SOP Testimonials

Each year the students write about their experiences at the Summer Orientation Program. These are their writings about SOP 2018.


The staff and students are very friendly and helpful. I have enjoyed myself and learned how to understand my problem with my eyes. I am going blind. They have shown me how to cope with my problem To the Staff: you are all very appreciated for the help you provided me here. Thank You! Robert S.


For the second year of being with this program the instructors are 75% better overall than last year, and more patience than anyone can imagine. And I mean it!! The patience is unreal. I wish that the program could go for a third year instead of two. Because I feel that wasted my last year here. The food service to the students and staff is excellent! Dennis is a real plus to the program for all of his after hour activities that he does for the program and its students are above and beyond. I really will miss this program. Joe P.


Thanks to Mark O’Brien and Lindy Ballard for getting me to come here. Thank you to the staff and Jocelyn for your patience and the love you show us. Everybody has been wonderful! When I came here, I wasn’t sure about it – I was ready to walk out if I didn’t like the program. But it was so good that I never did. Thank you to the students, too. Everyone, staff and students, stepped up to help. The atmosphere here is so upbeat. People give encouragement when you’re down, then you want to give it back to others. It makes this a real community. I’ve learned a lot and everyone has been wonderful. I have become so much more confident. Thank you!! Brian F.


What I enjoyed most about the SOP is not only learning Braille and how to use my canes correctly but making what I hope to be life-long friends. Until the SOP I didn’t know anyone else who was blind. Now I have over 20 friends and a huge support group. Thank you so much for inviting me to the SOP. I will always have the SOP in my heart. Bless you all! Tonya M.

I came to SOP because I wanted to learn to compensate for the changes in my vision. I have also learned the friends I have made here broaden the vision of my life. Patricia A.


I came to the program because I knew there would be more activities for me to do. It would keep me busy and active. I really enjoyed the cooking class. The exercise class was also fun. I enjoyed the various assemblies. I enjoyed the outing to Eagle Mount Horse Center. I go to walk a lot. The staff were very interesting, positive and enthusiastic. I really enjoyed being with so many workers. Thank You. Richard T.


I enjoyed coming to the SOP to learn more about how to use my cane and feel more independent. I have made a lot of friends like me. Thanks to the instructors for helping me and putting up with me for four weeks. I recommend this program to anyone who has the ability to get here. Thank you so much for everything. Lloyd P.


From the many opportunities, I have been blessed with over the years some good some bad, but I always took the plunge. Coming here to this gathering was something I never thought I would ever need to consider. However, life throws you a curve once in a while that has unintended consequences of glory not retribution.

My wife, Melody a former social worker, Jerry and Jeff, the low vision folks, formed an invincible alliance to capture this reluctant warrior. I allude to situation because I had been in denial of having only a few challenges with my sight. However, in reality, my Macular Degeneration was endangering the entire driving and walking population. These three saboteurs were not to be going to be detoured. They in their own devious way sought to trap me into admitting I can’t see well. After I told Jeff and Jerry I could make cars disappear while driving by looking straight ahead rather than at an angle. At that moment, Melody laid down the law that I couldn’t drive any longer. The sentencing was quick and to the point, I had to stop driving! Jerry on the other had an even more devious weapon at his disposal. He had the infamous Big E eye chart which he placed on a pillar twenty feet away. At first, I cheated by using my peripheral vision to identify the third line on the chart. However, my assailant (Jerry) was not giving me any ground. He said I had to look directly at the chart. Oh no. I had been caught. I couldn’t even see the pillar the Big E chart was taped to. At this juncture, Jerry or Jeff indicated to me that I was probably legally blind. My heart fell to the floor, I was totally crushed. I was in definitely in denial. I was busted. I tried to find refuge but my adversaries found an application to attend this wonderful adventure, so the reluctant warrior is here learning, participating, and evolving.

I would like to deviate from my story of capture, judgement, and sentencing for a few lines of praising those who have made our days here very palatable. The staff has been wonderful. From the very moments of check-in, to meals, to trips off campus, to teaching valuable life lessons, our staff has given us knowledge, self-respect, and respect for others. I would especially like to recognize George the greatest O & M person of all times (in my humble opinion). Actually, to not embellish, or stretch the imagination, or create something from nothing, George seems to always be in the right place at the right time for me. He has carried my baggage, pushed me along long walks (a major feat), gave me helpful hints and solutions, and most of all gained my respect and admiration.

To the staff and all my fellow students, I will say “May the Force Be with You!” Ah, one more tidbit; if you ever want an insight to sight always look to the HEART. James M.


Last year, it was exercise that kept me at SOP; this year exercise brought me back! I loved every minute of our dance with gravity. Many thanks to all the SOP Hoppers who sweated and tugged and ached alongside with me.

Thanks, Jackie for understanding Usher’s Syndrome and mobility. I am not a superb traveler yet, but I am a much better one. Judy, your empathy is amazing; Lindy, your sense of humor carried the cookies; and Sharon, I truly loved the total experiment! Leif thanks for being able to do what you do in spite of the Three Musketeers! My O&M repeatedly told me to never walk backwards. May we all take her advice as we journey fourth. Optima Futura – the best is yet to be. Love and thanks to all! Patty, Jocelyn, and Rhonda, etc., you are too awesome for words! Sharon S.


