Joni and Friends: East TN Special Needs Camp
7.30.2014 | by Brooke Akin ('03), Team Leader
On July 19, our family of four and a team of Lipscomb students headed to Camp Fort Bluff in Dayton, TN for a week of serving those with special needs. The camp is run by the non-profit organization, Joni and Friends, which was started by writer Joni Eareckson Tada after a diving accident left her as a quadriplegic. The organization hosts camps all over the nation for families who have a family member suffering from a disability. The entire family gets to come, and everyone from the parents to the siblings gets cared for and loved on by the camp staff!
Each of our Lipscomb students were paired up with one camper for the week to serve as their “buddy”. The campers have a range of disabilities, ranging from autism to down syndrome. Our students spent the week helping their camper participate in program activities for their age group, eating meals, and worshipping alongside them so that their parents could get a break from their care. In the meantime, the mothers were getting pampered in the makeshift camp spa, while the dads tested their skills on the shooting range.
Our team of Lipscomb students did a phenomenal job of connecting with their campers and helping them have a great experience! Freshman student, Emily Muller spent her week with six year old, Naomi, who suffers from seizures and wore a halo traction to help straighten her spine. Even though Naomi was limited physically, Emily connected with Naomi on many different levels and was able to help Naomi have a week she will remember forever. Because of the bond they now share, Emily hopes to visit Naomi during one of her future visits to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. Some other highlights of the week included all kinds of fun games, putt-putt, worship, fishing, bonfires, bingo, swimming, and a giant water slide! The week ended with an emotional talent show put on by the campers themselves.
The theme for the week was “Hope Overflowing” taken from Romans 15:13, and we certainly all learned about the incredible HOPE we have in Jesus Christ and the joy and peace that He brings! It was definitely a week to remember, and I feel like we walked away learning far more than we were able to bring. It’s amazing how much you can learn from people who are living with lifelong disabilities, yet who live with such joy, passion, and fearlessness of what others think. Their relationships and closeness with Jesus was a beautiful thing to get to witness. Our team left with a better understanding of how God makes each one of us unique in our own way and in His image.