Recently, I had the opportunity to visit two venerable blindness institutions in Northern California. On July 2nd, my wife Ros and I visited the Guide Dogs for the Blind campus in San Rafael, California. The next day we drove to Enchanted Hills Camp near Napa.
Our visit to the guide dog school was my second as I had visited the school seven or eight years ago. A number of Lighthouse employees received their dogs from Guide Dogs for the Blind from either their California or Oregon campus. The Lighthouse recently formed a partnership with Guide Dogs for the Blind. Their new Northwest regional staff person, Carrie Skym, maintains office hours at the Seattle Lighthouse facility. Carrie works with Guide Dogs for the Blind alumni, local puppy raisers, and also gives Guide Dogs for the Blind graduates working here at the Lighthouse some extra refresher courses. The San Rafael Guide Dogs for the Blind campus was much as I remembered it, but our tour guide Aerial Gilbert took us into some places not on the regular tour. We were able to visit the student dormitory and the veterinary clinic. Of course, the best part of the tour was petting a puppy. The little guy we got to spend some time with was named Nandi, and he is on track to become a guide dog and partner for a blind adult some time in the future.
We learned of upcoming plans to raise both the dormitory and administration buildings, swap their spots, and build brand new facilities. I especially appreciated Guide Dogs for the Blind’s emphasis on the partnership between a guide dog and a blind person, and how this partnership enables blind people to lead independent and self-sufficient lives. This philosophy perfectly aligns with the Lighthouse mission.
As I mentioned, my wife and I were also able to visit the Enchanted Hills Camp and join in their 60th year anniversary celebration. The new San Francisco Lighthouse CEO Brian Bashin welcomed us and hosted a brief celebration program. I learned that Rose Resnick, the founder of Enchanted Hills Camp, had moved to California from New York state in the 1940’s. Rose had grown up as a blind child attending a camp for blind kids in New York. In California, she learned there were no such opportunities for blind kids. So, she got to work.
Rose held camps in 1947, 1948, and 1949 in other locations. One of her original 1947 campers was at the celebration my wife and I attended! Rose worked with a few other folks to raise $40,000, and purchased a boys camp in the hills near Napa that was some 280 acres. The camp has been held every summer at Enchanted Hills since 1950. There are a wide variety of camp sessions, for young kids, teens, adults, Deaf-Blind people, etc.
The lasting impression I took away from my visit was what a strong community had grown up around the camp. There were campers and volunteers there representing every decade from the 1940’s on. There were lots of people who had met their significant other or spouse at camp and people whose weddings were performed at the lower chapel in the woods – successful blind adults who had some of their first tastes of independence as little kids at camp.
These two visits gave me an opportunity to see what other organizations are doing to enhance opportunities for blind people to be independent, self-sufficient, and successful. My time at Guide Dogs for the Blind and Enchanted Hills reaffirmed for me that The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. is doing important work and that we are helping change lives for the better.
– Kirk Adams, President and CEO