Camp Leo kids, counselors share common bond

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Camp Leo kids, counselors share common bond

By AMY COYNE BREDESON abredeson@islandpacket.com 843-706-8134
Published Saturday, July 24, 2010   |  455 Words  |  lifestyle

Growing up with a vision impairment called ocular albinism, Travis Faile felt like an outcast in a world full of seeing people.
The 27-year-old Camden resident attended his first Camp Leo experience at age 7 and has gone almost every year since -- as a camper for the first several years and as a counselor for the past 10.
Faile said if it wasn't for the Hilton Head Island summer camp for sight-impaired children of South Carolina, he would not have the self-confidence he has today.
"All the activities and everything are great," Faile said. "But there's nothing like talking to somebody else that actually has an eye problem like you and is going through the same situations."
For the past 35 years, the Hilton Head and Sun City Lions clubs have offered the camp to children between the ages of 6 and 16, giving them an opportunity to enjoy a fun-filled week on Hilton Head and memories to last a lifetime.
Every year the Lions clubs organize a variety of events for the children at Camp Leo. The children go swimming, fishing, crabbing, kayaking, sailing and more. This year they even had a chance to pet an alligator at the Coastal Discovery Museum and go on a pirate adventure in Harbour Town.
The 29 children, who were on the island from July 11-17, came from all over South Carolina.
Longtime Lions member and Camp Leo organizer Henry Massey said many families might not be able to afford to send their children to enjoy such activities elsewhere.
But Camp Leo is completely free thanks to contributions from the local Lions clubs.
Massey said while some of the people and activities have changed over the past 35 years, much remains the same.
"By and large it's still a camp that provides the type of activities that children would not be able to enjoy at their homes," he said.
Massey said when Camp Leo began in 1975, it was sponsored by the Lions clubs and the South Carolina Commission for the Blind.
When the commission lost its federal funding in the early 1980s, the Lions took over.
While the commission still helps by identifying the children who could benefit from the camp and sending them camp applications, the Lions Club members do the rest.
Massey said the camp started out sharing space with a year-round Presbyterian camp on South Forest Beach Road on Hilton Head.
Over the years it has been held at various locations, including Hilton Head Preparatory School, Hilton Head Island High School and now at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church.
"They all have a ball, and everybody wants to come back," Massey said.