Germantown sign-language camp youths send sympathy cards to Colorado victims’ families

It’s not a common experience for more than 30 children to proficiently use American Sign Language when none is deaf or hard of hearing.

On Thursday, that is exactly what was happening in the meetinghouse on Germantown Friends School’s campus on the final day of the Germantown Deaf Ministry Fellowship’s Sign Language Camp.

Following the lead of volunteers from the Child Evangelism Fellowship, the group signed to scriptures and the biblical alphabet as they learned the “I am” statements in scripture.

They emphasized biblical verse John 14:6 (“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them”).

Praying for victims in Colorado

Participants also physically signed cards of sympathy in memory of 12 people who lost their lives in the Colorado shooting at a movie theatre July 20.

Each manila folder had a small gold cross with the words “God Bless” on it, handwritten in Old English font with victims’ names and ages.

Director Roz McKelvey said discussing what happened in Aurora, Colo. brought tears to the eyes of several of the attendees. That discussion quickly led the group to decide to do something nice for the victims’ survivors.

Kim Tang, who was recognized as bringing the most kids to the five-day camp (15 one night, 20 on another), said she thinks the card signing will also help the local youths understand life and death.

“It makes the kids realize death is real,” said Tang. “A lot of times we don’t talk about it, but it’s important that we share news to kids that one day they will die, so you need to think about those people and their families and how they miss their loved ones.”

Large turnout

The group also collaboratively signed to Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” before eating donated pizza, which McKelvey said helped the community become a small family.

While she requested a $2 donation per attendee, she said she received more help from parents, counselors and community members than expected.

“When you give up one’s self, and you give until it hurts, you feel a joy that it really meant something to you,” she said. “The pain is when people don’t understand that you can’t have it again unless you find more people to give.”

Tanyika Alston, the parent of an 11-year-old girl who participated, said that she didn’t know that the event was going to be so faith-based, but thought it would be great to exposure her to American Sign Language.

“I think it’s great for the kids especially for children who don’t really go to Sunday school,” said Alston. “It’s more like bible school.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.