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A Helen Keller experience

Summer camp is the height of the season for many children, providing the backdrop for memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. This was true also for the 11 children who spent three days at this year’s Camp Courage, a Helen Keller experience.

Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow helps a camper, Angel, work a bow and arrow during fun day at the farm at Cypress Cove.
Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow helps a camper, Angel, work a bow and arrow during fun day at the farm at Cypress Cove.

Camp Courage, a Helen Keller Experience, began Sept. 15 at Ivy Green in Tuscumbia and ran through Sept. 17. Campers from three states attended the intensive camp, which is designed to help visually- and/or hearing-impaired students learn to use their abilities to help change the world – just as Helen Keller did. It was a concept that became reality from the mind of Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow.

“Almost always when I would be at Ivy Green, I would see parents there with a child who had a visual or hearing disability,” Morrow said. “I would always ask them, ‘Why did you bring your child here?’ And they would always say, ‘There’s magic here. This is where the miracle took place.’”

Morrow was inspired to meet with the board of the Helen Keller Birthplace Foundation to establish a camp that would allow increasing numbers of children to experience the magic and miracle of Ivy Green. “I think Helen would be proud of what we’re doing with her legacy,” Morrow said.

This year’s campers ranged from fourth through sixth grade. Nine came from across the state of Alabama. One was from Tennessee, and one camper flew in from Wisconsin, sponsored by a Lions Club.

Sue Pilkilton, executive director of the Helen Keller Birthplace Foundation and camp director, said campers enjoyed varied activities at Ivy Green, including pottery, candle-making, team-building, dinner in the dining room and lunch in the log cabin. Friday night ended in a Hawaiian luau. Saturday morning featured fishing at Riverfront Park in Sheffield with members of the Muscle Shoals High School Bass Senior Fishing Team. Afternoon activities and lunch were hosted at Cypress Cove Farm. “It’s a full three days,” Pilkilton said.

“It’s great. I wish it lasted one more day,” camper Shepherd, 10, said.

Each camper will treasure a different experience as their favorite part of Camp Courage. For several, fishing was the best part.

“I haven’t been fishing in years. It’s really fun to ride in the boat,” Shepherd said. “It’s a really big lake. It feels like it will never end.”

Kaila, 12, also named fishing as her favorite part of the experience. “I caught a lot of fish,” she said.

Cameron, 11, enjoyed the Friday luau. “We had beach balls. It was fun,” she said. “We got bandanas and a visor and we played and we ate dinner. It was fun.”

Coordinating the Cypress Cove Farm activities were Rosalyn Fabianke and Judy Bullen. Fabianke said getting to experience farm tasks – like handwashing the laundry, interacting with chickens, witnessing blacksmithing and “milking a cow” – provides positive memories for the children, many of whom make lasting friendships during the camp. “Their spirits are amazing,” Fabianke said. “These children just make an imprint on your mind.”