Touch of a hand brings fairy tales alive


Nine-year-old Angela Moran's fingers told her the tale of the "Three Little Pigs" at the Enchanted Forest theme park in Ellicott City yesterday.

"The first house was made of straw," said the blind girl from Brandywine in Prince George's County, after kneeling down and patting each of three miniature houses, carefully enough not to get splinters but thoroughly enough to get a good feel.

"The second was made of sticks," she said. "And the third was bricks."

Angela was one of 13 visually impaired students who took a field trip to the theme park, part of a summer program sponsored by the nonprofit, Washington-based Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind.

And it was an exciting day at the old-fashioned, 6-acre theme park, which features statues of fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters.

"We went to Goldilocks and the Three Bears' house and we went up and down the Old Woman and the Shoe," said Angela, after careful reflection. "I really like being here because it's special."

A fellow camper, 10-year-old Kelvin Johnson of Washington, was scared of the 6-foot-tall Ugly Duckling, a giant display of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale that sat near a moss-covered pond.

Kelvin, who has limited vision, refused to touch it, afraid that the duckling's orange beak would open up and take hold of his small hand.

"Tell him to close his mouth," he said to his 16-year-old guide, Mariko Sanchanta, of Great Falls, Virginia.

"He can't close his mouth," Mariko said.

Instead, Kelvin held Mariko's hand and moved it around as she ran her hand over the shape of the duckling's beak and its smooth, round head.

All of the Columbia Lighthouse's campers are legally blind, meaning that they have 20/200 vision or worse. Some have peripheral vision and can see only through the corners of their eyes, while others have tunnel vision -- they can see only a tiny circle of light.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for these children," said Roz Barrett, director of the summer program. "They have the chance of seeing nursery rhymes come to life -- climbing the Old Woman's shoe, the general experience of being out and doing something new. It's really a nice experience."

Yesterday was the second day of the free, three-week camp, based at the Gallaudet University in Washington, which is mainly for the deaf. The camp provides games, Braille instruction and other recreational activities for nearly 30 blind and visually impaired students, mainly from Prince George's County.

The campers took advantage of every attraction at the Enchanted Forest, from the Sleeping Beauty castle to Willie the Whale, a blue animal with a huge mouth in which children can sit and push a button to make the whale laugh hysterically.

Nine-year-old Charles Williams of Laurel, who wore lenses 2 centimeters thick, was having a grand time scrambling up a 6-foot Easter egg, painted brown with yellow and purple tulip decorations.

"I claim this top of the Easter Bunny territory," he hollered as he straddled the front of the egg.

The field trip was the brainchild of Will Mincey, who teaches Braille at the camp. He wanted to plan a field trip where visually impaired students could explore by touching and feeling. The Enchanted Forest was the perfect place.

"We're here to have a good time," he said.

Campers found their footing to climb Jack's beanstalk, sit on Little Boy Blue's haystack and pull a rope to ring the bell of the Little Red School House. They tiptoed carefully on the London Bridge balance beam, and they scrambled all over the house of the Old Woman in the Shoe, groping their way up stairs, peeking out windows and jumping down slides.

The Enchanted Forest "has lots of different things and it's fun," said 9-year-old Andrew Mayles of Upper Marlboro. "It is very pretty. It's very colorful. You might want to go out and take a look at it."

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