TUSCUMBIA — The Helen Keller Birthplace Foundation Board on Monday decided not to hold the seventh annual Camp Courage: A Helen Keller Experience, calling it another casualty of COVID-19.

The weekend-long camp, which was scheduled for early October, draws deaf, blind and other visually impaired children from around the state and beyond to Ivy Green, the birthplace of Helen Keller.

University of North Alabama students serve as counselors for the camp. They assist with numerous activities on the grounds of Ivy Green as well as at other locations where the students fish, visit a farm and participate in a celebratory banquet.

Ivy Green Director Sue Pilkilton said the plan was to have 30 attendees this year, the biggest group ever.

"This is very disappointing, but based on the liability we'd have to take on, we just couldn't make it happen this year because this camp is very hands-on. It has to be for this population of children," Pilkilton said. 

"The masks would prevent the deaf children from reading lips, and the social distancing would be impossible because these children really bond and they have to have close contact with their counselors.

"It's just heartbreaking to think about how much this pandemic has taken away from us."

She said the camp has been adding five to seven campers per yea.

"Next year, if there's no COVID-19 here, we're determined to have as many children as want to attend," Pilkilton said. "It's a blessing to have this camp. The impact it has on everyone involved is remarkable. We have no intention of just letting that go, and we will not turn a child away.

"We have plenty of time to plan the best camp ever for next year."

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