Lion Barb Ennis grew up in Toronto close to CNIB's head office, and every day she saw people with white canes and guide dogs travelling to and from CNIB. And every summer, her family went to their cottage in Muskoka where her mom, a relief nurse at CNIB Lake Joe, would take her along. Barb remembers running up and down the boardwalk at camp, dodging groups of people having fun.
After finishing university in 1981, Barb accepted a job at CNIB Lake Joe to support onsite and offsite program activities.
"I thought I had died and gone to heaven,” Barb exclaimed. “I taught people to sail and water ski. People were at Lake Joe to have a good time, and I made sure they had fun.”
When an opportunity arose to observe a camper learning orientation and mobility skills, including how to manoeuvre a 4-way traffic stop, Barb recalls thinking, “This is it! This is what I want to do for my career.”
Anyone who knows Barb knows that when she puts her mind to something, she succeeds. In 1985, Barb became an Orientation & Mobility (O&M) Specialist, teaching people with sight loss how to travel safely and independently. At CNIB, she pursued her passion to change the lives of countless people who are blind and partially sighted until her retirement in 2013.
It was also at CNIB that Barb recognized the power of community service through the Lions. As a sighted guide at Lions functions, she was often invited to speak about the O&M Specialist role. While passionate about her work, Barb did not like public speaking. She remembers standing up to start her first presentation when someone shouted from the back of the room, “Stand up, we can’t see you!” Being petite and quick on her feet, she jumped on a chair and delivered her presentation, winning the crowd over. “From that day forward, I haven’t been afraid to give presentations,” Barb shared.
Barb became a Lion in 2001 when she started to date her soon-to-be husband, Lion Dave Hewitt. She has been active for 20 years, becoming the District Governor for A12 and overseeing a wide range of portfolios, including a role on the CNIB/MDA Committee over the past five years.
“I’m really proud of Lake Joe,” says Barb. "It's a beautiful spot where people who are blind or partially sighted can feel safe, enjoy themselves, and learn new skills. My experiences at Lake Joe helped form who I am, and I want Lake Joe to succeed and continue for at least another 60 years. I encourage my fellow Lions to join my Club and me in supporting the CNIB Lake Joe 60th Anniversary Campaign."
For campers, CNIB Lake Joe brings joy and builds independence.
“When people feel good about their accomplishments,” Barb explains, “it lays the groundwork for increased confidence. CNIB Lake Joe is a magical place. It’s a place where dreams come true!"