[tabi] 2 articles & videos: Lighthouse of the Big Bend Transition Students Swim with Dolphins yesterday!

  • From: Lighthouse of the Big Bend <lighthousebigbend@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: tabi <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, fcb-l <fcb-l@xxxxxxx>, nfb-announce-request@xxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 3 Aug 2010 17:04:15 -0400

Hi everyone!
Thought you might be interested - the Lighthouse of the Big Bend Summer
Transition Students were able to experience swimming with dolphins yesterday
as a part of their end-of-the-year trip. Very fun to watch them interact
with these amazing creatures : ) Articles are below, and click on the links
to see the videos. Enjoy! - Barbara

 *Visually impaired kids get a chance to swim with dolphins*

August 03, 2010 06:17:00 AM

PANAMA CITY BEACH — A group of visually-impaired teenagers got the unique
opportunity to swim with a dolphin at Gulf World Marine Park on Monday.

Breonna Willis, 17, and Chance Jackson, 14, two of the 13 person group and
both Tallahassee residents said being up close to a dolphin was a new
experience for them.

“At first I was scared, but you never get a chance to [swim with them] so I
got over my fear and I’m glad I did,” said Willis, who wants to major in
psychology and become a therapist.

Jackson, who aspires to be a business entrepreneur, has gotten a lot of
useful experience by participating in a high school transition summer
program at the Lighthouse of the Big Bend. Big Bend brought the group to
Gulf World.

“We learn different skills like how to budget money, learning about
different jobs, how to dress appropriately,” he said.

Jackson was born with optic nerve hypoplasia, is unable to see out of his
left eye and has minimal sight in his right eye. He related his experiences
with visual impairment to those of a dolphin using echolocation to maneuver
through water. “People with visual impairments can have a heightened sense
of everything else, so we can have an idea of how it is for them to not have
a sense that we don’t have either, so we have to adapt and they have adapted
too,” he said.

The participants were happy about bonding with each other during the last
week of the summer program.

“When we’re in a big group like this we’ve got to learn how to get along,
said Willis. “We do bump heads, but we’re like a big family.”

Lighthouse of the Big Bend, a nonprofit agency which provides free outreach
and group services to legally blind individuals residing in one of the
eleven Big Bend counties which includes Franklin, Gadsden and Liberty
counties. All participants in the high school program are between the ages
of 14-20.

“We have a large variety of students we serve,” said Amanda Bernath, teacher
of the visually impaired at the Lighthouse of the Big Bend.

Bernath, who is proficient in Braille, was inspired to pursue teaching the
visually impaired by chance during her college career. “I decided to do
elementary education as my major and the school sent different
representatives to our education learning dorm, one of them Brailled our

The chance to swim with dolphins during the last week of the summer program
was a reward for the hardest working students. “They worked to get points
and develop different daily living skills or assisted technology skills,”
said Bernath. “They worked hard for this.”

Although Gulf World offers a daily reservation-only opportunity to swim with
dolphins, this was the first time they had hosted an event for a nonprofit
benefiting individuals with special needs.

Pam George, marketing director for Gulf World said the experience may lead
to reaching out to other organizations for future events.

“The group is wonderful,” said George. “What do you do if you lose your
vision? It’s a panic, so I can totally understand why you would need a
support group like this.”

For more information about the Lighthouse of the Big Bend, visit


*Gulf World Hosts Visually Impaired Students*
08/02/10 - 09:14 PM

*Bay County**, Fla**: *

Gulf World hosts several opportunities to swim with dolphins, but a special
group of blind and visually impaired students got the experience of a
lifetime today.

The group is Lighthouse of the Big Bend, a non-profit organization from
Tallahassee. The group works with special needs children through age 20 to
provide life skills. For many of those students today, meeting dolphins
face-to-face was the chance of a lifetime.

Swimming with dolphins isn’t an experience many enjoy during the course of a
lifetime.  That’s why this group of visually impaired and blind students out
of Tallahassee are soaking up every detail.

One of the directors, Amanda Bernath, describes the group chosen to attend,
“This is our transition group. We’re ages 14-20 so they’re transitioning
from high school to the next phase in life whether it’s college or career.”

Bernath says that the field trip to Gulf World to swim with the dolphins has
a specific purpose.

“I am so thrilled for these students. It really is once-in-a-lifetime for
them, unparalleled concept development that they were able to experience.
Such a large mammal in front of them. They got to touch the belly, touch the
back, touch the fins…how powerful they were with the swim. That’s not
something that you can describe accurately in words.”

Students with the group stood amazed as they got to interact with the
dolphins. One student, Michael Fleming, describes his experience, “my
favorite part was swimming with her and touching her…to feel how it is to
feel a dolphin.”

Fleming says the experience was more than he could have imagined after
learning about dolphins in a classroom.  “I think it was pretty awesome
because I learned more today than what we actually learned at
lighthouse…stuff that I never knew about dolphins.”

The group will return to Tallahassee on Thursday with a new learning
experience and plenty of memories. They’d like to thank Gulf World for
hosting them today.

Lighthouse of the Big Bend
“*Guiding People Through Vision Loss*”

**3071 **Highland Oaks Terrace**
**Tallahassee, FL 32301**
(850) 942-3658 x 201
Fax: (850) 943-4518


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