Partnering In Sight

By Hannah Earnhardt

Can you recall your favorite summer camp memory as a child? Maybe it was the time you went kayaking or tubing across the lake. Perhaps it was when you went swimming with your friends on a hot summer’s day. Whatever that special experience was, you can clearly envision it and what it felt like to be there, in that exact moment.

For children who are blind or have a visual impairment, they often do not have the opportunity to go waterskiing, tubing, fishing, or kayaking while at camp. Their activities can be limited, both at camp and in their day-to-day lives. Through a partnership between North Carolina Lions, Inc.’s Camp Dogwood for the Blind and Visually Impaired and IFB Solutions Foundation [aka A Brighter Path Foundation & Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind], youth campers ages 12 to 18, with blindness and/or visual impairments, will be able to enjoy and engage in every type of summer water-sport activity.

“The value of this program to those who participate is immeasurable,” says Susan King, camp director. “It is my desire and part of the mission of the NC Lions to grow our program and extend our reach to serve more and more people.” For more than a year, representatives from both organizations met and developed a foundation for a lasting relationship that will result in positively impacting the lives of youth in North Carolina. The organizations have created an overnight camp, SEE Camp Abilities H2O, which offers water-sports instruction and other recreational programming to school-age kids with blindness and visual impairments. Camp instructors include certified teachers for the visually impaired, orientation and mobility specialists, Camp Dogwood’s summer staff (counselors, nurses, and directors), as well as a few favorite camps counselors from IFB Solutions Foundation’s long-running SEE summer camps.

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Partnering For Positive Change
By combining resources, partnerships between organizations not only support the individuals they serve, but create an atmosphere of positive change. A partnership should be considered when like-minded organizations can do more for the community together, rather than on their own. Camp Dogwood is geared towards adult campers with visually impairments, while IFB Solutions Foundation’s SEE summer camps focus on youth. With the desire to service more youth within the state, and with available facilities, a partnership was a natural pairing.

“Partnerships are the lifeblood of our organization, North Carolina Lions, Inc.” states Hillary Brodofsky, Executive Director. “Not only are our over 300 Lions Clubs and 6,000 Lions Club members partnering with one another to accomplish our common goals; many other entities on a state and local level, such as IFB Solutions Foundation, combine efforts and resources to multiply our mission.”

SEE Camp Abilities H2O will not only be successful due to the services it provides the community and beyond, but because of the thoughtfulness and consideration of the planning process from the very beginning. If your camp or group is looking to combine its resources with another organization, you should always start with the who, what, where, when, and why of the program.  All of the moving pieces fall into place, and clear goals and objectives form, resulting in a lasting and impactful relationship.

Partnerships give organizations the opportunity to reach more individuals, such as the blind and visually impaired community, who are looking for resources, services, and programs. It is important to provide as well as to continue the education of partners on how far their support, either a direct or in-kind contribution, really stretches. Through the partnership, North Carolina Lions, Inc. is able to address three key goals: promote programs that serve the blind and visually impaired, prevent vision loss, and provide aid to North Carolina citizens.

“Our new partnership … means that together we can offer valuable and positive life-changing experiences to more and more youth with visual impairment. It has been my experience that persons with disabilities are underserved in our communities and our culture. There are precious few ’camp’ opportunities accessible for youth with visual impairment. We are delighted to provide this opportunity and nurture it to make it grow,” King says.

This summer was one for the books. The collaboration gave deserving individuals a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Will you step forward and partner for change in your community?

To learn more, visit www.nclionscampdogwood.org, call 828-478-2135, or email susan@nclionsinc.org

Hannah Earnhardt is the Director of Development for the North Carolina Lions, Inc. Reach her at hannah@nclionsinc.org.