Last month Enchanted Hills Camp hosted an intensive three-day/two-night retreat for fifteen primarily Spanish speaking Napa Valley families with blind or low-vision, multi-disabled youngsters. It was the first time the LightHouse specifically sought to have a camp session at Enchanted Hills for families living only in Napa County. The result: incredible community building and support.
The retreat was made possible through a generous grant from the Napa Valley Community Foundation. The LightHouse collaborated with the Napa Valley Unified School District, Parents CAN (a Napa-based family support organization) and Blind Babies Foundation to offer recreation such as hiking, arts and crafts and sports for the children while at the same time offering workshops for their parents.
It was our goal to make these campers feel comfortable while providing information, resources and the chance to bond in the “enchanted” setting of our beautiful camp. It was life-changing for these kids and their parents who live with little connection or support. Almost none of them had ever met a parent of a blind child before, and the community-building was palpable.
LightHouse volunteers and staff, many of whom are bilingual, guided the children as they played and translated presentations for parents into Spanish. Among a number of offerings, San Francisco State Special Education Professor Amanda Lueck talked about how to develop individual education plans (IEP) for the children; Adaptations Store Manager Isabel Arreola made a presentation on adaptive aids; we formed a peer support group for parents to share their stories about raising children with disabilities and Camp Director Tony Fletcher lead a walking tour that focused on the camp’s long history.
While the parents attended the workshops, the children enjoyed activities such as boating on the lake, bowling, archery, horseshoes and arts and crafts. Later parents joined their children for swim time at the Enchanted Hills pool, a demonstration of solar cooking and nature hikes.
Feedback from the families was extremely positive and as the session concluded there were tears, hugs and joy at the connections made. One of the fathers was heard to say, “I’ve been harvesting grapes for forty years, in the vineyards right around the camp. All that time I’ve focused only on my family’s income and making money. I never realized how close I was and how profoundly I would be moved by this beautiful place.”
Tony Fletcher said, “Our overarching goal was to connect families with each other and to services that they might not be aware of, and to also let them see how Enchanted Hills can be an ongoing resource. It was very humbling to be around so many grateful recipients of our services. I felt proud to be part of a LightHouse team that offered this wonderful opportunity for these families.”