By Debbie Rozear
Beginning in July of 2009, I ventured out of my comfort zone and attended my first ACB Convention. Right then and there I fell in love with this annual event. I have made many new friends over the years since that first excursion. I had never been off the east coast and had never traveled on my own before then. Now my guide dog and I travel to different states each year; taking in new experiences wherever we can.
This year I attended my seventh ACB Convention. It was a little different though from my previous experiences. It was the first time that I was traveling with a newer, much younger guide dog. Virgil is a golden retriever and is about two and a half years old. I had him just short of a year when we attended the convention in Dallas, Texas.
Another difference was that I took along my 11 year-old grandson. What a new experience for me! I enrolled him in the ACB program for children called “Kids Explorers Club.” I would describe the week as fun, joyful, busy, tiring, and frustrating.
Any ACB attendee can enroll their child, grandchild, niece, or nephew in this program so long as they are between the ages of 6 and 13. They are registered separately just as you and I would sign up and pay the registration fee. You pay for the days that they will be attending. Included in the daily registration fee are breakfast, lunch, and a snack along with daily activities such as games, crafts, swimming, and visits to local attractions. The cost was very reasonable and I would recommend it for anyone with youngsters. It could be an experience of a lifetime!
My grandson Christian learned many things including that grandma is not the only blind person in the world. He also learned that when ice skating you should listen to grandma when she says, “wear jeans today.” “Aren’t jean shorts the same as jeans?” ask Christian. He knows the answer now. He told me he got ice burns on his knees.
In addition to ice skating at the Galleria Ice Skating Center, Christian visited the Dallas Zoo and enjoyed a movie theater trip where wait staff took orders and served them in their seats. He went swimming every day and met friends. On July 4th, he got to see the fireworks up close and personal from our hotel room window. He said he loved it. There were no crowds, bugs, or heat to bother him. We happened to be on the side of the hotel that faced the fireworks. He said they were right in front of him. Christian also participated in the Brenda Dillon Memorial Walk and received a plaque for being the youngest walker. He helped other visually impaired adults find things, pressed elevator buttons, and helped pick up after dogs when we went to the dog relief area. He was a gem.
Shortly after we returned home, a friend of mine asked him what he did on his summer vacation. He said he went to Texas with Grandma and he might go with her next year. Hmmm, I don’t remember asking him about next year. This was a very special time for me. I got to recall what it was like to raise a child all over again. How did I raise 4 children on my own?
Christian lives about 40 minutes from my house and his mom brings him down to spend every other weekend with me. Christian’s dad was my son and he passed away about two and a half years ago, on Christian’s 9th birthday. So you see, I am blessed to have this young man in my life and happy that I can give him experiences that no other grandma can. I believe the bond between us grew much stronger during that one short week.