by Jane Flower, Youth Outreach Specialist at Guide Dogs for the Blind
While our primary guide dog programs serve adults, Guide Dogs for the Blind also seeks out ways to engage youth who are blind or visually impaired wherever possible. Our two programs, K9 Buddies and Camp GDB were developed to allow kids and their families to begin exploring the guide dog lifestyle at a young age.
At GDB, we believe that a dog can make a remarkable difference in any child’s life by fostering a sense of caring, companionship, and responsibility through the human/animal bond. Our K9 Buddy Program matches specially selected dogs to become wonderful pets and buddies to children and young adults who are blind or visually impaired and their families. A dog can contribute to the heightening of sensory development, motivating a child to learn and enhancing self-esteem. The K9 Buddy program connects the child/family with our community of puppy raisers and other supporters, including agencies and organizations for the blind. K9 Buddies are offered free of charge.
Please visit our K9 Buddy page for more information and to apply for the program.
Every environment contributes to a child’s development, from home to school to extracurricular activities. GDB’s summer camp program is no exception. Our camp features a week full of fun activities and an opportunity for hands on learning about the guide dog lifestyle. Camp GDB better prepares teens to enter a future partnership with a guide dog.
For some young people, Camp GDB may provide their first experience away from home and the opportunity to develop independence. Campers are encouraged to try new activities to help boost confidence, for example, walking with a guide dog in a harness for the first time. Some GDB campers also connect with other kids who are blind or visually impaired for the first time. Campers practice Orientation & Mobility skills and develop independent living skills while preparing snacks, pouring and measuring, practicing time management, and maintaining personal hygiene. Campers who are more independent with O&M and IL skills assist other campers, teaching empathy and compassion.
For more information about GDB’s youth programs, contact Jane Flower at [email protected]
Here’s a link to GDB’s youth page where you can view our virtual 2020 Camp GDB video: