Camp for adults with disabilities needs volunteers

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Not everyone can fill a need, even if they have the rare ability to first identify it. But some 25 years ago, Dick and Marcy Culter saw there was a void, an empty spot in the fabric of our society. Lucky for us, they decided something should be done about it.

Having just transferred from Illinois to Carmel those many years ago, they quickly realized their new home community did not have a solution to meet the spiritual and emotional needs of their adult daughter, Joann, who has physical and mental disabilities. Joann was out of high school and facing limited opportunities for meaningful interaction with others. So, in 1991, the first SonRise summer camp welcomed 12 campers with disabilities and 12 youth counselors. This year, SonRise will attend to the needs of 280 challenged campers during eight weeklong sessions. Originally known as the Lutheran Disability Ministry, SonRise is now part of the Bethesda Lutheran Communities.

Dick and Marcy did not stop at camping. When not camping, they put together Bible study classes across central Indiana to meet the spiritual needs of people with disabilities. Four hundred participants meet on a weekly basis with the instruction and organizational manpower provided by local volunteers.

As is so often the case, the program spawned more benefits than originally intended. Dick remembered the comments from a grateful parent after coming to collect his son after an early camping trip. The parent, not of a camper but of a youth volunteer counselor, said, “Dick, what have you done to my son?” The15-year-old couldn’t stop telling his dad about seeing God’s love in action during his week “working” at SonRise. A servant attitude was born.

The SonRise programs cater to adults, so adult volunteers are needed. Although high school and college students act as companions to the campers, many retired people are finding SonRise a rich and rewarding experience. The camp maintains a beautiful facility near Anderson, Ind., and the need for volunteers is ongoing.

Dick and Marcy did their part. Joann, the inspiration for the camp, is also doing her part. She assists her parents by inviting people she meets to take part in the camping experience SonRise offers. One need filled, but another is born. SonRise volunteer hotline: 877-642-9902.

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