by Tamala Young
From the Editor: Tamala Young is a bright, energetic, and motivated lady, whose years of experience as a teacher in the Head Start program made her a perfect fit for the job coordinating the first BELL Program in Oklahoma. Here is her account of the life-changing two-week program:
Well, as you have probably heard by now, our first BELL has been rung in Oklahoma, and what a joyful resounding noise it made! Our BELL program was held June 10 through 21 at the Oklahoma Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. The library staff continually commented on what a Joy it was to have the kiddos around, bringing laughter and excitement to those who had the privilege to come in contact with us. They said it was a welcome change.
We had four children from ages seven to ten participate this year. There were fifteen people who contributed time to participate in the program, some daily and some as they could break away from other commitments, as well as staff at the library whom we asked for help. These volunteers included: Linda Raleigh TVI, Sandy Chappell, Callie Chappell, Jan McEver, Ronya Caraway, Audrey Farnum and her friends at the boathouse, Glenda Farnum, Jeannie Massay, Cristin Lockwood, Coach Carolyn and Coach Bob (OSF blind fencing instructors), Vicky Golightly, Tanya Skelly, coach Christy (goal ball instructor), and Anne Parret.
There was a diverse group of people and organizations who donated items that contributed to the success of the program: the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, Don LaPorte, the Chesapeake Boathouse, Oklahoma Science Museum, Seedlings Braille Books for Children, McDonald’s, Burger King, MiMi’s Café, Millie’s Table, Sandy Chappell, Taco Bell, Grandy’s, and Pizza Hut.
Now for the fun part, the two weeks of BELL were action packed: we started each day with Braille races in which the children raced against their own time each morning to try to improve their speed, and improve they did! The children also raced their own time on Braille tracking skills, and each of them improved greatly on that as well. But the fun didn’t stop there, we also played body Braille, hula hoop Braille, Go Fish (with Braille cards), a Braille fishing game, Fruit Loop Braille, and so many other fun Braille activities. During some of these games the children used a slate and stylus, some for the very first time.
Besides Braille activities we also had blindness skill activities in which the children were allowed to prepare their own snacks and lunches. Ronya Caraway provided mobility lessons in and around the library, and we had so many fun field trips. Some of the field trips came to us and some we went to. Goalball and blind fencing both came to us and were greatly enjoyed by all. We took field trips to the Oklahoma Science Museum, McDonald’s, the Chesapeake Boathouse, and the Harn House Museum—unbelievable excitement with each field trip.
The children were allowed to go into the recording studio at the library where the books on tape are recorded and make a recording of a poem that I wrote for them to recite at the program on the last day:
Your view may be different from what I see,
But nothing in the world is going to stop me!
For knowledge and power I have a yearning,
Thanks NFB Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning!
I know that I am a little biased, but I measure the success of this inaugural program by some of the comments that I heard from the kiddos and the parents:
When we went out on the Dragon Boat, Elbin said, “My dream has finally come true.”
When Annie had to pack up to leave for England at the end of the first week she said, “I don’t want to go to England, I want to stay here. I wish we could start over so we would still have two weeks.”
After Teague got the opportunity to make his first peanut butter sandwich he said he made his dad a peanut butter sandwich at home.
This last one sounds sad but read through the sadness. After knowing Gianna for only two weeks she wept on the last day of camp. I mean she sobbed uncontrollably and that is when I knew that the State of Oklahoma BELL committee 2013 had not only enriched the Braille and blindness skills for this group, but we had truly touched lives and made a lasting difference to some young people who now know that they can do anything and that knowledge is power!