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Reflections from Chancey Fleet, LightHouse’s newest board member, on recent Board Retreat at EHC

Reflections from Chancey Fleet, LightHouse’s newest board member, on recent Board Retreat at EHC

A few weeks ago, the LightHouse Board of Directors held its annual retreat at Enchanted Hills Camp, atop Mount Veeder in Napa. Although I had visited the camp before to take part in a Tactile Arts and Graphics Symposium, this was my first opportunity to visit as a board member, and my first since the devastating fires that swept Mount Veeder in 2017.

Enchanted Hills offers its visitors a chance to disconnect from the chaos of city life, appreciate the peace and rich complexity of the natural world, and focus on fellowship, skill-building and discovery. As they arrive at EHC’s dining hall, visitors find comfortable couches flanking a blazing fireplace, where they might chase away the winter chill with a cup of tea and a leisurely conversation. The kitchen staff who are all blind, provide a warm welcome along with meals that are memorable for the vibrant flavors of locally grown produce and freshly baked bread. The dining hall also features a detailed map of EHC with tactile structures, pathways and labels, so that all people, whether sighted or blind, can refer to it as they learn to feel at home.

Although the dining hall is just as I remembered from my last visit, EHC’s landscape bears reminders of the 2017 wildfires. Some buildings are gone, along with swaths of trees and greenery. Some trees still stand strong and growing, though their bark is singed. The legacy of the fire is a testament to the adaptability of nature and the resilience of the LightHouse staff and community. Already, new platform tent bungalows (simple, clean and filled with light) have been built to replace lost housing. New growth is everywhere: willow trees, quick to grow tall, are already taller than most campers just two years after planting. The camp’s soundscape is peaceful but dynamic: I heard wind through the old trees and the new, innumerable birds, purposeful footsteps and laughter, and the sound of a shovel turning earth as one more willow prepared to take root.

I remembered well the redwood benches in EHC’s amphitheater, each constructed by blind master carpenters and engraved with bold tactile motifs drawn from Napa’s local flora. These benches now hold the names of community members who contributed to EHC’s recovery effort and helped the camp weather its losses without missing even one summer of camp programs. When campers enter the Redwood Grove (whose name is boldly carved in foot-high letters on a redwood’s stump), they will always sit with the legacy of those who ensured that music will ring out in that place for decades yet to come.

Enchanted Hills Camp is a place where everyone, whether blind, sighted or somewhere in between, can build confidence and a sense of belonging while taking on new adventures. As our board screened a retrospective of film shorts captured throughout the camp’s history, we saw generations of kids, families and adults enjoying camp traditions like hiking, swimming, horseback riding and canoeing that still go on today. It’s exciting to be part of the EHC community at a time when the camp is offering even more: sessions for blind artists, musicians and woodworkers, in order to expand the camp’s fundamental mission of fostering community and helping campers explore new challenges with confident blind mentors.

To experience the majesty that is Enchanted Hills Camp and Retreat for yourself, why not sign up for a session this summer by exploring the variety of offerings on our camp website? Or plan your own group retreat by visiting our retreat website? Then, stay tuned for details to come about our 70th anniversary of EHC celebration this August 2020.

A LightHouse Staffer on Re-Visioning Enchanted Hills Camp

A LightHouse Staffer on Re-Visioning Enchanted Hills Camp

LightHouse staffer Erin Horne reflects on Enchanted Hills’ legacy and provides an update from camp.

Over the past couple of years, much of the West Coast has been ravaged by wildfires. Many have lost their lives or their livelihoods. Unfortunately, our beloved Enchanted Hills Camp did not escape the flames. But since the fires, the LightHouse has committed to build back camp better and stronger than ever.

In the weeks, months and years to follow, so many of our friends, community members and large companies which support LightHouse for the Blind and Enchanted Hills Camp have continued to lend their support. LightHouse has been lucky to have so many individuals and groups put out their hand to help us off the ground and rebuild. In addition to countless individuals, people from AmeriCorps, Volkswagen America, The Kiwanis Club of Greater Napa, XL Construction, Rotary Club of Napa and so many others have donated their time and dollars. Rotary Club of Napa’s annual Cycle for Sight bike ride and food and wine festival has continued to support Enchanted Hills. Donations large and small continue to roll in as a reminder that EHC is always in the hearts of many around the world. Any dollar amount of donation is as important as the gesture, which can be made at our website.

Founded in 1950 by Rose Resnick, Enchanted Hills was the first camp of its kind on the West Coast, to fill a void as there was not one recreational facility for blind children to explore, thrive and gain confidence. Owned and managed by the LightHouse, Enchanted Hills retains much of its original character while we make structural improvements to the layout and design of Camp.

Since 2017, our staff has begun working with a team of architects to re-envision Enchanted Hills Camp for the next 70 plus years. How can we preserve the legacy of what EHC has been while also preparing for future generations? What can we dream up for this space for people who are blind to explore their freedom and ambitions? Even though the fires were a tragedy, how can we turn it around as an opportunity? As this planning with architects will continue over the coming years, rebuilding has been happening ever since the firefighters approved re-entry on Mount Veeder after the fires were out in the fall of 2017. Our crews put blood, sweat and tears into ensuring that camp sessions could run in the summer of 2018. Even though we were short ten cabins and other facilities, returning campers hardly noticed; the joyful spirit of a typical summer at camp remained.

Between the summer session of 2018 and 2019, even more crews came to give their time and heart to continue bringing Enchanted Hills back to its shining glory. Thanks to the staff at EHC and LightHouse Headquarters, we have an almost endless rotation of volunteer groups who want to come smell the fresh air of the redwoods and dig in to get dirty for the sake of so many campers whose lives will be changed.

By the time our first summer session of 2019 starts on June 9, we will see a new shade structure by the pool and storage barn complete. The poolside shade structure will surely be a relief to our campers who enjoy the wide variety of outdoor activities all summer long. Having a storage barn will allow our staff to finally have an office again, and provide necessary storage. This summer, Enchanted Hills will be able to offer nine sessions for blind and low vision youth and adults focused on all different areas from two sessions of Family Camp to Woodworking.

Stay tuned as our beloved camp continues to grow over the coming years. Updates on the architectural progress will be forthcoming and there will be countless ways for everyone who has a place in their heart for EHC to participate in its future. Together, we will continue to rise from the ashes because, as we all know, EHC is the place to be!