild EHC better and stronger.

Thank you so much for your support.