By Lion Karen Burns
Sleeping Lady Mountain Lions Club
Eagle River, Alaska
For the 9th year, Lions across the area came out for Lions Days at Mountain View Lions Park on July 14th for Camp Abilities. There were about 85 Lions, campers, their families and volunteers showing up on a perfect day to be outside. We had seven past District Governors and one current 2nd Vice District Governor attend the event for a total of about 28 lions. This is one on the many projects that is very special to your local lions.
The Spenard Lions Club donated $10,000 to the 2014 camp and challenged all other local Lions' clubs to meet that challenge. We provide for the camp in various ways from finanical support, volunteering our time as cooks, or volunteering during camp. Campers do not pay to attend the camp through donations from Lions and other sponsors. Each year the Sleeping Lady Mountain Lions provide the campers on their final night with a dinner of pizza and bananna splits with lots of extra toppings. The tradition was started by Willow Lion Jess Sharp. After his passing, the SLML promised to keep this tradition in his memory. The experienced campers look forward to that treat each year.
You ask what is Camp Abilities Alaska? It is a fun sports camp for children and youth who are blind, or visually impaired. The camp is located in Anchorage each year at venues donated by sponsors such as UAA, or local churches. Athletes and volunteer coaches alike share a week that gives memories and friends for a lifetime. The camp is a one-week developmental sports camp for children ages 9 to 19 who are blind, or visually impaired. The camp is set up to provide a one-on-one instructional situation for each child.
During the week, children develop sports skills and gain confidence to become more independent in their daily lives. It empowers children with sensory impairments to be physically active and productive members of their schools, communities and society. This camp experience teaches children what they CAN do in the area of sports and recreation, which is often overlooked in their education and home environments.
Throughout the week, athletes participated in a long list of physical activities including swimming, goalball, beep baseball, tandem biking, track and field events, rock climbing, hiking, canoeing, archery and more. Each physical activity has a detailed task analysis for each skill. Assessment sheets are completed daily and are sent to parents and physical education teachers at the conclusion of camp to encourage continued physical activity throughout the year.
After the campers were full of pizza and ice cream, we were serenaded with two songs the campers had prepared for us that just made you tear up as they don't perceive their loss of sight as a problem. I was able to video tape them, so look for some special commerical time on TV as we are going to put together some air segments.
I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jocelyn Hojnowksi from Fairbanks. She immediately stole my heart with a big smile and hug. Jocelyn walked me through her day from breakfast to bed time. She loved each moment of her day. I just marvelled at this little girl's love of people and life. I don't think I have met a more cute and precocious child in my life. She informed me that she is 10 years old and in 5th grade. She has a ferret named "Seffie" and this is her first year to attend camp. Jocelyn was very open about her "disabilities". Not only is Jocelyn blind in her right eye but she has Nystagmus and a growth hormone deficiency, or GHD as she explained to me as a doctor would! Nystagmus is the continuous involuntary eye movement, which is acquired in infancy but can occur later in life too. With her GHD, which is a problem arising in the pituitary glands, she looks about five years old in stature. However, she attends a local elementary school that makes concessions for her disabilities, which by the way are not to this very active 10 year old. She proudly told me that she wore her camp counselor out on the lazy river at H2 Oasis. She ran the river instead of resting on the tube. By the way this was her favorite activity next to "goalball" which Jocelyn tells me emphactially is one word, not two!. (She watched my writing very closely so I got her story right and spelled all the names of herself, her ferret and her "disabilities".)
The Sleeping Lady Lions provided the campers with pizza and ice cream sundaes. Mt. View Lions provided the place for the "party", the drinks along with other lions providing financial support to make this a fun day for the campers. After a full stomach, we hung out for music and singing by the campers, then on to the much anticipated game of beep baseball. If you had vision, you were blindfolded to play — what an amazing experience. The evening left the campers and lions ready for bed. Oh and me too!!!
If you want to learn more about being a Lion, visit www.lionsclubs.org, www.sleepingladylions.org or eagleriverlions.com. Give me a call, Karen @ 242-1129. Check out the Camp Abilities website at www.alpinealternatives.org.