TUSCUMBIA — The title of the weekend-long camp in the fall of the year couldn't be more appropriate — Camp Courage: A Helen Keller Experience.

Twenty hearing/visually impaired children in fourth through sixth grades made the trip this year to Tuscumbia. They came from throughout Alabama, Georgia and even Wisconsin.

Their goal was simple — to be inspired, and in turn, to inspire.

Their time in Tuscumbia began Thursday night as they made their first visit to Ivy Green, the birthplace of Helen Keller.

The group participated in strategically planned activities throughout the weekend, including a day at the Ivy Green making candles and pottery and other activities that promote independence.

The camp, free to the children and their families, is in its sixth year. During that time the number of participants have grown, and it's reach has extended across the nation.

After completing their guided tour of the home, the students came way with some insights into Helen Keller that they didn't know.

"I knew a good bit about Helen Keller already," said Grace Cravey of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. "But I've been surprised at some of her actions when she was a kid. She could be pretty mean and sneaky, like locking her mother in a closet one time."

Cravey, who is blind, said she's always felt somewhat of a connection to Keller, but the camp has strengthened her resolve to be independent.

"I can already do a lot of things, but I just want to do more," she said. "Being here at Camp Courage really makes me believe I can."

Teachers at the three-day camp say that's the idea.

Candace Sanders, a camp leader who teaches in Jefferson County, attended Camp Courage with her own daughter, Saniya, four years ago. Afterward, she decided to get involved.

"I got to experience it from both angles, as a parent and a leader, and it's impactful in both respects," she said. "On the first night, the kids stick pretty close to their parents, but by the end of the weekend, they're bonded. They form lifelong friendships, just like my daughter and I did."

Other activities included a fishing excursion on the Tennessee River with the Muscle Shoals High School Fishing Team; a visit to Cypress Cove Farm in Red Bay, where Camp Courage co-founder Johnny Mack Morrow led the children on various adventures, a luau and an awards banquet.

Camp Organizer Sue Pilkilton said the culminating banquet at the end of the camp is always a memorable experience.

"The UNA students share what these children have meant to them in their time together, and there's never a dry eye in the house," she said. "The whole weekend is about sharing, learning and inspiring. There's just nothing else quite like this weekend."


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