Sports Camp Empowers Kids With Visual Impairments

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Camp Abilities is a sleepaway sports camp held in more than 20 cities worldwide, including the original location in Brockport, New York. Unlike most sports camps, however, Camp Abilities is for children who have visual impairments.  All of the sports are modified so that campers can play them independently.

A normal day at Camp Abilities Brockport, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this summer, consists of three sessions of sports. The first session is in the morning, and campers normally do tandem biking, beep baseball, and track and field. During the afternoon session, the campers play goalball, swim, and do gymnastics. (More on beep baseball and goalball later.) 

In the evening, campers participate in water sports, rollerblading, a table game called showdown, and basketball. The campers also have time to relax and eat meals in their dorms. They have a jam-packed day of fun!

You may never have heard of goalball and beep baseball. That’s because Camp Abilities has modified sports that are related to well-known sports. For example, beep baseball is basically baseball with sound effects! It’s played with a beeping ball and bases so the campers know where the ball is and where to run. 

Goalball is a Paralympic sport specifically for kids with visual impairments. Players compete in teams of three. They throw a ball with bells in it into their opponent’s goal. 

Another example of a modified sport that Camp Abilities has is soccer; kids play with a ball that has bells in it so the campers can easily determine where the ball is. Camp Abilities has taken athletics to a whole new level by allowing all kids to play sports without struggle.

“In sports in my town, sometimes I don’t know what is going on, but at camp I know because they make the games easier for my friends and me,” said Andrew, an 11-year-old camper who has attended Camp Abilities Brockport, in upstate New York. Andrew said that he used what he learned there after he came home from camp. He also mentioned that he can now do things that he might not have been able to do without Camp Abilities, like gymnastics and swimming. 

“Three years ago we found our first Camp Abilities, and to be honest we were pretty scared,” said Andrew’s father, Bob Mead-Colegrove. “We didn’t know how it would go. When Andrew came back we noticed a big difference in his independence and physical fitness. Camp Abilities has inspired us so much that we have gotten involved in other Camp Abilities [in New York].” 

Camp Abilities’ goal for the future is to have camps in every state and to be able to reach every child with visual impairments. Another goal is for all campers to be able to play on their community or school sports teams. 

“Now that all of our campers can play all of these sports, we want them to be enthusiastic about it!” says Lauren Lieberman, founder and director of Camp Abilities. “Many teachers might say, ‘Sorry this game is too dangerous for you’ or ‘the ball is not accessible to you.’ After camp the kids know how to teach their gym teachers how to make the sport accessible to them. Our biggest message is you can do anything with some modifications.”

Visit the Camp Abilities website to learn more about the organization and how it helps kids!

Photos: Matthew Yeoman 

camp abilities
camp abilities