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Rotary, Lighthouse to host boat excursion

By Staff | May 3, 2018

When your vision is impaired, sometimes the options for recreation are limited.

However, the Rotary Club of Cape Coral is going to remove one of those hurdles to give some local residents an opportunity they may not have otherwise had.

Rotary will partner with Lighthouse of SWFL to offer Lighthouse clients who are blind or have vision impairment, the opportunity to experience the open waters.

Forty clients, along with guides, will meet at Tarpon Point Marina on Saturday at 9 a.m., where they will be given a two-hour boat ride on the Caloosahatchee River and Gulf of Mexico by Rotary volunteer boat captains.

The Rotary and Lighthouse of SWFL has done this event for 15 years, but their partnership dates back even further when the Rotary volunteered to do building maintenance for them, according to event co-chair Steve Pansing.

“It evolved from work things to social, fun things. This event serves the purpose of giving Lighthouse clients an opportunity to be on the water,” Pansing said.

The partnership provides a sensory exploration experence, giving those who are blind or have visually impairment a new type of feeling, enjoying an experience that is different from the way those with sight do.

“Clients get to experience many of the things we teach in classes like orientation and mobility,” said Amy Turner, community relations coordinator with Lighthouse of SWFL. “They can go out and live, work and lay independently.”

Pansing said an experience with Lighthouse clients a few years ago helped put the event into perspective.

“It was the first time they had the opportunity to go by boat under the Sanibel Bridge. It shows how fortunate we are and what we get to do on a regular basis,” Pansing said. “It’s a niche we discovered to help people that way.”

Turner said the events lets clients go out with confidence and conquer any fears and to appreciate the water in a different way.

“They’re feeling it, they’re experiencing it. They’re just doing it without sight. While we get to immediately experience the blue waters of the gulf, they’re doing it at a heightened sense of awareness,” Turner said. “They hear it and smell it and experiencing it.”

Sandy Burke, a former Lighthouse client, went on a previous trip and shared her experiences of boating without sight.

“I get to feel the breeze through my hair, the salty sea spray on my face, and the sounds of playful dolphins near the boats, things that sighted people might take for granted,” Burke said.

In return, Lighthouse has invited Rotary members to its annual dinner, where all the food is served in the dark and blindfolded.

Rotary is an organization of business, professional and community leaders who provide humanitarian services, encourage high ethical standards, and help build goodwill and peace in the community and the world.

Lighthouse of SWFL is a 501(c)3 non-profit, vision rehabilitation agency serving Lee, Glades, and Hendry counties. Its mission is to enable all people living with a visual impairment or blindness to remain independent, active and productive. Lighthouse of SWFL is a United Way partner that is partially funded by the Division of Blind Services, the Lee County government and other private donors.

For more information, visit

www.lighthouseswfl.org or call 997-7797.