Amid drop in guests, Shocco adds new options for small group gatherings


October 13, 2020

Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center (Photo courtesy of Shocco Springs)

Janie Curtis said that in a year where venues were shutting their doors left and right, Shocco Springs saved them.

“We didn’t think having camp was an option at all this year,” said Curtis, director of the ARC of North Talladega County, which supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Their normal camp facility was closed because of COVID-19 restrictions, so they reached out to Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega to see if they might be able to fill the gap with some safe activities.

Adapting to needs

“Goodness, they just made it so easy,” Curtis said. “I called, and the first person to pick up the phone said, ‘Absolutely, we can make that happen.’”

Together they put together a four-day camp including time in the pool, putt-putt golf and mealtime movies. They also accommodated ARC’s mobility needs with golf carts and other provisions.

And the staff bent over backward to make it a good time, Curtis said, noting that one lifeguard worked one-on-one with a teenager with cerebral palsy until the teen was able to accomplish his goal of swimming in the deep end.

“The children have decided they want to stay at Shocco now — it was hard to get them to leave,” Curtis said with a laugh. “The parents said they realized after this camp how badly their children missed social interaction like this.”

And according to leaders at Shocco, the camp has missed it too. They’ve faced an extreme reduction in guest numbers, which — if the year finishes out at the projected rate — will amount to a $4 million loss in income.

“In March of this year, we faced an unprecedented obstacle. Due to the global pandemic, our campus was completely shut down,” said Russell Klinner, Shocco’s executive director.

The financial losses have been “devastating,” he said.

But even so, “God is working and fulfilling His purpose for Shocco, despite the limitations of this pandemic,” Klinner said. “Many of our groups canceled their visits, but the churches who brought groups to Shocco this summer have told us they experienced more intimate bonding time with their youth and children than ever before. Some of these group leaders had never brought their kids to Shocco, and all of them complimented our staff’s hospitality and promised to return.”

The camp is “deeply appreciative” of Alabama Baptists’ support and prayer, he said.

Laurie Mullinax, Shocco’s public relations coordinator, agreed that Shocco’s mission is continuing at the camp.

Ways to help

“God has provided for us through successful years in the past and the wise financial stewardship of great leadership, and with His help we will recoup our financial losses and continue the important ministry of Shocco Springs,” she said.

Want to help? Mullinax said there are plenty of ways to do that:

  • Try a smaller group retreat.

This year, many larger groups have cancelled their retreats because of COVID-19 concerns. That means Shocco has plenty of space for individual churches, school groups and others who would enjoy time away at the camp.

“People are wanting a chance to get away, and Shocco is a great venue for their fall retreats, holiday retreats and marriage retreats,” Mullinax said. “We need you to bring your Sunday School group, your youth group, your senior citizens group, your company or your organization to Shocco and let us serve you with an incredible camp/retreat experience.”

  • Celebrate your birthday at Shocco.

This is a new offering at Shocco — the chance to host birthday celebrations at the camp and conference center. Shocco can customize parties to include the picnic space by the lake and recreation options like the Adrenaline Jump, basketball pavilion, Bazooka Ball, high ropes, night hikes or the paintball course.

In the warmer months, guests are invited to use the Aqua Park on the lake, the Wet Willie water slide and the pool. Learn more at shocco.org/services/specialevents.

  • Bring your school’s sports group or cheer squad.

These same recreation activities are available to school groups, along with facilities and field space that can be used for practice and training.

  • Bring your employees or staff.

Churches, businesses and other organizations can use Shocco for a day-only team-building time. Build-a-Boat and Build-a-Bridge challenges test brainstorming and teamwork skills as participants think, plan and communicate in order to build an operational boat or bridge, using only the items given to them by Shocco’s rec staff.

The low ropes course is also available for building team confidence and trust. And if a group wants a fast-paced scenario, they can schedule an Adventure Race experience.

  • Don’t wait for summer.

Though they’re already booking for summer 2021, “our campus is absolutely beautiful year-round,” Mullinax said. “Our lodging and meeting options are always available, and we offer many non-seasonal recreation options during fall, winter and spring. Now is the time to reserve space for fall and winter.”


By Grace Thornton

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