In 1963, a facility for holding recreational camps and independent living skills training was opened on Bowen Island, with the goal of providing a retreat for visually impaired and blind British Columbians in the summer and independent living skills training in the winter. The property was owned and operated by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB).
Throughout the years, the camps underwent many revisions and grew tremendously. Programs were established for various age groups and included instruction in many diverse topics, such as independent living skills, technology, recreation, music and literacy.
In 2009, CNIB announced its plans to restrict its program offerings to a day camp. This move was met with much outrage from the community. After a community movement gained the support of several sponsors, CNIB relented and continued the more traditional format of the camps.
In 2010, CNIB began the process of selling the Bowen Lodge by the Sea property. It announced that the 2010 camping season would be the last CNIB run camping program on Bowen Island. They announced plans to reallocate funds into a new outdoors camping program, now defunct.
Under CBWG and CBSVI
In August of 2010, former campers of the original CNIB Camp Bowen project formed the Camp Bowen Working Group (CBWG). The BC-based organization, which was quickly rebranded to the Camp Bowen Society for the Visually Impaired (CBSVI), aimed to fill the learning gap left by the closure of CNIB’s program. Together with the BC visually impaired community, CBSVI organized its first retreat on Bowen Island in 2011. The retreat was considered to be a success by the board of directors and the campers who were in attendance.
The following years saw an increase in the number of programs offered and a new season of growth for Camp Bowen.
Partnering with the Canadian Council of the Blind
In march of 2015, the Camp Bowen Society for the Visually Impaired became a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB). Under the partnership, the Camp Bowen Society for the Visually Impaired gained access to the resources of the CCB, while remaining locally based. It was decided in late 2018 to spin off the CCB chapter as the CCB Friends of Camp Bowen Chapter. The chapter still manages the Camp Bowen Fund, which provides low income participants of Camp Bowen’s programs with financial aid to attend..
During a transition period lasting from late 2018 to early 2019, the Camp Bowen Society for the Visually Impaired was split into two organizations. The first of these, established as a federal not for profit organization in late 2018, was the Camp Bowen Society for the Independence of the Blind and Deafblind (us). It took over all of the programs from the Camp Bowen Society for the Visually Impaired that were deemed to be charitable, including its signature summer camps. The second organization was the Camp Bowen Society for the Visually Impaired, which became the Camp Bowen Innovations Society in early 2019.