Being legally blind with extremely limited sight was not an impediment for one enthusiastic and athletically inclined youngster this summer at Camp B’nai Brith of Ottawa.
When the doctor told Michelle Pulvermacher and Michael Fathi that their son, Brandon Fathi – just a few months old at the time – was legally blind, Pulvermacher had no idea what lay ahead. One thing was certain, though, she didn’t expect to ever see her son water-skiing.
Brandon, one of three triplets, was born weighing just two pounds and 14 ounces and had retinopathy of prematurity, which required laser surgery. Scar tissue from the surgery left him legally blind, with Brandon only being able to see out of a small hole in the corner of his eyes. Pulvermacher compares this to looking through a “permanently broken windshield.”
Now nine years old and about to start Grade 5 at the Ottawa Jewish Community School (OJCS), Brandon attended Camp B’nai Brith of Ottawa (CBB) for the first time this summer and participated in activities his mother never thought possible.
According to CBB Assistant Director Cindy Benedek, Brandon didn’t just grow, he thrived, at camp.
At CBB, Brandon made numerous friends, with many affectionately referring to him as “The Great Brandini” and “Raisin Bran.” His A-Boy cabin-mates often vied for Brandon’s attention to play cards or catch with them.
Despite being legally blind, Brandon enjoys playing sports and keeping active. His favourite sport to play is basketball and he can throw a perfect spiral in football. During a game of kickball during this reporter’s visit to CBB, Brandon effortlessly got himself onto first base. But his most unexpected and spectacular accomplishment at CBB was water-skiing.
Brandon could be seen beaming from ear to ear as the staff cheered him on as he smoothly glided over the waves.
“The waves go over your head and it’s just so cool,” Brandon said excitedly.
His counsellor, Daniel Marrache, says Brandon’s positive attitude is incredibly inspiring.
“He’s an amazing kid, and I absolutely adore him,” Marrache said. “It’s really a gift to have his mentality … where you do anything you put your mind to and you just have fun with it.”
These sentiments were echoed by Cody Miller, another of Brandon’s counsellors.
“Brandon always has a positive attitude and is always eager to try new things, and I know that his incredible outlook on life has touched all of us here at CBB,” Miller said.
Benedek says that providing kids like Brandon with magical summer experiences is what CBB is all about.
“Our goal as a camp is to have children experience a wide variety of new activities, and to be able to give that to a child like Brandon is absolutely incredible,” Benedek said. “It’s been truly a pleasure watching Brandon experience so many different things for the first time and it really gives us a lot of pride that our staff took the time and energy to really give him the summer of a lifetime.”
Pulvermacher, who attended CBB herself as a youth, said she always wanted Brandon to have the same amazing experience she did, so when he asked to go to camp with his friends from OJCS, she knew CBB would take good care of him.
“I like it a lot at CBB,” said Brandon. “Everyone treats me so nicely.”
Brandon says he’s eager to return to CBB next year.
And, still eager to keep active after his return from CBB, Brandon also participated in the Soloway Jewish Community Centre’s Travelling Sports Day Camp this summer – again proving there was no holding him back from any activity he wanted to pursue.