TYLER, Texas — It’s the season for summer camps and many within East Texas are already underway.
While many focus on fun activities the East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind’s summer camp, Camp Lighthouse, is going the extra mile by teaching teenagers how to become independent.
Most teens at a summer camp wouldn’t typically be in charge of cooking their own food. But for happy campers Charlee Abbott and Marissa Thornton it’s a learning process for their future.
“It’s a really good camp and you learn how to do more things,” Thornton said. “Learning independence for sure.”
The pair of friends are legally blind and wear glasses to prevent eye strain. They’re taking part in Camp Lighthouse to have fun and learn how to do everyday task on their own.
On Wednesday, the duo were learning how to cook hot dogs, hamburgers and cookies. The camp taught them how to use a portable grill and utilize the oven to bake.
“It’s just learning how to do things by myself and not having to have someone help me do it,” Thornton said.
Campers get to practice shopping at the grocery store and cook their own breakfast and dinner meals. The camp also has leaders who watch over the teens and help them navigate through all their fun activities. For camp leader and assistant technology instructor for the nonprofit Brittney Walters said this event is an opportunity for her to pass on her experience.
“I’ve been legally blind since I was seven years old,” Walters said. “I lost my vision due to a brain tumor located on the brainstem, the size of a lemon.”
Walters expressed the honor she felt as she teaches the next generation of East Texans with visual impairments how to become independent.
“It feels really good because I think when they see me, they say ‘, she did it, I can do it too’ and they see that I’m just like them,” Walters said.
Although these campers were cooking up a storm inside, they also faced the sizzling temperatures outside. Special education specialist for Region 7 Educational Service CenterLannette Burlingame said the camp also incudes a trip to the local zoo and many outdoor activities.
“We take time to stop and reapply sunscreen and get under the shade and try to protect ourselves from the heat,” Burlingame said. “They have done all of those things while enjoying a game of Goalball, a game of Beep Baseball, we visited and Caldwell Zoo, we also had the opportunity to ride horses.”
The camp will last throughout the week and campers will be given several gifts they got to utilize throughout their time there. After cooking Wednesday night’s dinner camp, leaders told the teens they would all go home with their own George Forman Grill after learning how to use them.