Whether they are walking or rolling, people of all abilities will travel around a track outside Carmel Baptist Church Oct. 12 to raise money for the Charlotte office of Joni and Friends, an international disability outreach ministry.
The first Walk ‘N’ Roll Family Fun Day to be held in Charlotte in 10 years also will feature several area churches that have ministries for people with disabilities.
“We wanted the community to know who we are and what we do and what churches out there are doing as well,” said Kate Brueck, church relations manager for Joni and Friends/Charlotte. “We felt like it would be a great way to share the ministry with the community.”
Joni and Friends was founded by Joni Eareckson Tada, who was paralyzed from the neck down in 1967 after a diving accident. Tada is an internationally known speaker and author of the autobiography “Joni.”
The community is invited to Walk ‘N’ Roll, which will feature a carnival with a bounce house, face painters, games and information about local resources for people with disabilities.
The Walk ‘N’ Roll got its name because it’s open to people who use wheelchairs and other devices to move around.
“In the disability community, you have walkers, wheelchairs, canes and strollers,” Brueck said. “You can go as slow or as fast as you want.”
Joni and Friends will lay out a .17-mile track, which will be open 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
Some plan to run a 5K to raise money for the ministry. Others may stop after one lap depending on their ability.
“We just want people to know that they can participate,” Brueck said.
Participants are invited to ask friends and family to sponsor them or to sponsor themselves for the Walk ‘N’ Roll.
Six Charlotte-area churches will be on hand with information about their ministries for people with disabilities: Carmel Baptist, Elevation, Christ Covenant, Pritchard Memorial Baptist, Good Shepherd United Methodist and Hopewell Baptist.
Many families who have a family member with a disability often have trouble finding a church home because their family member is disruptive. Brueck said some families have been asked to leave churches.
“If a church is not prepared or doesn’t understand special needs, the result is fear,” Brueck said.
“(But) there are churches doing incredible ministry in Charlotte. We want people to know about those churches that are being the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Being accepted in a church can mean the difference between a family having a community or being isolated, Brueck said.
“It’s hope, ultimately,” she said. “It’s affirmation that you’re human and that God loves you and loves your child.”
Some of the most effective church ministries provide buddies for people with special needs while their families attend church services and programs. Others offer respite care and babysitting so couples and families can have time alone, run errands or have a conversation.
“People affected by disability are one of the world’s largest unreached, forgotten people groups in every culture in the world,” Christine Hillesheim, area director of Joni and Friends/Charlotte, wrote in an email. “The church has the ability and a clear mandate from God to reach out, embrace and empower individuals and their families impacted by disability so they will become all that God created them to be.”
Brueck said all are welcome at Walk ‘N’ Roll, even if they do not have a family member with a disability. She said the event is a good place for children to learn about people with disabilities.
“I think it’s a great way to make new friends and have fun,” she said. “It’s a safe place to interact and just be people and be friends. They’ll find out they have a lot more in common than they have differences.”
Walk ‘N’ Roll Family Fun Day will be 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 12 at Carmel Baptist Church, 1145 Pineville-Matthews Road in Matthews. For more information or to register for the Walk ‘N’ Roll, visit www.joniandfriends.org/charlotte.
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email her with story ideas at email@example.com.
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