Camp Smile is a New York certified summer day camp for children who are blind or visually challenged. The project is sponsored and financially underwritten by the Webster Lions Club, NY, District 20-E1. The camp annually hosts an average of 50 children ages' 5-21, as is certified by the New York State Department of Health.
The idea for a summer camp was conceived in 1972. Approved unanimously by the Board of Directors, the first camp was opened that summer after a steering committee had been appointed to establish guidelines.
A director and assistant director oversee every aspect of the operation of the camp. Their responsibilities include hiring volunteer teenage counselors, setting up activity schedules, corresponding with parents and properly completing and filing medical histories and family records which must accompany each camper and counselor.
The counselors are recruited locally and screened carefully. They are briefed thoroughly before camp opens and are made aware of the individual and group problems to which they must be alert and sensitive. The camp enjoys a 1 to 1 ratio of volunteer counselors to campers. Often a CIT (counselor in training), is paired with an experienced counselor allowing for a unique 2 to 1 ratio.
The primary purpose of Camp Smile is to provide real-life opportunities not otherwise available to the blind. The ultimate goal is to encourage each child to be independent, to experiment, to feel and sense things that for many of them occur for the first time at this camp. Although supervision is constant and help is nearby, each child is given a chance to succeed and fail with everyday problems with a minimum of interference.