Hindered by a speech impediment, Esai Mora struggles to be understood. But there’s one word that he takes extra care to pronounce: “independent.”
Independence may be the most important aspect of his experience at Camp Bloomfield, a program run by Junior Blind of America for vision-impaired or multi-disabled youth and their families.
When asked to tell the date camp starts, Esai responds without hesitation: “June 22nd.”
The 13-year-old is eager to return to Camp Bloomfield, located in Malibu’s Santa Monica Mountains 50 miles from his Compton home. Esai enjoys challenges, and this year aims to master the climbing wall in addition to revisiting activities from last year’s camp, such as swimming, hiking and horseback riding.
These typical camp activities might be second nature to other boys, but Esai’s multiple medical conditions make physical endeavors challenging. Since age 7, his vision has been gravely impaired from optic nerve atrophy; some days he can’t see at all. He also contends with severe hearing loss that doctors have treated by implanting an electronic device in his left ear and by wearing a hearing aid in the right. Yet another challenge is leg weakness caused by a neurological disorder, for which he wears braces around his ankles and calves.
His parents, Esmeralda and Juan Mora, began attending Camp Bloomfield’s family sessions four years ago. Last year, Esai attended camp alone, a major accomplishment. As Frank Cardenas, director of recreation for Junior Blind of America, puts it, “Going to camp is a big leap. It’s a big win-win just showing up on the first day.”
This year, Esai will attend three camp sessions. His sisters, ages 8 and 11, will participate, acting as buddies for those who can’t see. More than 1,000 campers will visit Camp Bloomfield this summer.
Camille Wheatley, communications manager for Junior Blind of America, says, “Each year is always something new. Camp is a huge boost to their confidence and they want to continue to build on that.”
Esmeralda says Esai’s independence grows by assisting others and sharing his experiences. She says, “There’s strength in one another.”
With $1.6 million raised last year by the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign, about 6,500 children will go to camp in Southern California this summer.
The Summer Camp Campaign is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a McCormick Foundation fund, which matches all donations at 50 cents on the dollar.
Donations are tax-deductible as permitted by law. Addresses will not be released or published. Mail donations using the attached form (do not send cash), donate by phone at (800) 518-3975 or donate online at latimes.com/donate.