The greatest fear next to the fear of dying, for many, is that of losing our eyesight. Imagine going blind or having any vision loss. Imagine not being able to read or see the ones you love. Who would help you learn how to socialize, navigate, communicate and feel safe in a sighted world? Who would help you cope and to feel confident that you can live a healthy and productive life?
As the only Center for Blindness and Vision Loss in Collier County, the Lighthouse of Collier, formed in 2009, is truly making a difference by helping more than 1,300 children and adults who are blind and visually impaired enjoy a more productive life. The mission of Lighthouse of Collier, Inc. (LOC) is to foster independence and enhance the quality of life for the blind, visually impaired and their caregivers. Our vision is to be the best, most reputable, and dependable provider of information and services to those who are blind and visually impaired. We want to be sure our clients, despite their disability, have access to all the things that others who are not visually impaired have access to.
It is our main focus to empower our blind and visually impaired clients to be independent through experiences, education and socialization, leading to an enhanced quality of life for them and their families. Our core services are essentially divided into two categories; Adult Program’s and Children’s programs. The Adult programs teach safe, independent navigation, independent living, vocational rehabilitation, assistive technology, socialization & communication skills and braille, while preventing social isolation and ensuring those who want to work have been given the proper training to resume their current employment or gain employment.
The goal for our clients is for them to regain or gain independence while feeling safe in a sighted world. Accomplishments and joys such as shopping, dining, attending and participating in recreational activities are a right, not a privilege, for individuals who are blind and visually impaired. Lighthouse programs incorporate Life Enrichment Classes for Blind and Visually Impaired adults designed to improve and expand the lives of students young and old. Such classes may include continuous arts and crafts classes to improve dexterity (which is important in learning Braille), exercise classes and lectures that focus on fitness and wellness, field trips and music enjoyment. This will provide our clients the opportunity to become part of a peer community and learn from the experiences of others who may have similar issues that go with vision loss.
The Lighthouse of Collier children’s summer camp program has grown over the years and has made a significant difference in the lives of the campers who are blind and visually impaired, their families and their caretakers. Program continuation and expansion is vital in order to grow at a rate to keep up with the ever so growing need for services in Collier County. Our goal is to help these children learn socialization, educational and skill development while providing unique opportunities for them to have fun. Children who are blind and visually impaired need to experience as many real life events as possible through art, sports, field trips, and through contact with their environment. These types of activities encourage creativity, independence and enhance awareness of sports and other physical activates, aiding in their self-esteem, body coordination and sensory training. Getting involved in summer camp helps them to realize that they, too, can participate and enjoy the same activates as their sighted friends.
Lighthouse of Collier enrolled 25 children, in their 7th annual 4 week summer camp. During the camp, children experienced interacting with other children who are blind and visually impaired, enjoyed community activities and field trips, learned about public safety, visited local attractions and participated in activities at such places as: Naples Botanical Garden, Arthur L. Allen Tennis Center, Naples Art Association, Home Depot, CREW Nature Walk, and The Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, all of whom have collaborated with Lighthouse of Collier to provide these services free of charge to our summer camp participants. In addition, activities that took place at the Girl Scout House location during summer camp include picnics at the neighboring park, board games, crafts, talking computer classes, beep baseball, audible soccer and meeting and playing with new friends.
Lighthouse of Collier, a not-for-profit, is partially funded by the State of Florida, Division of Blind Services. Other supporters of Lighthouse services include the Naples Children and Education Foundation (founders of the Naples Winter Wine Festival), the United Way of Collier County, The Special Needs Children’s Fund, the Ethel& George Kennedy Family Foundation and other private foundations and individual donors.
“Our success is measured in learning that a child is not afraid of going on school field trips after participating in our summer camp,” Executive Director, Robin Garcia commented. “It’s also measured by the child’s ability to confidently communicate and interact with classmates regardless of their sight limitations. Success is measured by the caregiver’s confidence in knowing their child is in a safe environment and having the opportunity to experience daily activities with other blind and visually impaired children & success is measured in the smile on a child’s face when a parent asks if they had a fun day. That’s the best indicator of success we know.”
This would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of the qualified staff and over 40 volunteers that work with the children during our summer camp program, an additional 20 during our events and 10 that assist with office work.
Please support Lighthouse of Collier by attending the 2016 Signature Event: Strings Under the Stars on Monday, November 14, 2016, from 6-9 PM at the Vineyards Country Club. November 14th will bring us magnificent music, comradeship, great food and an opportunity to meet world renowned violist and conductor, Max Rabinovitsj. The highlight of the evening will be the Master classes by Max Rabinovitsj. Ticket price is $200 and reservations can be made online through Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/strings-under-the-stars-tickets-26743090303 or call 239-354-0143.