By GDB Alumna Tracy McGee
Over the Memorial Day weekend my son Colin, my guide Fazio and I had the distinct pleasure to be among the many blind/visually impaired folks that attended the Oral Hull Foundation for the Blind's long camping weekend. We had an incredible time! Since my eye sight has decreased so significantly over the past 8 years, camping has not been on the top of my list of things to do; I've always felt like a fish out of water. But being a single parent to an 8 year-old boy, camping is an activity that I'd like to engage in more often. After my experience at Oral Hull, I now know just how fun it can be and we're already planning to go back.
Oral Hull is a 23-acre park three miles from Sandy, Ore. Serene and wooded, the unspoiled natural beauty of Mt. Hood, Oregon's loftiest peak, forms a fitting background for this wonderful place. It is an accessible camp that leaves the camper feeling independent by providing the appropriate tools, such as rail-lined pathways, as well as an onsite O&M instructor. Attention to details like these lends to a safe and comfortable experience for each camper.
During our long weekend, the activities were abundant, the social interactions were enlightening and entertaining, and the opportunities to widen our horizons were plentiful. Jeff Lann, Oral Hull's executive director, packed the weekend with such things as swimming in a wonderfully warm indoor pool; creating a number of arts and craft projects (which I had not done for many years - my son and I both thoroughly enjoyed craft time!); learning about the art of drumming (we played the drums, learned about their origin, and felt the natural syncopation that takes place when a melody is played - boy oh boy was that fun!) - and that's only scratching the surface! One of the most amazing experiences that we took part in was a lesson on the universe with the guidance of an astronomer. He used large balloons of various shapes and sizes to illustrate the planets, and passed out tactile displays of the night sky, including the star formation on an average night as well as maps of some of the more popular constellations. Wow, was that an educational, mind-boggling and simply fascinating activity!
We also went to a play in Sandy, which was fantastic. Prior to attending the play, the director came to Oral Hull and provided us with background information. When we got to the playhouse, we got the opportunity to touch and feel each component of the set, and were introduced to the actors and actresses. They all told us about themselves so that we would have a voice and a history to paint the picture in our minds of each of the characters. I am sure for many blind/visually impaired individuals going to a play may not be at the top of your list, but this particular experience has opened my eyes to how awesome going to the theater can be.
My goal in sharing my experiences at this wonderful place is in the hopes that you will give it a try yourself. Come and bring your family, your friends (sighted or not), and most importantly your guide, and have the time of your life. Visit the website, or better yet, visit the camp! www.oralhull.org