Camp Abilities is a developmental sports camp for students who are blind and visually impaired that was started twenty years ago in Brockport, New York. This camp has provided valuable learning experiences to its campers that they would not receive elsewhere. The camp was founded on four main purposes; 1) to teach children who are visually impaired how to access sports and recreation, and empower them to know what modifications to make so that they can do them at home, 2) to teach current and future teacher of physical education, vision or special educations, “how to teach kids with visual impairments,” 3) research pertaining to individuals who are visually impaired- physical fitness, nutrition, parent involvement, inclusion and attitudes, 4) and lastly, respite and support for parents of children who are visually impaired.
A Loss of Sight, Never a Loss of Vision!!!
After volunteering as a counselor at Camp Abilities Brockport, Jenn was so inspired by the growth she had seen in just one week that she felt compelled to bring Camp Abilities to Florida. Advertising and gathering information from teachers of the visually impaired, families of children who are visually impaired, and students themselves led to the conclusion that the need and want for a Camp Abilities North Florida was even greater than ever imagined. She contacted Leah about taking on the challenge of making it a reality and Leah accepted! While Leah has stepped back to spend time with her babies, she was instrumental in creating the programs that stand today!
The first successful Camp Abilities Florida was hosted in 2015 at Camp Chowenwaw in Green Cove Springs, Florida. From here the program flourished and expanded and will now be hosting it's 8th year in July 2023 at the Montgomery Presbyterian Center in Stark Florida. At this camp, we provide opportunities for students to participate in adaptive sports including; swimming, beep kickball, kayaking, archery and many more. The campers will have opportunities to rock climb, fish, tandem bike and participate in camping activities such as, campfires and s’mores. Some of the campers who attended each year experienced many of these activities for the first time. The campers continue to countdown each year to camp!
If you could think of one word to describe camp, what would your word be?
“Phenomenal” “Camp abilities is allowing blind and visually impaired people to do things that like we would never be allowed to do everyday” – Kai
“Fun” – Emily
“Fun” – Dwayne
“Awesome” – Caleb
“Fun” – Austin
“Incredible” – Sarah
“Amazing” – Madison
“Fun” – Ryleigh
“Extreme“ – Sara
“Fun” – Luke
“Amazing” – Breanna
“Fun” – Max
“Awesome” – Tinisha
“Awesome” – Alden
“Awesome” – Madison
“Fantastic” – Francis
“The whole camp was fun.
A great opportunity for the
young kids and a great opportunity for me” – Tyree
Directors and Specialists:
Jennifer Stelmach, TVI at DCPS
"I'm a teacher for the visually impaired in Nassau County, Florida. I fell in love with Camp Abilities, 4 years ago, after attending the camp in Brockport, New York. I was determined to bring it to Florida.
To me, Camp Abilities means independence and a sense of 'I Can'."
Michela Tavolieri, TVI and O&M Specialist for DCPS
Assistant Director and O&M Specialist
"I am a Teacher for the Visually Impaired and an Orientation and Mobility Instructor in Clay County Florida. The opportunity to be involved with Camp Abilities has been a blessing and honor. To me Camp Abilities means life changing experiences and lasting memories for everyone."
Bianca Simon, TVI for DCPS
Activity Coordinator/Yoga Instructor
"Camp is an opportunity for laughter and independence."
Sara David, TVI for DCPS
Activity Coordinator/CIT Specialist
"Camp is ......"
Tim Dornbrock, TVI for DCPS
"Camp is ......"
Kimberly Degelmann, ESE Teacher and CNA
Program Director / Medical Aide
"Camp is ......"