|PHOTO: Olivia Merz and Carmen Contreras, Enchanted Hills Counselors-in-Training
“You can learn a lot of things at Enchanted Hills that people unfamiliar with blindness, like parents and other people, just can’t teach you. Skills that help you with living in general.” – Olivia Merz, Enchanted Hills Camp Counselor-in-Training
17 year old Olivia Merz has been coming to Enchanted Hills Camp since 2009, when she was in the 5th grade. And she hasn’t missed a year. According to Camp Director Tony Fletcher, Olivia has been transformed through her Enchanted Hills experience. Tony remembered that, “At first, Olivia was shy and homesick. Over the years she has become more and more outgoing, she’s engaged in all of the activities and has developed a passion for camp so that she looks forward to it all year long.”
During the year Olivia attends a public school in Alameda, CA where there is only one other visually impaired student in the entire student body. She’s done some deep thinking about why Enchanted Hills means so much to her. She ruminated, “As a blind kid out in the community, it’s hard to distinguish yourself. Even if you are creative or athletic, some sighted person will come around and be better at it. At Enchanted Hills you can stand out, discover your talents and shine, while at the same time completely fit in.
For Olivia, drawing is one of her great pleasures and she loves all the crafts programs at Enchanted Hills. Like many of our campers, Olivia uses a combination of low vision and non-visual techniques to create art and participate in everything from cooking to hiking. She began taking karate at Enchanted Hills, and was so inspired she continued it throughout the year at home, climbing through the rainbow of belts. She enjoys the dinner and dance (the prom of camp), the talent show and all of the physical stuff: horseback riding, kayaking and swimming. Olivia says, “The activities are great, but Enchanted Hills is about the incredible people.”
This summer has been a special one for Olivia. It was her first season as a CIT, (a counselor-in-training). Her friend Carmen, whom she met at EHC, was also a CIT. Imagine the young kids who have low vision, coming to Enchanted Hills for the first time, and how influential Olivia and Carmen have been for them. With eight summers of being campers at Enchanted Hills, and their knowledge of camp traditions, songs and geography, these young women have become mentors for younger campers, without even trying. Can you imagine a better role model than a capable, infectiously enthusiastic blind teen?
A village of supporters, like you, make it possible for Olivia, Carmen and hundreds of other campers to experience the life-changing setting of Enchanted Hills. For 66 years, Enchanted Hills has been a place where blind is normal. Where blind kids never have to sit on the sideline.
Please make a contribution to support the power of Enchanted Hills. I hope you won’t hesitate to give the gift of camp to the thousands of Olivias who haven’t yet had a chance to join us at Enchanted Hills. You are making the magic of Enchanted Hills possible.
Bryan Bashin, CEO
P.S. Enchanted Hills is about kids who are blind gaining self-confidence to live their dreams. STEM Camp, Equestrian Camp and Music Academy provide opportunities for youth to gain hands-on experience and feel the pride of accomplishment. Please donate to Enchanted Hills and help us provide these important programs.
Be sure to select Enchanted Hills Camp as your designation.