By Donna Thornton/News Editor
Music filled the air at CrossPoint Church, as a stage was lined with people singing along and following the motions to Christian songs, before moving on to do crafts, enjoy food and time to fellowship with friends.
This was not the typical vacation Bible school: It was Camp Coosa, CrossPoint’s summer activity program for special needs adults, and it’s something the volunteers look forward to, just as the participants do.
“We love Camp Coosa,” Holly Murphy said. Murphy attends CrossPoint and she teaches a Sunday School class for special needs adults.
She said she more or less facilitates the class, allowing its students to conduct it as they wish. The church sends out a couple of vans to pick up class members at group homes or at their residences for Sunday School.
Those attending Camp Coosa knew why they were there.
When Deana Thacker, children’s director at the church called out asking them who they were going to learn about on July 31 they responded enthusiastically, shouting out “Jesus!”
The church had a large turnout for Camp Coosa, and has had even larger some years. Special needs adults were accompanied by group home workers, volunteers or family members, and assisted by church volunteers.
Murphy, who also teaches special needs students at John Jones Elementary School, said working with adults at the camp and in Sunday School is like seeing her students grown up. She said it is a learning experience for teens in the church who work with the adults at camp. While special needs children are fairly visible, adults are not.
“One girl told me, ‘I never thought about them growing up,’” Murphy recalled.
Murphy said these campers are adults and deserve to be treated with their dignity, while still being given the assistance they need at camp and in other aspects of their lives.
It is a constant concern for the parents of special needs children: what will happen when I’m not here to care for my child? Murphy said the Gadsden area has a number of good group homes for special needs adults. And there are some programs like Camp Coosa to enhance their lives.
Talking with some of those attending Camp Coosa, it was clear to see they enjoyed the experience. As in any gathering, friends grouped together to share activities or their meal, and showed off their arts and crafts.
Former Alabama football coach Gene Stallings’ son John Mark Stallings was born with Down’s Syndrome. Stallings often said that John Mark “had a free ticket to heaven,” an idea many believers may share about special needs adults.
While spiritual teaching may not be a need for them, it seemed clear that those who took part in Camp Coosa enjoyed their worship experience.