Blue Lake event best ever

Published 2:09 am Saturday, October 9, 2010

I’ve attended lots of retreats at beautiful Blue Lake Camp near Andalusia, but the Sept. 26-28 Extreme Experience Camp for the blind and visually impaired was one of the most unusual, as well as inspirational. Phyllis Murray, Blue Lake director, was a delightful and energetic hostess. Her staff provided excellent service and delicious food.

Claude and I arrived around two p.m. on Sunday to find volunteers Ocie and Marti from Niceville United Methodist Church setting out Blue Lake tee shirts, water bottles, and cute little stuffed Blue Lake bears for the campers.

After we settled in our room, we wandered back into the solarium where we met retired marine and forester Francis McGowin of Andalusia. He came to lead nature walks and lend a hand to anyone who needed help. We noticed Jerry Stokes of Niceville, but didn’t meet him for a while because he was busy helping with everything going on.

We met Nancy, Mamie, and Judy who had encountered driving rain on their trip from Montgomery. I soon spotted Dan, Linda, Rebecca, Shaun and Rachel with Rachel’s guide dog Boris, and Dirk and his guide dog Henry, all members of the Covington Blind and Low Vision Outreach of Andalusia. Later Wanda Scroggins, the outreach group’s leader arrived with her guide dog. Coleen of Daphne, a summer counselor at Blue Lake, brought her friend Jena from Mississippi. Jeremy drove his uncle, Keith, from Altoona. Tony and his guide dog flew in from Greenville, S.C. Lisa, who works for Lutheran Blind Missions came from Missouri with her guide dog. Later everyone with guide dogs and others convened for a “Doghouse” session.

The youngest blind camper was 22-year-old Jena. Helen, visually impaired and sharp as a tack at 93, came from Panama City, Fl, driven by her friend Jessica.

A full slate of activities gave everyone choices to participate or rest, chat, or spend time alone in the pine-scented air as they pleased. During the nature walk, Francis gave everyone a leaf from each tree, and told the campers how to identify the leaves by the veins and shape.

A Niceville group provided dulcimers that brought smiles to the faces of eager campers who enjoyed strumming a song. Other activities included exercise at the Olympic-sized pool, fun on the new water slide at the lake, archery assisted by volunteers Sharon and Jerry and Blue Lake staff, and golf directed by volunteer Jim Carpenter, fishing, a hayride, campfire, cooking, a ladies tea, and pampering hands. Suzanne and Angela of state vocational rehab provided information about available services for the blind and visually impaired. We celebrated Holy Communion in the chapel and followed a rope to lakeside for morning vespers.

It was a fun and informative retreat, with much laughter and camaraderie. Interested persons are invited to attend the Covington Blind and Low Vision Outreach meetings on the first and third Thursdays at 1 p.m. at Andalusia Adult Activity Center, Church Street School Building. For more information, call Dirk, 334-469-2016 or Wanda, 334-428-3335.