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One rainy day in 2012 changed the course of Special Friends Camps

SpecialNeedsCamp3

One rainy summer day in 2012 changed the course of Special Friends Day Camps, a camp for developmentally disabled adults, permanently.

It was clearly going to be impossible to cram over 50 soggy Special Friends campers and their buddies into the tiny Pines building near the front entrance of the Camp but every one needed to get under cover. Laurie Fertello, Disabilities Ministries Director, quickly discovered that the Program Center Auditorium happened to be available that day. The Auditorium was the perfect location for the rest of the day’s impromptu Day Camp activities. A few campers and their buddies grabbed basket balls and began shooting hoops, or playing catch, but by far the biggest attraction in the Program Center was the stage. The minute the campers saw it their inner star began screaming for a moment in the spotlight. So, it was decided that the day’s main activity was going to be a talent show. The variety of talent displayed was dizzying, Karate demonstrations, musicians, and dancers all graced the stage but there was one camper that caught Laurie’s attention the most.

He climbed the stairs slowly and intently and took his place at center stage. He held his microphone with both hands and bowed his head. Silence swept over the crowd of campers as the young man continued to pause dramatically. When he finally raised his head, and brought the microphone to his mouth, and he began to speak. This young man had a speech problem and while he was speaking, only every tenth word was understandable. He paced the stage, speaking with inflection and meaning and every once in a while he would say “YOU!” and point dramatically at a camper, and would continue his dissertation emphasized by his pacing, and then another “YOU!”

Laurie looked on perplexed for a while, wondering what this young man’s talent was, and then she understood. He was preaching! Laurie looked around at every Special Friends camper in that room and their eyes fixed on this young man. Not only were they paying attention, Laurie realized, they were understanding what he was saying. Laurie may not have understood but the campers did.

Laurie stood thinking about this for several minutes, and in that moment, the Lord spoke to her heart and said “You are underestimating these people’s capacity to understand the spiritual aspect of their life.” This led Laurie on an ongoing journey about what it means to minister spiritually to the hearts of mentally and physically disabled individuals.

Warm Beach Camp’s Special Friends Day Camp is one of the few camps in Washington State that serves persons age 15 and up who have special needs. Just one hour north of Seattle in north Snohomish County, Special Friends Day Camp offers campers amazingly creative camp activities in a highly supervised, supportive setting. Each camper is matched with a volunteer “Buddy,” who engages with them in the camp experience. For more information on attending or volunteering at Special Friends Camp, visit Warmbeach.com/programs/special-needs-programs.

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