Being here 10 years ago and coming back, I was surprised to see what this program has become. I learned new and improved things. I have met yet another group of friendly people. With that, all I can say is the staff was wonderful and you students, too. No matter what you can still see in the world, there is always a better way. Never say never because you never know what’s around the corner. Thank you everyone. I wish you the best for your future. Debra B.


This year at the SOP I have learned how to work with others while at the same time learning to be independent. I want to thank all of the teachers for their time and motivation. I would like to thank the students for sharing their stories and heartbreaks to let me know that I am not alone, and that there are others experiencing the same things I am dealing with. I am thankful for this camp. Heidi J.


The SOP was a real eye opener for me. It helped me to realize how blessed I was. It also gave me the understanding of what a totally blind person has to go through. This program has helped me to be more understanding of a blind person’s handicaps. How can I help? There is a big old combination of things: One being what a blind person has to do to cope with everything. Two being their capacity to learn how to cope. Three being how to take what they have learned into their daily lives. The staff at sop have always been considerate, understanding and knowledgeable in how to help the students. One day at night my roommate had to wake me up because he could not plug in his fan. He tried and tried but to no avail. I told him you should have gotten me up quicker, You would not have been so frustrated. I plugged his fan in for him and it worked just fine. He was very grateful! I really enjoyed cooking! I helped measure and put the correct ingredients in their bowls. They did the mixing and I did the pouring. It’s handy to have some sight to turn the ovens on and also to be able to turn the ovens off. I really enjoyed the outing to Eagle Mount Horse Center. Jenny, the trainer followed the directions of a Horse Whisperer, named Buck. She was able to train the horse without being abusive to the horse, in return the horse did whatever she wanted her to do. Anybody that comes to the SOP will leave with a life being more enriched. They will have gained the skills to make their lives fuller and happier. That includes myself. I have looked for ways to help other. It was easy to find ways to do that every day. I am very blessed because I have been to SOP. May God Bless them all for the compassion and understanding they have displayed to all the students. With appreciation, Alan D.


My favorite experience here at camp was the Microsoft guys.
I like making my mom’s cribbage board in woodshop. I liked the pasties we had for dinner. I liked the play we went to. I liked doing the cribbage tournament. I liked making popcorn balls in cooking class. I liked the trial fire drill we had an ADL. I like all the talks we had in discussion class. Adriana H.


I will be happy to learn more about my life in the world as I better myself in all. I have faith in my ways, okay. School is awesome this year and I will be okay. I love you all very much and goodbye. From my heart, I love you, good bye. P.S. Have fun! Zach S.


Attending the 2018 Summer Orientation Program here in Helena has been a wonderful experience. I appreciate Leif demonstrating some new technologies such as the Sunu band watch and allowing me to test it down the hallway it was a lot of fun. I have thoroughly enjoyed building my fruit bowl from scratch with the help of Mr. Pierce from over at capital high. Working on improving my mobility skills with cane traveling has been one of my favorite skills to work on. I am very grateful to receive training from the most experienced O and M instructor I have met to date. Thanks for all your support and guidance George. Finally, I am most proud of and happy that I have been able to focus in on my vocational goals of becoming an AT [accessibility technology] specialist. Jerry has been very helpful in pointing me in the right direction to move forward with this goal. I think my favorite part of the entire SOP was meeting all the interesting and wonderful people that I will most likely have friendships and bonds with for life. Thanks Eric and staff for being wonderful hosts and making sure I had more than enough to eat at all times. Thanks to Dennis and all the volunteers for their patience and their help during the SOP. Zachary H.


I have enjoyed meeting all the new people that have vision loss like me. I loved sewing class. I was able to make projects like: a pillowcase, painted two picture frames, a bracelet and a birdhouse. I loved cooking class as well. I helped to make cookies and granola; just to name a couple of things.

I made a lot of friends and got along with everyone. I attended a play with my friend Jim B. I had a great time with all the activities we got to go on.

The staff was great, especially my roommate and my O&M specialist. I do appreciate this experience very much. I hope to get to come back sometime. Susan S.


Hope, Confidence, motivation – these feelings replaced anger, fear and uncertainty once I spent one month at the SOP. Now I can say that I can, and I will! The staff at the SOP are all so positive and energetic and it rubs off on me. No more “poor me,” now it is “get with it” and enjoy life as it is. The SOP has shown me possibilities not impossibilities. I now know that I can thrive as a low-vision person. I appreciate and thank all of the staff and fellow students for their help and caring during these 4 weeks. Love always, Gary G.


I came to SOP hoping to learn ways to get around. I wanted to learn ways to get me more freedom. Kitty S.


The program for visually impaired and blind persons have opened my eyes to how much they really need. I’m really glad to see the MAB and the Veterans Administration working together on these problems. I was referred here by the VA, and this has been a big help to me. Smokey G.


Wow! I am very honored to attend this Summer Orientation Program. What a great opportunity to network with visually impaired and blind students and staff. This fun and educational 4-week course has dramatically improved my life. Way to go! Thank you. Jamey C.