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The Buddy Program

A 3-week summer program for children ages 9-13

Saturday, July 12th through Saturday, August 2nd 2014

picture of buddies walking down the sidewalk with their canes The Buddy Program offers an opportunity for blind children to make friends and have fun in a comfortable and secure setting as well as to learn and practice alternative techniques. The training in alternative techniques includes: instruction in reading and writing Braille, basic cane travel, cooking skills, and introductions to independent living skills and industrial arts. Students may learn to pour liquids, carry a food tray, do laundry, follow a recipe, and much more. Students have also built and painted their own bird houses, lamps, gumball machines, and other projects.

Students participate in "talk time," where they discuss important issues about blindness with blind peers and instructors. In addition, students participate in many exciting activities in the Twin Cities area, such as visits to the Mall of America, rock climbing, and horseback riding. These activities allow students to develop their socialization skills. Activities are well-supervised and mentoring for the children is provided by active blind role models.

Below is a letter written by the mother of a student who attended our Buddy Program. Her words illustrate the dramatic impact the Buddy Program can have on students and their families.

Hi, my name is [Buddy] I am sending this correspondence to show my support of the Buddy Program provided by Blind, Incorporated.

My 12 year-old son [Buddy] lost his sight at the age of nine, approximately three years ago. [Buddy] has always been an extremely active kid, being involved in every activity he could talk us into bringing him to. His true love was and continues to be hockey. [Buddy] started playing hockey at the age of four. From this time, it didn't matter if he was at hockey practice, in a game, or simply in the backyard with his roller blades on, he always had a hockey stick in his hand. He loves all sports and loves the physical activity involved with each of them along with the many friends he has gained through them.

Buddy vacuuming After losing his sight, [Buddy] struggled. Now, his life was totally different. Worst of all, he couldn't do what he loved most, play hockey. Next, his friends slowly drifted as they stayed busy with their own lives and physical activities. [Buddy] didn't really fit in and his blindness slowed any physical activity he wanted to do. This was extremely difficult for everyone to watch, most of all for [Buddy] to experience. All of a sudden he wasn't in the middle of the intense game; he wasn't the center of attention; he wasn't even involved in the conversation; he was the outsider.

[Buddy] has always struggled in academics. From his first day of school, having dyslexia made reading and school extremely difficult for him. Now with his blindness, just going to school was a challenge along with finding his classroom, learning Braille and coping with his differences.

Over time [Buddy] did adapt, He slowly learned to deal with his blindness, but never really accepted it, He managed to struggle through third, fourth and fifth grade. Slowly he got involved in sports again, through the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind, but his heart wasn't in it. [Buddy] still wasn't really sure of anything. He questioned if he would really ever be happy or ever fit in.

Buddy grilling on an outdoor grill The Buddy Program was the best experience of his life. Not only was he able to interact on a daily basis with peers who were also blind, but also adults. He experienced and began believing what he was constantly trying to reassure all of us - That being blind is okay. His life, his attitude, his willingness to try new things and his independence has flourished. The confidence he gained in himself and his blindness through the Buddy Program has made his life whole again. Not only has [Buddy] once again become that outgoing, extremely active boy he once was, he is now doing something for the first time, excelling in school. [Buddy] is now, sure of himself, happy, motivated and as independent as any kid his age. He has also started making plans and setting goals for his adult life after witnessing so many blind adults leading active, meaningful lives at BLIND, Inc.

Buddy staff & student playing PowerShowdown game For me, it was on the way home from the Buddy Program when I first realized that the Buddy Program really was exactly what [Buddy] needed. Approximately, 10 minutes away from the mansion on our way home, out 'of the blue [Buddy] said, "Mom, you know what? I don't care any more that I'm blind. I'm really no different from anyone else, and I can do most anything." Words cannot express how hearing him say this and knowing for the first time he meant it made me feel. It is so great to see him excel and be active again.

As parents, my husband and I struggled with the idea of sending our 12-year-old son away for four weeks to a strange place. However, it was with the constant reassurance of others saying what a great experience it would be for [Buddy], that we decided to do it. We can now say with extreme confidence and much sincerity that it was the best decision we ever made for him.

This fall, [Buddy] is once again expressing his love for hockey. He plans on skating as much as anyone can take him over the winter. I cannot explain how great it is to see him so excited about life again and have the desire and determination to live out his dreams.

A special thanks to everyone involved with the Buddy Program. If there is anything I can do to help this program continue, please let me know.

Here are more comments made by parents of children who participated in our Buddy Program:

Buddy staff and students climing on rocks. "[Buddy] attended BLIND, Inc. this past summer. It was HARD for us, as her family, to send our "baby girl" off for 3-4 weeks. None of our kids go anywhere unless it's with family or church, including our 18 year old son. With Buddy’s encouragement (nagging? grin) we decided to let [Buddy] go this past summer. TERRIFIC! Best thing we could have done for her! She came home learning more in that time than in the past 2 years at school. She came home with knowledge from a multitude of other blind people, not just "mom says". The first week home she successfully advocated with the mobility teacher that she would use her NFB cane, not the huge roller ball he prefers. She's advocating with classroom teachers for the Braille they need to insist the TVI provide. [Buddy] is advocating for herself, not merely sliding along with what the TVI says is sufficient. This has made her stronger, and reduced some of our battles. (Imagine that, mom knows something!) No longer am I expecting too much, but she knows other blind kids are able to do those things and she wants to be sure she continues to learn it, too."

Buddy staff and students climing on rocks. "[Buddy] has benefited greatly from the Buddy program. His computer skills were nearly non-existent prior to his summers at Buddy Camp. His school system did not provide computer instruction for him so if not for Buddy Camp he would be computer illiterate. The benefits of being around the successful blind adult counselors and BLIND Inc. staff and being around blind peers are immeasurable."

“We think the Buddy Program has made him more social and outgoing toward making new friends.”

"[Buddy] especially enjoyed the independent travel that the students were able to do at Buddy Camp. . . She did become better at using the slate and stylus... It is the kind of thing that she will use when she needs to . . . She also enjoyed the socialization with the other buddies and the counselors. I would recommend Buddy Camp to other parents of blind children because it truly can help children become more comfortable about being blind... I offer a heart-felt thanks to all those who put time and effort into this program and hope the funds will be made available for it to continue."

Buddy reading braille While the Buddy Program is supported primarily through grants, this does not cover the entire cost for operating the program. The individual fee for this year will be $500.00. This fee can be paid through state rehabilitation agencies, the child's school by inclusion in the IPE, individually, or any other source(s). If you would like assistance in working with any of these agencies please let us know. Some scholarships for fee waivers may be available. Please contact us for further information. Participants need approximately $5.00 per week for spending money and transportation to and from the program.

Follow this link to view and fill out an HTML version of the Buddy Program application. You may also obtain an application by calling Charlene Guggisberg at 612-872-0100 extension 251or 1-800-597-9558 or emailing cguggisberg@blindinc.org. Enrollment will be limited to 10 participants.

If you are interested in working as a Buddy program counselor, click here to view a job description

 

 

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