ARKANSAS DEAF-BLIND RETREAT
By Art Babin and Carel Dunaway
The Arkansas Deaf-Blind Community (ADBC) hosted the second biennial Deaf-Blind Retreat at the beautiful Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center in Ferndale , Arkansas which is located about 20 miles from downtown Little Rock on October 18-21, 2007. Thirty-six deaf-blind individuals from Arkansas and Louisiana attended, with approximately fifty-four Support Service Providers (SSPs) and eight Observers. Some of the SSPs were students in the UALR Interpreter Education Program enrolled in a course “Interpreting for Individuals who are Deaf-Blind.” Students enrolled in this course are required to complete a service learning project. They were able to complete this assignment by volunteering as SSPs at the retreat and they were mentored by UALR Interpreter Education faculty members Carolyn Jolley and Jami Hollingsworth.
Art Babin and Betty Babin, who are deaf-blind, were the chairpersons of the retreat. Their committee, consisting of Carel Dunaway, Carolyn Jolley, Jami Hollingsworth, Diana Staggs and Brittney Bolin-Houle, worked hard planning for this retreat for almost a year. All of their hard work paid off because the retreat was once again a HUGE success and was enjoyed by everyone. The theme of the retreat was “Fall Festival.”
The purpose of this retreat was to bring together individuals who are deaf-blind from Arkansas and Louisiana in a social atmosphere that provides plenty of opportunity for interaction and camaraderie. Through careful planning of the schedule of activities and coordination with the SSP schedule, everything about this retreat was totally accessible for individuals who are deaf-blind. Such interaction fosters independence and empowerment. We, the deaf-blind, learn with and from each other and often come away with a new sense of what DB CAN do.
The retreat kicked off Thursday evening with an Opening Ceremony consisting of an orientation to the campgrounds and camp schedule of activities followed by introductions by every retreat participants so we could match the names and faces. On Friday, we went on an all-day educational field trip to Hot Springs National Park where everyone learned more about thermal springs and historic bathhouses. Some people enjoyed hiking up the mountain to go up the Mountaintop Tower to enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the Ouachita/Ozark Mountains. Some people visited other museums and shopped along Central Avenue which has a variety of shops. The weather was absolutely perfect for this trip. The campers had such a great time, that they have asked us to schedule another trip to Hot Springs in two years.
Another highlight of the retreat are competitive games played throughout the weekend. This year, campers were divided into two teams that competed against each other with every game that was played. One game, ‘Who Has…,' involved earning points for members of the team who had for example on a red retreat T-shirt, glasses, Braille watch, etc. On Saturday morning, the teams competed in a maze game. Each deaf-blind camper was blindfolded and timed using a white cane to navigate through a maze of hay bales with some eerie stuff whisking on their faces. David Duhon of Louisiana was the fastest camper to complete the maze. Other games we played were guessing how much a big pumpkin weighed, bobbing apples hanging from strings, hot squash (alias hot potato) and ‘Copy Me'. After a hamburger/hotdog cookout lunch by the lake at Ferncliff Camp on Saturday, we played a Fall Festival Relay game. This was an exciting game where both teams lined up and one at a time, campers ran to a bench, husked an ear of corn, ran to a table of pumpkins and plunge a hand into the flesh and seeds to find a letter or number which was then given to the team captain. Both team captains were blindfolded. They had to arrange the letters and numbers into a four-worded phrase that related to the theme of the retreat. Once the team captain was sure of his/her phrase, he/she then turned to his/her team lined up behind him/her to tell what the phrase said. The message was then relayed to each team member (resembling the telephone game) until the last person who then reported the result.
According to retreat tradition, Saturday night ended with a Fall Festival party where campers came dressed in Fall Festival costumes. Campers and SSPs enjoyed a hayride to the Activity Building for the traditional Saturday Night Dance. We danced, played games, ate goodies into the night and had door prize drawings. There was a magnificent four-tiered cake that was made and donated by Clyde and Sharon Chapman. Each layer was a different flavor and it went fast. There was a Fall Festival Costume Contest, and Jerrye Ray (dressed as a fall tree) of Louisiana won first place with second place going to Tamra Cutrer (dressed as a scarecrow) of Louisiana .
On Sunday the Closing Ceremony took place with campers giving feedback on the retreat before everyone went home. Every SSP received an appreciation gift, a stuffed pumpkin with a small “Thank You” tag handmade by SSP Co-Coordinator, Jami Hollingsworth. Team A, led by Art Babin, won overall with the highest points for all the games and each team member was awarded a small Fall Festival wreath. Maria Garden of Louisiana won the “guess the weight of the big pumpkin” was awarded with beautiful gold leaf ornament.
Jackie Broussard from Louisiana Career Development Center for the Deaf and Deaf-Blind (LCDC) shared plans for the next DB retreat to be held in Louisiana in 2008. Next year will be LCDC's 10 th DB Retreat so the celebration theme will be ‘Kaleidoscope'. It will be held at the Acadian Baptist Center in Eunice , Louisiana on October, 16-19, 2008. A call for volunteer SSPs will be sent out during the summer 2008. If you would like to receive an application to work as an SSP or would like more information about the LCDC Retreat, contact Art Babin at email@example.com or Jackie Broussard at firstname.lastname@example.org.