Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education

In October MAEOE awarded our Executive Director, Gwen Botting, with a recognition award for her outstanding work with OUB and the kids that attend our camps. Here is the introduction for Gwen given at the ceremony, followed by a personal statement by Gwen.

When I think of a superhero I think of someone who is a champion for good, wants to provide opportunities for all, and wears a cape! Gwen Botting is an environmental education superhero for children and young adults who are blind or have low vision.

Gwen is the Executive Director of Opportunities Unlimited for the Blind (OUB), an organization whose mission is to “build life skills, confidence, and independence for children and young adults who are blind or have low vision.” Gwen has held the executive director position since 2013, but has been involved with OUB for over two decades.

Gwen became involved with OUB when her son, Greg (an Alma College graduate–Go Scots), who is blind was two years old. She has served OUB in many capacities including as a volunteer, board member, and camp director of activities. She was instrumental in starting the organizations’ gardening and cooking classes. She has also published a guide to “help camps not targeting campers with blindness or low vision, better provide a great camp experience”

Gwen’s energy, dedication and vision for OUB has paid off. OUB provides 5-7 weeks of summer camps each year for visually impaired children and young adults.

I would like to share a few quotes from campers and staff, that I found on the OUB website, that are evidence of Gwen’s hard work and vision….

“Thanks OUB for teaching me to make a campfire and cook. Now when my family goes camping, I’ll make the campfire!” Camper, age 12

“With OUB staff giving me the opportunity this summer to help cook for everyone, I learned that I love cooking for large groups and learned that I’m a good leader. Thanks OUB, for giving me the opportunity to help cook.” Camper, age 15

“Always room for laughs, smiles, and opportunities to strengthen each other as people, and as individuals.” Staff member

Gwen’s influence reaches beyond OUB. Maureen Stine, a Certified Heritage Interpreter, who nominated Gwen for the MAEOE Recognition Award, reached out to her seeking new experiences and challenges with her own skills in interpretation. Gwen worked with Maureen to create a week long outdoor camping experience in Cheboygan County for 20 blind and visually-impaired campers. The campers’ adventures included forest hikes, stream studies, canoe float trips, and camping under the stars! Gwen and Maureen have teamed up for additional programs with campers including a Wheels to Woods grant, in partnership with the DNR, American Forest Foundation of Michigan, and Michigan Tree Farm Program, that took campers on a week long float adventure on the Pine River.

I want to share a quote from Gwen, “children who are blind deserve the chance to interact with the natural world just as much as any other child and they are worth the extra effort on our part to make that happen!”

Gwen’s energy in supporting environmental education for children and young adults who are blind or have low vision is amazing! She is a true inspiration and champion. She is a superhero, (we will just need to find her that cape). She is so deserving of the 2017 MAEOE Recognition Award!

A personal statement from Gwen:

I am so honored to have received this award, but really it is a team award!  Thank you to all our staff, past and present, who have believed in what we do and made it possible for our campers who are also blind or low vision to experience the natural world in a way that is accessible to them! From working in our camp garden to surviving a wild thunderstorm, you make it possible for our campers to have the best possible interaction with nature and with each other!