When it comes to cords of the outdoor type, St. Louis teenager Jordan Ingrham will take a bow string over a fishing line any day.
“She loved archery,” said her father, Bill Ingrham, of his daughter’s first camping experience. “She would miss out on fishing to do the archery because she loved it so much.”
While her preference for archery over angling is nothing unique — there are many who would rather loose an arrow than cast a line — the route she took to know the difference and form that opinion was.
As a child with bilateral significant hearing loss, or deafness, Jordan’s opportunities to learn about and participate in outdoor activities like archery and fishing had been limited. That changed after her father learned about MDC’s Family Outdoor Skills Camp for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children.
To put on the event and meet the needs of participants, MDC staff and volunteers coordinate with the Missouri School for the Deaf, Missouri Conservation Agents Association, Boy Scouts of America, United Bowhunters of Missouri, and Compton Traditional Bowhunters.
More Than Outdoor Skills
Beyond learning the new outdoor skills, it has been Jordan’s interaction with other children with similar challenges, which began with her first camp when she was 6, that provides the biggest benefit, Ingrham said.
“We were just exuberant,” he said. “To have my daughter be able to meet other kids like her from other places and expand her horizons and her group of friends, that was just priceless. My daughter’s made friends with people in Kansas City and other places, and it’s really pretty cool to show her that there are other kids out there like her.”
Not only did she make friends, but Jordan, now 14, also saw role models in the adult staff who volunteer at the camp, he said.
“This gives her an opportunity to really get out there and meet successful, deaf adults, professional interpreters, people who volunteer their time and their resources to help these kids realize that there’s somebody out there who cares about them, and there’s other people out there like them.”
And the benefits do not end with the camp’s target audience. In addition to participating in all of the outdoor activities, siblings and parents also benefit from the social interactions the camp allows. Jordan’s brother, Jacob, now 11, has been attending the camp with his family since he was 4, Ingrham said.
“My son is hearing, so he’s become an interpreter whether he likes it or not — so you want to be fair to him as well — and let him know there are other families out there that are like ours, and we’re not different, we’re part of something,” he said.
And for the parents, the camp provides a network of other parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing, Holden said.
“The parents really like it for the networking,” she said. “They get to see what other families are doing, how they’re handling the kids. If there’s any issues, problems, they can talk through it. They make good friends.”
Now in its 18th year, the Family Outdoor Skills Camp for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children is the result of a series of encounters between now-retired Miller County Conservation Agent Dennis Garrison and members of the deaf community.
“I guess with the close proximity to the Missouri School for the Deaf, I started encountering a lot of deaf people in the field,” Garrison said.
Frustrated by his limited ability to communicate with members of the deaf community, he sought help from the Missouri School for the Deaf, located in nearby Fulton. It was in those meetings he realized the school’s students resided on campus, away from their families, which crystallized for him that any outdoor outreach should focus on children and families.
Within six months of getting the initial approval for the event, Garrison was welcoming deaf and hard of hearing children and their families to his first camp, held in 2002 at Lake of the Ozarks State Park. When he was transferred to St. Clair County in 2004, the event moved with him to the Boy Scout camp in Osceola and has since grown to the point that attendance is now limited to 200 campers, according to Holden.
“At that time, we had maybe 30 people attending,” she said of the first events. “Now we have to put a cap on the camp just because the Boy Scout camp doesn’t have enough cabin space in the area we use.”
The 2019 Family Outdoor Skills Camp for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children will be July 27–28. There is a $30 registration fee per family of six and interested families should call or email Holden at 417-532-7904 ext. 6341 or Tisha.Holden@mdc.mo.gov.
A Whirlwind Weekend
The Ingrhams — Bill, his wife, Jodie, Jordan, and Jacob — plan to make the 3½-hour drive to Osceola once again this summer for another “whirlwind weekend,” their ninth since that first camp when Jordan was 6. The travel, the heat of summer, and the long days are a small price to pay when it’s all over, he said.
“You go home, and you’re not showered, and you’re tired, but it’s worth it,” he said. “Every year is worth it.”