Staying active when you’re not able to go places and gather together is tough enough, now add not being able to see well into the equation, and you’ve got an even trickier problem to solve. Camp Abilities Saratoga (CAS) has figured out a solution.
“Everyone is struggling with isolation due to COVID. This issue is compounded for children who are blind or visually impaired. CAS is focused on reducing isolation by keeping these children connected with their peers and counselors,” said Joe Brady, Vice President of Communications.
TRANSFORMING VACA’S INTO VCAS
The week-long CAS educational sports camp, sponsored by the Saratoga Lions Club, is like a very special and educational, vacation.
It’s a one-on-one VACA that typically offers guided activities including baseball, soccer, horseback-riding and more to its campers. To comply with social-distancing guidelines, they decided to adjust their program and instead go virtual this past summer – transforming a VACA into a VCAS (Virtual Camp Abilities Saratoga).
“In 2020, we had a couple months to prepare, develop programs, send equipment and technology to the campers and counselors so we could conduct our annual camp - transforming it from a physical camp to a virtual camp while keeping and strengthening CAS’s mission,” said Brady.
“Our camp directors and counselors did a masterful job of creating a wonderful, meaningful, and educational experience for our campers.”
The online campers, ages 10 to 16, were invited to log-in three times a day for six days of activities including yoga, strength-training, and pound fitness (a high-intensity cardio workout that combines yoga with rhythmic drumming).
“What I’m hearing from them is that their week with us it the highlight of their year, so I thought, why can’t we connect with our campers throughout the year and keep those relationships going?” said Camp Director Tiffany Suppes.
MINI-CAMPS HAVE MAJOR IMPACT
The success of the August 2020 virtual camp was the impetus of the CAS mini-camps that are now happening every other month.
The first, in December, featured a Body by Dottie workout, a yoga class, and as a special treat – cookie making. In addition to empowering the 16 campers to find ways to be physically active on their own at home, these activities are geared to help them improve upon their daily living skills.
These activities are also a chance for families to get involved like never before.
“Some things are a blessing in disguise. Now we’re able to work with families closely which we were not able to do before. We show campers’ parents and siblings how to adopt and modify activities for them, and the options they have at home,” said Suppes.
An easy, socially-distant outdoor activity that she suggests is disc golf – just have a sighted companion set up a cell phone or an inexpensive Bluetooth speaker at the target and you’re ready-to-play.
The next mini-camp will be held on Saturday, February 6 and will include a HIIT workout, a virtual scavenger hunt, and a game of Family Feud.
“I feel very fortunate to be able to connect with the campers and to find ways that we can all come together during this time,” added Suppes.
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