Camp Leo gives sight-impaired children a chance to let loose

July 18, 2011 

Camp Leo participant and Bluffton resident Annabell Granger, 6, rides on the shoulders of counselor Callie Fralix, a former camper, during a Wednesday outing to the Greenwood Forest pool in Sea Pines on Hilton Head Island. Annabell, who suffers from a retinal disease called cone-rod dystrophy, is one of 25 sight-impaired children who attended last week's camp.

JAY KARR/THE ISLAND PACKET

Annabell Granger is legally blind, but you would never know it if it weren't for her cane and dark sunglasses.

The 6-year-old Bluffton resident is much like any other little girl you'll meet.

She loves swimming, going to the beach and doing arts and crafts.

Annabell, who suffers from a retinal disease called cone-rod dystrophy, is one of 25 sight-impaired children who visited Hilton Head Island last week for Camp Leo.

Sponsored by the Hilton Head and Sun City Lions Clubs, the weeklong summer camp is designed to give South Carolina's visually impaired children an opportunity to go swimming, fishing, crabbing, kayaking and much more -- activities that can be difficult if not impossible for some visually impaired children. The campers sleep at St. Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church on Hilton Head but spend most of the time out and about, doing all kinds of fun activities in the area.

Camp Leo director Ben Snead said Annabell was the first Beaufort County resident to attend the camp in about a decade. She actually participated in the camp last year, too, but was too young to stay overnight. Her mother, Elise Granger, said last year she dropped her off at 8 a.m. every day and picked her up at about 9:30 p.m.

"She loved it," Granger said. "They keep them busy."

But this year Annabell got to stay overnight for the full Camp Leo experience, which began July 10 and ended July 16. Granger said Camp Leo is a great opportunity for Annabell to have fun with other children with visual impairments.

"I think it's just awesome that she gets to see that there's other kids out there that use canes, there's other kids out there that read Braille," Granger said. "They all have that in common so there's not that stigma there."

Granger said her daughter's genetic condition allows her to see best outside at dusk or with just one small light on inside, but her vision is very limited in the daylight. She said Annabell can see shapes and blurred movement. She cannot see colors; everything is gray to her. Annabell wears two different types of prescription sunglasses -- one for inside and one for out.

"It just feels really good," Annabell said about being able to see outside at night. "I can see the moon," she told fellow campers last week as they listened in awe.

One of Annabell's camp counselors, Zimmie Washington, said Camp Leo gives the kids a chance to do many things they wouldn't normally get to do. But even more than that, she said, "This camp shows these kids that they're capable of doing anything."

Related content

Camp Leo: Lions Clubs host week of fun for legally blind children, July 20, 2009

Camp Leo kids, counselors share common bond, July 24, 2010

Lions Clubs of South Carolina

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