According to the American Foundation for the Blind, seventy per cent of children with sight loss do not play organized sports due to barriers to participating in sports and recreation activities. This can often lead to a learned attitude of opting out, which has long-term consequences for education, employment, and health outcomes. Fortunately, it's also preventable.
Camp Abilities is a goal-based program aimed at developing the athletic skills of children and youth with sight loss. Founded in the USA in 1996, it has served thousands of participants worldwide.
CNIB Lake Joe has offered the Camp Abilities program since 2012, providing program participants with one-on-one coaching from experts who guide them through specialized programs.
Pre- and post-program surveys indicate this model leads to a 50% increase in campers who report being active “a great deal.”
Building skills in skating, soccer and sailing
This year, guests can participate in two new sports at CNIB Lake Joe: blind hockey and 5-a-side soccer (also known as “blind soccer).
“Providing younger campers with specialized coaching and goal-directed programming will increase levels of physical activity for greater numbers of youth who are blind and really build their confidence,” explains Eugene Chong, General Manager, CNIB Lake Joe. “We can’t wait to provide our campers with unique opportunities for them to test their own perceived limits and surpass them.”
Hockey in the off-season at CNIB Lake Joe! CNIB Lake Joe has rented rink space at a local arena, and through an exciting new partnership with coaches at the Canadian Blind Hockey Association, Camp Abilities guests who select “blind hockey” as their sport of choice will spend two hours on the ice daily – plus participate in dry land training to sharpen their skills.
Thanks to generosity of Synthetic Turf Council members and local businesses, children and youth will also be able to play blind soccer on a state-of-the-art field and enjoy some friendly competition with their teammates.
To ensure that everyone can “bend it like Beckham,” CNIB Lake Joe staff will participate in Canada's first blind soccer residential course. The Ontario Blind Sport Association (OBSA) and Soccability Canada are collaborating to offer staff an immersive training program to coach and officiate blind soccer.
“Soccability Canada is a small not-for-profit ‘passion project’ I designed to ensure more people are playing soccer,” says founder Matt Greenwood. “I came to CNIB Lake Joe six years ago to do a demonstration about blind soccer, and I was just blown away. Seeing this beautiful, pristine field in such a beautiful location, instinctively, I knew it would be the perfect place for people with sight loss to train in blind soccer and to compete.”
For those who wish to learn about sailing and perfect their prowess on the water, CNIB Lake Joe will continue to partner with volunteers from the Lake Joseph Yacht Club, nestled right beside camp.
David Brown volunteers with the Camp Abilities program at CNIB Lake Joe, coaching kids with sight loss in sailing. One of his sailors-in-training made it to the World Blind Sailing Championships with him!
"I enjoy sharing my passion for sailing with youth as a mentor and coach,” says David. “Learning sport skills that can be used with family and friends for your entire life can improve self-confidence and be a lot of fun."
Whether campers have chosen to skate, play soccer or sail, they’ll be celebrating what they have learned with their teammates in either a hockey game, soccer match, or sailing regatta at the end of the week. Go, team go!
Camp Abilities Volunteers Needed: We are looking for coaches and trainers to help us deliver the Camp Abilities program and provide one-on-one support to campers. If you have skills/experience in hockey, soccer, and sailing and want to change lives for children with sight loss, please visit our Volunteer Opportunities page!
The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is an agency of the Government of Ontario and one of Canada’s leading granting foundations. OTF awarded $108 million to 629 projects last year to build healthy and vibrant communities in Ontario.’