In life, people often come to realizations as to their limitations: They believe there are things they can do and there are things they cannot do. But to the blind and legally blind children of Camp Helen Keller the question is not "What can I do" and "What can't I do," it is "What am I going to do next?"
Earlier this week close to 20 teenagers from the six-week summer camp run by the Helen Keller Services for the Blind went rock climbing at an indoor facility in Plainview. With the help of safety harnesses and the staff at Island Rock Climbing Gym the young adventurers spent the morning climbing several 30-foot artificial rocks alone.
"It is simply an opportunity for the children to do rock climbing," said John Lynch, executive director, Helen Keller Services. "It is something that they might not have had a chance to do before, and yes they will succeed,"
Jillian Amoroso, a legally blind girl who has been attending the camp for three years, said she wasn't afraid of climbing the rocks and was looking forward to it. She said she loves taking part in the camp. "I've always had a lot of fun doing all the things they do here."
Attending the camp since she was 5 years old, Michelle Rosselli said the camp has become part of her life.
According to Debbie Costa, the camp's executive director, the rock climbing trip lets the campers do something that all children can do, while at the same time showing the community at large that blind and legally blind people can do these things.
"We want these kids to do all the things that all kids do," said Costa. "We look as much as possible to build their confidence, their skills, and their ability to interact in a sighted world."
She continued, "For the most part these kids are in mainstream school settings throughout the year... and when they come here they meet other kids that are in the same boat and they can kind of let their hair down and be themselves."
The rock climbing trip is just one in a summer-long schedule of events and activities that are run out of the camp's SUNY Farmingdale location. In addition to a trip to Adventureland, a trip to Jets Camp, and their own Talent Show, the approximately 50 children and teens who attend the five-day a week camp go swimming, play games, take arts and crafts, and work in the camp's computer room.
Camp Helen Keller is run by the Helen Keller Services for the Blind, which is headquartered in Brooklyn and has offices in Huntington and Hempstead. Through a myriad of programs that focus on rehabilitation, education and social integration, the organization is dedicated to helping blind, visually impaired, or deaf-blind people of all ages.
The not-for-profit organization, which was founded in 1893, is funded through government support and private donations. Throughout the year they hold several fund-raising activities including two annual balls, a dinner-theater, and a golf outing.
Readers who would like to find out more about contributing to the Helen Keller Services for the Blind should call Michelle Spinelli, development associate at 718-533-2122, ext 201. Donations should be sent to the Helen Keller Services for the Blind, Development Department, 57 Willoughby Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201.