Insight eNewsletter - July 2010


Lake Joe: Life-changing summer fun since 1961

Cyndie and Cassie at campIt's going to be a good summer for Cyndie and Cassie Vanderwerf. The 14-year-old twins are heading to CNIB's Lake Joseph Centre (commonly known as "Lake Joe") for a week of summertime fun in one of the only camp facilities in North America that's fully accessible to their vision loss. And they're bursting with anticipation.

“I can’t wait for this year’s camp!” says Cassie.

She’s not the only one eager to get to Lake Joe. Every year, hundreds of people of all ages flock to the facility for a chance to enjoy a good old Canadian getaway (complete with water sports, swimming, arts and crafts, and nature hikes) in a barrier-free environment in the heart of Ontario’s Muskoka region.

“Lake Joe isn’t just a lovely place to kick back by the water or go for a swim,” says CNIB President and CEO John M. Rafferty. “It also provides life-changing, confidence-building experiences for many Canadians with vision loss.”

For some, those life-changing experiences come in the form of organized camps run by CNIB. For others, like Cassie and Cyndie, Lake Joe sets the scene for the annual family vacation.

Having visited the camp with their mom and dad every summer since 2005, the girls are among the 60 to 70 per cent of campers who return to Lake Joe year after year. According to mom, Janet, the facility offers a peace of mind she just can’t get anywhere else – knowing her daughters are in a safe, inclusive environment.

“[At rental cottage vacations] you’re never resting. You have to be there all the time to see what’s going on . . .” she says. “My daughters love it because it’s like home . . . They know I’m relaxed.”

With its groomed pathways, running handrails and specially trained staff, many Lake Joe campers end up feeling comfortable enough to walk without their canes. The camp also hosts a range of activities for people who are blind or partially sighted, like sailing and canoeing – all designed to boost campers’ confidence so they can participate in these sports when they return home.

Camp fees are also heavily subsidized, leaving campers to pay just half of the cost – less so for those on the Ontario Disability Support Program who apply for additional subsidies. For many campers, these kinds of financial breaks are crucial to their being able to visit Lake Joe, and enjoy a fun summer vacation just like anyone else.

“Visiting Lake Joe can be an incredible experience,” says John M. Rafferty, “and it’s important that it’s financially accessible, so that as many people as possible can get there.”

Deafblind camper Monique Charette has attended Lake Joe’s adult camp every year since 1979. She will once again be at camp this summer, alongside some of the deafblind friends she’s made over the years.

“I love camp,” she says. “I relax. I love all the activities – mini golf, horseshoes and the exercises.”

Now retired, Charette enjoys the camp so much that in 2006 she donated to Lake Joe’s rebuilding campaign, which raised funds to renovate and improve the facility. And although donors like Charette footed a good portion of that bill, if it weren’t for the Lions Club – which has provided financial assistance and volunteers to the camp for the past 50 years – those crucial renovations simply wouldn’t have been possible.

But for Cassie and Cyndie, lakeside fun – not renovations and finances – is really what’s top-of-mind. The girls are both eager to get out on the water and go tubing and water skiing, and Cyndie is excitedly working towards becoming a Lake Joe facilitator, with plans to participate in the camp’s leadership training next summer.

“Then I can work there all summer long,” she says, “and maybe someday I can be the camp manager!”

In addition to being a youth camp and a family vacation destination, Lake Joe is also home to several other events, including Blind Guys Tri, CNIB’s annual triathlon for people with vision loss; the training camp and live semi-final for contestants in The i Factor music competition; as well as private rentals, like weddings and conferences.

Lake Joe will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year! Stay tuned for news of upcoming events. For more information about Lake Joe or to book your spot today, visit

Vision health: Eye Care About Canada and glaucoma

Eye Care About Canada winning photo

Only half of the 250,000 Canadians with glaucoma know that they have it. That may be because nearly half of Canadians over 40 aren't getting regular eye exams. Worse yet, many only see their eye doctor once problems arise, despite the fact that glaucoma has no symptoms and is usually painless. These were the troubling results of a CNIB survey to mark World Glaucoma Week in March.

“People tend to assume that they have healthy eyes because they are not experiencing any symptoms like pain or red in the eye, but glaucoma is really a silent thief,” said Dr. Keith Gordon, Vice President of Research and Service Quality, CNIB. To raise awareness about glaucoma and the importance of early detection CNIB launched the Eye Care About Canada campaign.

Free glaucoma screenings were held across the country. Canadians were invited to learn glaucoma facts and to take the Glaucoma Challenge.

They were also invited to upload a photograph of their favourite Canadian location and its importance to them. Ninety-seven people entered their photographs. The sunsets, mountains, lakes and cityscapes certainly challenged the judging panel of renowned Canadian photographers. The judges narrowed the selection to five and then it was up to the public to vote!

And the winner is ...

Philippe Ahmaranian of Laval, Quebec submitted a remarkable photo of Montreal – Between the Old and the Lachine Canal. According to Mr. Ahmaranian, “This spot is mystifying; it explains the city in all of its grace, its beauty, but also its dark side. And, like the city, life emerges from between the paving stones to announce the arrival of summer.” The public apparently agreed.

Mr. Ahmaranian will receive the grand prize of his choice of a trip for two to a breathtakingly beautiful Canadian destination as selected by survey participants – Lake Louise, Alberta, Niagara Falls, Ontario or Banff, Alberta.

Reading Success: Two tales of reading success

Before her vision loss, Lorraine read on average 250 books each year: non-fiction about China's opium production, the Ottoman Empire or even those English Kings who visited the Holy Land.

As her vision steadily deteriorated over the past 10 years due to AMD, reading as a path to fulfillment became frustratingly impossible. Thanks to CNIB, Lorraine’s new DAISY player quickly assumed the role of lifeline, companion and guide. She can tell you that vanilla makes a wonderful addition to herbal tea and that Salmon Rushdie’s new novel deserves its acclaim—vision loss is no longer a barrier in a lifelong quest to learn.

For CNIB client Sarah, cooking dinner consists of food sizzling in the kitchen, a glass of wine in hand and provocative narration buzzing around her head.

Sometimes a narrator will describe the joys of David Suzuki’s work, perhaps worldly travel adventures or even an intense, drippy, murder mystery. Sarah credits CNIB library services for allowing this combination of drink, food, and reading to occur simultaneously.

By accessing CNIB library services, Sarah searches through an extensive online database and receives audio books directly in her mailbox. These days Sarah can pop on a new book, sip a glass of wine and get supper on the table while learning facts or being carried away by a magnificent story.

For more information on the CNIB library, visit

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