ADBC'S FIRST DEAF-BLIND RETREAT
By Art Babin and Carel Dunaway
The Arkansas Deaf-Blind Community (ADBC) hosted the first-ever 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 20-23, 2005. Twenty-five deaf-blind individuals and approximately 50 Support Service Providers (SSPs) attended from Arkansas and Louisiana . Some SSPs also came from Texas , Florida , Pennsylvania and Minnesota . Some of the SSPs were students in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (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.
Art Babin, who is deaf-blind, was the chairperson of the retreat. He and his committee, consisting of Carel Dunaway, Betty Babin, Carolyn Jolley, Jami Hollingsworth, Holly Beth Smith and Brittney Bolin, worked hard planning for this retreat for almost a year. All of their hard work paid off because the retreat was a BIG success and was enjoyed by everyone. The theme of the retreat was “The Hillbillies.” On the first day of the retreat Art was really worried and nervous about the outcome of the retreat. He was told by several people, “Chill out, Art, everything will be fine!”
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 deaf-blind individuals CAN do.
For the past five years some of the members of the Arkansas Deaf-Blind Community (ADBC) have attended an annual retreat hosted by the Louisiana Career Development Center for the Deaf and Deaf-Blind (LCDC) held at Maryhill Renewal Center in Pineville , Louisiana . Over the past few years attendees at these retreats indicated a desire to attend a retreat in Arkansas . Finally in 2004, Art Babin started investigating possible venues for a retreat and found Ferncliff Camp to be the most likely place to host such an event. After months of planning, the first ever retreat was a success and subsequently, LCDC and ADBC have agreed to host retreats on alternate years.
The retreat kicked off Thursday evening with an Opening Ceremony consisting of an orientation to the campgrounds and camp schedule of activities followed by an ice breaker game organized by Betty Babin. On Friday, there was a crafts class at which DB campers made Christmas sled ornaments out of popsicle sticks. The highlight of the weekend; however, was the Hillbilly Horseshoe tournament. DB campers were organized into teams of two, one male and one female to each team. The horseshoes were actually toilet seats instead of the traditional horseshoes. First place winners received the seats painted in gold with their names, and second place winners received toilet seat horseshoes painted silver. Mary Ann Pippins and Jude Lanclos from Louisiana were the overall tournament winners. Art Babin from Arkansas and Linda Hebert of Louisiana took Silver (2 nd place). Some of the games played throughout the retreat were a sack race, a race where the contestant carried a water balloon on a spoon, and a competition for shaving a balloon the fastest. Friday afternoon there were a couple of games called ‘Sniff and Guess' and ‘Touch and Guess.' During these games, DB campers were blindfolded and they either smelled or touched various items in paper bags. Dwayne Pope of Arkansas won the ‘Touch and Guess' game, and Nancy Perry of Louisiana won the ‘Sniff and Guess' game by having correctly identified the most items in the game.
On Saturday morning we went on an educational field trip to President Clinton Library and Museum in the River Market district downtown Little Rock . After touring the library, everyone got a chance to browse around and make purchases at the Farmer's Market. Upon returning to Ferncliff Camp, lunch consisted of a cookout by the lake where everyone enjoyed a hamburger, hotdog, pork & beans, potato salad and delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies. After lunch, we had a group picture by the lake. The weather was absolutely perfect so some people rode in the paddleboats and canoes on the lake. There was also another craft class where the campers made another Christmas ornament. There were a few more water balloon games that afternoon as well. Saturday night everyone dressed up as hillbillies and enjoyed a hayride to the Activity Center for the traditional Saturday Night Dance. We danced, played games, ate goodies, danced more, and played more games into the night. There was also a Hillbilly Costume Contest. Betty Babin of Arkansas won the best dressed female hillbilly, and Scott Bass of Seattle (originally from Louisiana ) won the best dressed male hillbilly.
There was a Closing Ceremony with campers giving feedback on the retreat on Sunday morning before everyone went home. At this closing ceremony, Art Babin was presented with a wood plaque expressing appreciation for all of his hard work and devotion to make this retreat possible. He was also presented with a ‘Thank You' scrapbook where every camp participant wrote notes of thanks and signed their names to show their appreciation for a wonderful weekend. Every SSP received an appreciation gift, a crystallized Christmas ornament. Jackie Broussard from LCDC shared plans for the next DB retreat to be held in Louisiana in 2006. NOTE: it is going to be held at Acadian Baptist Center in Eunice , Louisiana on October, 26-29, 2006 so mark your calendar! A call for volunteer SSPs will be sent out during the summer 2006. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or Jackie Broussard at email@example.com.
The DB Retreats in Louisiana and Arkansas are merely for deaf-blind individuals from Louisiana and Arkansas only with a small exception for anyone outside these states. Most of the time people from other states coming to LCDC retreats are originally from Louisiana. A few also came from Texas. It may be a pipe dream for these retreats to become more of a growing regional retreat in the future.