'Stone Soup Festival' focuses on people with special needs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Light shows, waterfalls and clay sculptures helped capture the attention of more than 800 guests from families of children with special needs during the Stone Soup Festival in Nashville, Tenn., June 18. The festival coincided with the Crossover Nashville evangelistic initiative prior to this year's June 21-22 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.

Creation was the festival's theme, and families walked through representations of the first seven days of the earth's beginning. Main attractions included a "Rainbow of Colors" light show, a waterfall with a puppet show, science-based experiments, music, animation, take-home projects and sculpting.

Ross McGary, an organizer of Stone Soup, said people were having a good time and his expectations for the day were met.

"When the kids come through smiling and they're enjoying what they're doing and their parents are saying this is one of the best things they've ever been able to go to -- that's kind of a good indicator," McGary said.

Gordon Liske, from Thompson Station, Tenn., watched his 5-year-old son Benjamin craft a face with eyes, a nose and a smile out of Play-Doh. Benjamin has autism.

"We've been working with him at home, giving him therapy. A lot of this stuff he wouldn't touch when we first started. He wouldn't look at anything; he wouldn't touch anything," Liske told Baptist Press. "But with the therapy we've been giving him, there's pretty much nothing he won't do. With this hands-on stuff, he's enjoying the Play-Doh. Play-Doh is very hard for children with autism to handle. And he's just loving it and enjoying himself."

Don Winget, chairman of the department of astronomy at the University of Texas-Austin, led participants in a demonstration about the solar system, using volunteers as representations of the sun and planets.

"This is a great opportunity to share our understanding of nature with a really outstanding group of folks that are really important to us," Winget said. "I am really surprised more often than not with how attentive they can be and how sharp they can be, and that's really exciting. You can tell the look on someone's face when the light goes on and they get it, and that's worth it just to see them understand something."

Dennis Barton, from South Kansas City Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo., volunteered to help run the festival. He brought about 10 youth from his church, which regularly ministers to several members with special needs. He said it's important to work with children with special needs because parents need the support.

"Their parents think because their children were born that way, then maybe God doesn't love them or there's no God or whatever," Barton said. "A high percentage are agnostic or atheist, and that's the reason we need to reach out to the parents."

The name Stone Soup is derived from an old French children's tale about a village that comes together for a common cause out of unlikely circumstances.

The Stone Soup Festival was the first such project for the organizers of a ministry with the same name that provides a respite for parents of children with special needs one Friday night a month and also ministers to families each Sunday at Redeemer Fellowship, a partnership with Judson Baptist Church in Nashville.

Stone Soup's mission is to provide a way for families of children with disabilities to fully participate in and contribute to the Christian community and to encourage families that have added stress because their children require more attention than most.


For more information, visit www.stonesoupnews.com.

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