First Posted: 8/11/2014
Justin Olenginski, 15, of Dallas, was having the time of his life as he bounced up and down and interacted with his fellow peers during a trip to the Bounce Place in Wilkes-Barre on Aug. 6.
Olenginski is visually impaired but that has not stopped him these past few weeks from bouncing in a bounce house, taking karate lessons, swimming and horseback riding, among other various activities.
Thanks to the staff members of Camp Sight, he is able to do all these fun activities without any problems.
Camp Sight is a summer day camp for blind and visually-impaired youth and it teaches children the daily living and socialization skills they need to become independent, productive members of the community.
It gives the children an opportunity to enjoy activities they never have before, such as driving go-karts, archery, amusement and water parks, rock climbing and much more.
The camp has been around for 10 years and is open to children ages 10-18 from anywhere in Northeastern Pennsylvania, including Luzerne, Wyoming, Wayne and Pike Counties.
Camp Sight is part of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Association for the Blind, which was founded in 1918 and helps blind and visually-impaired individuals achieve the best possible quality of life by providing compassionate services and to prevent vision loss through education and early detection for people of all ages.
First year camp president and CEO Sara Peperno said the Greater Wilkes-Barre Association for the Blind has a lot of programs to offer, but Camp Sight is probably the best one.
“We do a lot of other things within our organization, but this is one of the best ones that we have,” said Peperno. “It runs during the summer. This year it’s two weeks long. (The children do) all kinds of activities such as the bounce house, bowling, they went to karate and all earned their white belts. They really enjoyed that. We’re going to have a big graduation for them on their last day of camp so they’ll be able to talk a little bit about how their experiences at camp have been.”
According to Peperno, there is no other camp like Camp Sight within the areas and it is great for the kids to get a chance to hang out and befriend others their age.
“I think it’s a wonderful program,” she said. “It’s the only one like it in Northeastern Pennsylvania and it really allows them socialization because they don’t always get together with one another and they are all the same age range, becoming great friends with another, so it really is a great opportunity to get them together and gives them opportunities to do things they may not have the chance to do.”
Camp Sight is not the only program the Greater Wilkes-Barre Association for the Blind uses to help children, according to Peperno. The organization also has a prevention program.
The association visits schools and day care centers within a four-county area and provides vision screenings to help prevent blindness.
“We’re making sure that any issues that kids have with eyesight are identified early and we can find a way to help them with those issues,” said Peperno.
She estimates that over 5,000 children are served and helped every year through the prevention program.
The associatio nalso serves adults as members will go to the homes of the visually impaired or blind and help them with everyday items, such as reading mail, signing checks and other services.
Although she has only been with association for a year, Peperno considers every day a gift to help out kids and adults.
“Everyday is just a new experience,” she said. “I’ve worked in non-profit organizations for over 10 years and I didn’t even know that the services we provided existed in the community. It has just been an eye-opening experience, seeing I’m sure what you’ve seen here today, really just provides a lot to the community. It’s been a good experience this past year.”