Blind retreat was life changing

Published 1:01 am Saturday, October 12, 2013

“Mrs. Letford, you are no longer a legal driver since you are legally blind.” I didn’t hear a word the doctor said after that statement. It was March 9, 2009. “Oh, wow,” was all my husband could say. All I could think of was what I would never be able to do again, such as picking up my grandsons from school or taking my 83-year-old mom to the grocery store or helping my husband in his law practice. I was afraid of letting down not only my husband, but my entire family. Despite offers of help, I was just wallowing in self pity and wanted to prove to everyone that I didn’t need anyone or any help.

A friend from church practically twisted my arm to go to the first Extreme Experience Retreat at Blue Lake Camp. Why would I want to go to a camp for three days with a bunch of other blind people? I certainly didn’t want to leave my family and home, aka my “safety zone.” By the time of our arrival, I felt physically sick. I just wanted somebody to show me to my room and leave me alone. I was in total denial.

Over the next couple of days, I merely went through the motions. These crazy camp people had us blind folks going on nature walks, doing water aerobics, golfing, canoeing, swimming in the lake, fishing, and making crafts. We also learned independent living skills, orientation and mobility, and assistive technology.

On the last day, it hit me. I did NOT want to go home. I looked around the room at the people I had met and cried. I had a new “safety zone.” I realized that this small group of people felt like family.

What did I learn at Extreme Experience Retreat that first year? The answer is grace—and how to receive it gracefully. I’ve also learned to bait my own fishing hook, the difference between a hook and a slice in golf, the thrill of riding a motorcycle, and the joy of being around other people just like me.

Judy Letford


Editor’s note: Extreme Experience Retreat is a partnership of Blue Lake Assembly and the Covington County Blind and Low Vision Outreach. The Extreme Experience Retreat is open to all persons over 18 and from all areas of the US. For more information contact Wanda Scroggins (334) 428-3335 Email: or Dirk Price (334) 469-2016 Covington County Blind & Low Vision Outreach Group.