Enchanted Hills Camp 2014: An Exceptional Summer of Fun

“I like that I get to interact with the low vision/blind community [at Enchanted Hills Camp], because I don’t get to do that outside of camp. I also love that we get to do things on our own, be independent, and try new things without people trying to ‘protect us from ourselves.’” – Samantha, age 16

Enchanted Hills Camp has concluded another inspiring summer of camp session, completing a full summer of enriching camp activities, with eleven separate sessions for everyone from blind infants to senior nature enthusiasts.

Exceeding last year’s record, this summer we employed the highest percentage of blind and low vision staff, exceeding 30% of employees, in Enchanted Hill’s history. Each employee, whether camp counselor or kitchen staff, brought their unique expertise to camp, furthering our commitment to provide campers with a diverse and enriching camp atmosphere. Many prior campers returned as staff; their desire to work extra hard and give back to EHC – a program that continues to be important in their own growth and development – created a dynamic team filled with passion and the commitment to make our camp exceptional.

Here are some highlights from this summer:

  • Four Orientation & Mobility interns from Stephen F. Austin University in Texas joined us this summer to complete their internship hours.
  • Our recently installed geodesic dome provided a great gathering point for theater groups, community building, and cabin meetings.
  • Twelve students earned belts in karate during the teen karate training. Matthew, age 22, was ecstatic to give karate a try, and looks forward to pursuing more karate in his free time.
  • Twelve high school students ages 14-18 attended this year’s Blind Chemistry Camp, which is administered by a blind Chemistry Ph.D. candidate, Hoby Wedler. Teens from across American, and even one young man from Mexico, partook in this truly unique experience. Scientists from elite institutions such as NASA and UC Davis helped expose teens to alternative, non-visual methods of practicing chemistry; expanding their horizons and encouraging them to look for adaptive ways to accomplish everything, including chemistry. All of our Chemistry Campers had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hold a meteorite and a priceless piece of the moon! Check out a short documentary made by one of our Chemistry Camp campers.
  • James Kracht, a camper since 1957, met with alumni campers to discuss his project of conducting historical research into the early years of our Enchanted Hills. His fruitful discussions with alumni campers will inform a possible book Jim is working on to document the amazing history of Enchanted Hills. Here is a link to an interview conducted by CEO Bryan Bashin with Jim: http://lbvi.staging.wpengine.com.com/blog/jim-kracht-ehc/ .
  • Teen campers slipped away from camp and enjoyed kayaking on the Napa River. Read a 2012 article about our kayaking on the Napa River here.
  • The California Department of Rehabilitation gave a presentation to teen campers regarding services they provide to job seekers. This critical presentation will help prepare teens for the competitive job market and college prep post high school. Fourteen-year-old Elysia stated, “I learned a lot this year that I did not know before camp, like services offered by the Department of Rehabilitation.”
  • Our brand-new Redwood Grove Theater, nestled in a natural bowl theater, provided countless opportunities for campers to wow audiences with talents, skits, and music. Everyone loved movie nights at the Redwood Grove Theater.
  • Some adult campers toured the Godspeed Vineyards, a neighbor on the Mount Veeder Appellation. To learn more about our neighbor, Godspeed Vineyards, visit them here.
  • Several of our more dedicated campers rolled up their sleeves and helped complete some restorative work for our Redwood Campfire Circle, the epicenter of evening confluences throughout the summer camp sessions.
  • 2014 is our inaugural year for Blind Music Academy, a music-intensive camp session for teens and adults pursuing careers in music. See our post about the academy here.

This truly has been an exceptional year for Enchanted Hills, starting with the countless volunteers we’ve had help build the Redwood Grove Theater, offering international campers the opportunity to come to Enchanted Hills, and the hundreds of families touch by camp. Based on pre- and post-surveys given to teen campers, teens reported an average of 17% increase in mentors, 14% increase in community engagement, and a 13% increase in independence just from share a few enriching days at camp – proof positive that camp is more than just a recreational activity, it is a community enriching, personal development training ground for future blind leaders. After again setting the bar so very high, we look forward to improving yet again in 2015 with the support of our volunteers, counselors, leaders and generous funders’ support.