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Why CNIB Lake Joe? Meet the Van Dyk family

By Michelle Van Dyk

It was five years ago, right here at CNIB Lake Joe, that my daughter said to me, ‘Mom, I have found my people.' At that moment, I knew that we were going to be okay. 

Photo of Michelle (left) and daughter Emma (right).Before coming to CNIB Lake Joe, Emma had never really met other people like her. She thought she was the only kid with vision loss. We were fairly broken and discouraged when we arrived at CNIB Lake Joe for the first time. That quickly changed. Upon arrival, we were given a tour by someone with sight loss. Later, we noticed a person who was blind teaching a yoga class. We could not believe this magical place existed! 

Later, a camp counsellor, who was surrounded by kids, rolled a big 1-foot by 1-foot dice on the grass. When it finished rolling, he leaned towards the ground, his body almost folded in half to about an inch from the dice to see it. Then, he stood back up and yelled one. Emma looked up at me with the biggest smile and a sparkle in her eyes and said, “Mom, I have found my people.”

That moment, and the look on her face will never be erased from my mind. It was a pivotal life-changing moment in her life. At 12-years-old, when Emma said she found her people, she didn't mean people who are blind or partially sighted; she meant confident, determined, independent, positive and successful people. Since then, we've met many people and done fantastic things that we would never have experienced without this journey.

Knowing and seeing people overcome the same challenges creates an "if they can do it, then so can I" attitude, and that is what you will find at CNIB Lake Joe. And, what everyone learns at CNIB Lake Joe is transformative. Campers bring the skills and confidence they've acquired back to their communities.

I can't express how much CNIB Lake Joe means to us and so many others. It is a place to reconnect with others and reaffirm that anything is possible. CNIB Lake Joe gave my daughter, Emma, the confidence to truly believe she can accomplish anything...and I'm so proud of her.  

We will continue to advocate, smash barriers and change what it is to be blind today.