Camp Abilities Nebraska

Camp Abilities Nebraska is a week-long residential sports camp for youth who are blind, visually impaired, or deaf-blind. Camp Abilities Nebraska is modeled after internationally-known camps developed by Lauren Lieberman, PhD, a professor at State University of New York. The Camp is co-sponsored by Boys Town National Research Hospital and Outlook Nebraska, Inc. Our supporters include Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Nebraska Foundation for Visually Impaired Children, Omaha Association of the Blind, NCBVI Friends of the Commission, Yahoo Employee Foundation, Shopko Foundation, Air Force Exceptional Family Member Program, Nebraska Chapter of the National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments, WhyArts?, and contributions made through Outlook Nebraska, Inc. including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, Dr. C. C. Mabel L. Criss Memorial Foundation, Kind World Foundation, and Union Pacific Foundation.

Twenty campers participated in the third Camp Abilities Nebraska held at the Iowa School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs, Iowa, July 19-24, 2015. Youth with visual impairments explored sports and recreational activities in a safe environment with instructors who have expertise in adaptive techniques. Campers participated in beep baseball, beep kickball, goal ball, tandem cycling, golf, swimming, social dance, yoga, fishing, running mechanics, rock wall climbing, hip-hop dancing, archery, and trampolining. Adaptive Physical Educators instructed the counselors and campers. Counselors worked with the campers to help them learn the skill sets for each sport. They also had the chance to tour and eat lunch at Outlook Nebraska, Inc., the region's largest employer of people with visual impairments. A barbeque, talent show, family dance and picnic were also held to enhance social interactions.

Although Nebraska residency was not required, all 20 participants were from Nebraska. We offered the program to youth ages 9 to 19. There were fourteen girls and six boys. Three of the 20 campers were completely blind or had light perception. Six of the campers had, or were at-risk for seizures, and one camper had a significant communication disability. Six of the fourteen girls and four of the six boys had diagnoses in addition to their vision loss which impacted their physical education curricula (50%). One camper used a prosthetic leg. Of the 20 families, 17 received full or partial scholarships.

One camper said Camp Abilities Nebraska was the best week of her life! When asked why, she said, β€œIt was everything! All of the activities I had never done or tried before, spending the night with other girls my age and talking with my awesome counselor.”

In addition to the fun daily activities, the campers took part in Care to Share each night. This exercise allowed them to share something they were particularly proud of at Camp. One of the best parts of Camp Abilities Nebraska is how each child conquers his or her fears, whether it is jumping from the side of the pool into the water, going down the slide into the pool, riding a tandem bike, or climbing higher and higher on the rock wall. All week long, children grow in self-confidence, independence and self-advocacy by conquering these fears and bonding with other youth just like them.

One unforgettable story is about a first-time camper who is blind and uses a prosthetic leg. Both she and her parents were uncertain of how she was going to be able to climb the rock wall. Determined to succeed, this girl took off her prosthetic and began climbing. It took her a little longer, but below her were her peers and counselors – cheering her on and encouraging her until she reached the top.

Soon we will have pictures for this event; come back soon to see them!