GREENBUSH — Children who are visually impaired or blind are giving back to the community by creating cat towers.
They worked all week, starting with a visit to the Southeast Kansas Humane Society, then they created their own design, purchased materials online and in store and by Wednesday they began to assemble.
Through this project, they were taught how to measure and use power tools and they had an opportunity to use “high tech” equipment for the visually impaired or blind to surf the Home Depot website for materials.
Trek Tech Camp Activities Director Chelsea Glynn said each student was required to participate to help them learn to be part of a team.
“I really want to push the kids and see what they can do, and they always rise to the occasion and they do it and they do it well,” she said.
The towers will be presented to the Southeast Kansas Humane Society on Friday at Southeast Kansas Education Service Center at Greenbush.
This was made possible through a camp called Trek Tech Camp for children who are visually impaired or blind.
Calvin Churchwell said he was determined to create an exciting and educational summer camp and Trek Tech Camp was it. This will be the fifth year for the camp, which is hosted at Greenbush.
Churchwell is a certified vision rehabilitation specialist, and is the CEO of the nonprofit Midwest Midwest Low Vision Technology Center board and BlazingCanes Incorporated.
“Here they can develop skills through STEM challenges and work with a teams where they work with people from beginning to end to go get them done,” Churchwell said.
The activities are science, technology, engineering and mathematics based.
The cat tower project is a large part of the camp, however, it isn’t the only challenge they were given during their one-week stay.
“The activities were designed to test them and let them experiment,” Glynn said.
The next step for some the children is college or trade school. To help them learn about Americans with Disabilities Act and resources available at colleges they visited Pittsburg State University.
As part of the tour, they were challenged to find five designated locations on campus.
“We want to help them to think ahead and give them transitioning skills,” Churchwell said.
Along with the activities it helps the children build relationships with people their own age.
“It’s an opportunity for them to meet other young people their age, when they leave here we make sure have contact with one another,” he said and added many of the children have continued their relationship with their camp friends after the summer.
It gives them someone to talk to as they go through challenges may they face, he said.
A few of the previous camp members now serve as camp counselors to the younger children.
Churchwell said camp counselors were “specially selected” and it continues the person’s education by giving them an opportunity to learn “job skills.”
This year was Zane Lovelady’s first year to be a camp counselor. He said the experience he had as a camper motivated him to come back and encourage other campers to be the “best individual they possibly can.”
Lovelady said the camp helps break down the wall children who are visually impaired or blind create.
“Just like everyone else, you need help sometimes,” he said.
Coming back as a counselor is humbling, Lovelady said, “I have more respect for people and the world around me, these kids are pretty unbelievable.” Many of the children, he said, have realized what they are capable of and have strengthened their current skills and were taught how to utilize them during camp.
Mia Perry, incoming freshman of Frontenac High School, has gone to Trek Tech Camp since the beginning.
“I love it,” she said. “I don’t know any other place you get to do all of the things you get to do here.”
The ropes course and “Tarzan” wire walk have been part of her favorite things to do at the camp.
The activities at the camp help her “learn how to be more independent,” Mia said.
She said a few years ago she learned how to blow dry her hair and now she is being taught how to use power tools.
Mia said she has made a few friends from previous camps. She still keeps in touch with them through text or video chat.
“It has been good for making friends … they know what you are going through because they can’t see either, they have the same hardships,” she said.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.