By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – NewView Oklahoma will host its annual free summer OWL (Oklahomans Without Limits) Camp for campers ages 8 to 14 years old who are blind or visually impaired. The camp will take place July 15-21 at YMCA Camp Classen in the Arbuckle Mountains near Davis, in southern Oklahoma.
This is the first year that NewView’s OWL Camp will be held at YMCA Camp Classen. Learn more at ymcaokc.org.
OWL Camp activities are specifically designed to encourage collaboration, improve confidence, self- esteem and independence and challenge societal and self-imposed limits for young campers.
OWL Camp is structured to engage sighted children and those with vision loss. Each blind or visually impaired camper is partnered with a sighted buddy for the entire week. Together they will experience activities such as rock-climbing, archery, horseback riding, swimming and kayaking.
“Attending Owl Camp is truly a life changing experience for all involved,” said Cathy Holden, senior vice president of rehabilitation and clinical operations at NewView.
“It is such a joy to see the kids come together to create a unique camping experience, one which allows for creativity and celebrates everyone’s strengths. “NewView is all about empowering an individual to accomplish their goals by overcoming challenges which follow us throughout life,’ Holden added. “The results of Owl Camp are truly magical.”
According to Holden, the camp’s goal is to provide long term effects by allowing the sighted buddies to understand that people with vision loss can do anything they can do, with very little adaption.
“Our hope is that the sighted buddies will go back to their peers and share their experience to help eliminate the stigma that is too often associated with kids and disabilities,” said NewView president and CEO Lauren Branch, The Y’s overnight camping program began in 1920 and Camp Classen has served more than 4,400 resident campers including over 3,500 participants through their outdoor education sessions.
“We are excited about partnering with NewView and their OWL camp,” said Jason Brown, YMCA Camp Classen director. “Camp Classen is such an amazing place that has impacted so many lives, and we look forward to seeing how OWL campers will be impacted through their experience here.
“We have made significant improvements to ensure our facilities are ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant,” Brown added. “Our new shower house is equipped with showers, restrooms, sinks, walkways, ramps and water fountains that are compliant. Macleod Chapel and the dining hall have ramps and seating to help with accessibility.”
On Friday, July 20, NewView OWL campers will have the opportunity to share activities with blind and visually impaired campers from Heather’s Camp, located in Wichita, Kansas, who will be spending a week at Camp Classen on July 19-22.
That evening, more than 100 campers and buddies will dine together in the camp cafeteria and then participate in activities including goal ball, beat ball, carpet ball and other field games, as well as share smores and songs in front of a joint campfire on the beach.
Heather’s Camp honors the memory of Wichita State University alumna and member of Delta Gamma fraternity, Heather Muller, whose life was tragically cut short while pursuing her master’s degree in early childhood special education.
“As a presenting sponsor of Heather’s Camp, Envision is excited by this year’s move to YMCA Camp Classen and the range of activities that will be available to our youth campers who have never let their vision loss stop them from seeking outdoor adventures,” said Bonnie Cochran, director of support programs at Envision.
“We are thrilled that the scheduling of Heather’s Camp and NewView Oklahoma’s OWL Camp will allow our participants and Delta Gamma volunteers to come together as a large group for one full day of fun and friendship.”
A private, not-for-profit organization founded in 1949, NewView’s mission is to empower people who are blind and visually impaired to achieve their highest level of independence through employment, low vision rehabilitation, and community outreach.
As the leading employer of the blind and visually impaired individuals in Oklahoma, NewView offers the only comprehensive Low Vision clinics in the state, available in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
To learn more about NewView’s OWL Camp, other programs and clinical services, visit newviewoklahoma.org.