|Special Day for Special Kids in Walker County at Camp O’Rear|
Project Linus Helps Kids in Need
For the past 11 years special needs students in Walker County have had an opportunity to learn about what takes place at Scout Camp.
A Special Day for Special Kids is an educational event held twice a year at Camp O’Rear near Jasper.
"We usually host the Special Day in the fall and the spring," said Zac Lollar, district executive with the Black Warrior Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
"The day is part of a Boy Scout Project for In-School Scouting called Learning for Life," Lollar said. "The goal of the project is to provide a program for handicapped kids who can’t be in a traditional scouting program."
It only took a few minutes to realize just how much the kids enjoy the day. As soon as the buses unloaded, the kids were asking if they could walk down to the swinging bridge. Those who had been to the camp before were anxious to show the newcomers around.
A quick hike to the rock house and the kids were ready to shoot BB guns and throw tomahawks. Curry High School ag students were on hand to assist the special needs students on a walk through the woods. They also offered instruction and assistance with the shooting and tomahawk throwing.
Scouting volunteers were also on hand to guide the kids around the camp. These volunteers included Janice and Larry Noblett, Lynn Smelley, Kevin Warren and Charles Lollar, all part of local scouting groups.
After a morning of activities, the group enjoyed a meal catered by Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q of Jasper.
Just Regular Kids
Donna King said her students look forward to the trip every year. Out of the nine students she brought to the event this time, five have attended before.
"They love to come," King said. "This is their favorite thing. They get really excited about coming to camp.
"I think it’s because they’re just regular kids when they’re out here. They’re in the woods and just get to do regular kid things. It’s all about them.
Based on her prior experience, King anticipates her students will be looking forward to returning to Camp O’Rear. She said, when school starts next year, they will start asking when they can go back to camp.
Her Bankhead Middle School classroom is for students with significant cognitive delays.
King’s class is limited to the number of events it attends simply because of financial constraints, with transportation being the main limiting factor.
Her kids are able to participate in the camp program as well as the local Special Olympics.
FFA Lends a Hand
Curry High School Ag teacher and FFA Advisor Chris McCullar sees the day camp as a benefit for all who participate.
"At the end of the day, my kids get as much out of being here as anyone else — maybe even more," McCullar said. "We try to come out every year. And I really like it."
McCullar calls the experience "character building" for his 28 students, who spend the day assisting the special needs students with a nature hike, shooting BB guns and throwing tomahawks, to name a few things.
Camp O’Rear is overseen by the Boy Scouts of America and is set aside for use by the Mountain District, which includes Walker, Winston and Marion counties.
Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts from the district use the camp year round for competitions, campouts and other activities.
Many Scout groups are active year round and boys can sign up at any time. Please see the contact information at the end of the article if you know of a boy who is interested in joining Scouts.
While she was involved with the day’s event because of her ties to Boy Scouts, Janice Noblett took the opportunity to add one more smile to the kids’ faces.
Janice is the chapter coordinator for Project Linus in Walker, Winston, Blount and Cullman counties. She brought enough blankets, afghans and quilts for each child to have one. Each blanket is handmade and unique.
"Project Linus is a non-profit organization that provides blankets for children with special needs or who have been traumatized in some way," Janice explained. "We’ve given blankets to tornado victims, to children in the hospital, to children who have lost their parents in a car accident or similar situation.
Janice has been involved with Project Linus for just over a year. The organization has been active for 16 years. There are 400 chapters across the nation. They have given away more than 4 million blankets during that time.
Currently, there are only four chapters in Alabama, according to Janice.
Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.