Nattie Wood and Nick Rodd are best friends.
The two visually impaired youngsters met two years ago at Camp Abilities in Brockport. Since then, they have developed a strong bond and look forward to spending time together every summer.
“We love just hanging out and being together,” said Wood, 13, of Argyle. “We do judo together, we swim together, it’s all so much fun.”
Sixteen other fully or partially blind children will join Wood and Rodd in the inaugural week-long Camp Abilities Saratoga Springs program which began on Sunday at Skidmore College.
The camp, which is organized by the Saratoga Springs Lions Club, kicked off with a reception to discuss the rules and provide time for the counselors and campers to get to know each other.
The Lions Club — a service organization dedicated to sight, hearing, diabetes, youth and community causes — modeled the program after a similar sports camp at SUNY Brockport, said club president Joseph Sporko.
Sporko said a few club members traveled to the campus to see the camp and loved the program.
“A few of them went over there and they said ‘Lets bring that back here,’ ” Sporko said. “So that’s what we did.”
Sporko sounded excited when he addressed the campers and their parents on Sunday, saying he and other club members are looking forward to a great week.
The camp will make good use of the local attractions that the area has to offer. Campers will be able to ride horses at Rolling Oaks Stable in Gansevoort and will picnic in Saratoga Spa State Park.
Tiffany Mitrakos, director of the camp, described the rewarding feeling of seeing a camper achieve a goal he or she never thought was possible.
If a camper becomes frustrated because he is unable to perform an activity, Mitrakos said, the counselors make light of the situation and try to boost that child’s confidence.
“We use lots of humor,” she said. “We can’t let them become dejected and then feel withdrawn for the rest of the week.”
The camp employs four counselors who specialize in different sports and monitor the action. In addition, a counselor is assigned to each camper to assist them with day-to-day activities.
All counselors are volunteers and many have experience working with disabled children.
Three nurses will be on-call around the clock in the dormitories and on the sports fields to provide campers with medication in case of an injury.
All of the campers will be sleeping in dormitories on the same floor of a campus residence hall.
John McDonald, a Lions Club member, said he hopes that this experience shows many of the children that they are capable of attending college and living on their own in the future.
“This is a great chance for them to make friends and develop camaraderie with one another,” he said.
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