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A Joyous Story, the Special Needs Mutual

Article Date: 
13 April, 2012 (All day)

If you ever felt like being in the presence of angels, you could attain your desire by attending an event with the Morgan County special-needs mutual.  This inspirational group includes nearly three dozen participants with various physical, mental or learning disabilities and their church leaders from various parts of the county.  On March 30th, the group put on a production of “Joy Story” in front of a packed auditorium.  “Joy Story” is a spiritual adaptation of the popular “Toy Story.”  Written and directed by Nolan and Cathy Johnson, the production is a moving story about friendship and involved every member of the special-needs mutual.  

As a new resident of Morgan County, I have wished, hoped and prayed that my 18-year old twins, Rachel and Ryan (who have cerebral palsy), would be able to find good friends to help ease their transition to the community and help them feel loved and included.  I am confident that my feelings are comparable to most parents who have children with disabilities.  We long for our children to be happy, loved and accepted for their abilities, rather than excluded because of their disabilities or differences. 

My children are finishing out their senior year of high school in Colorado and arrived in Morgan for spring break just a few days before “Joy Story” hit the stage.  To my astonishment, they were not only greeted by leaders of the special-needs mutual, but also invited to participate in the production and provided costumes for their roles.  Within a couple days, Rachel and Ryan had made friends with many of the program participants and became acquainted with several of the friendly patrons of our store. A couple families in the Peterson community even had the kids stop by their home to see farm animals (a novel concept for suburban teenagers).  

One of the amazing things about the special-needs mutual relates to its formation.  Over two years ago, the idea to organize the group initially came to Joleen Kearsley of Milton, (who takes no credit for her significant role but instead lauds the efforts of others who assisted in the organizational process).  Joleen spoke with her husband, Doug, about the idea of formally organizing a county-wide mutual for children and adults with special needs.  Doug in turn spoke with various church leaders, and Joleen was asked to determine how many potential participants lived in the county.  Joleen then gathered and passed on the information.  Eventually, President Clark Mower had an epiphany while driving through the canyon that the time was right for organizing the mutual.  Details were worked out, so that the special-needs mutual became a collaborative effort involving leaders from both the Morgan and Morgan North stakes.  While sponsored by the LDS church, the special-needs mutual invites all disabled persons ages 12 and older to participate, regardless of religious preference.

During the school year, the special-needs mutual meets weekly at the Milton church (currently 6 p.m. on Thursdays).  Once school is out, the group engages in one activity per month.  Additionally, the mutual puts on a sacrament meeting at a different ward each month and meets with the young men and young women of that particular ward for a joint mutual activity a week or two before the sacrament meeting.  This structure is beneficial on a number of levels.  It allows the participants in special-needs mutual to enjoy regular activities designed to best serve their particular interests while allowing them  to serve and develop talents (i.e. at sacrament meeting and productions like “Joy Story) and meet many members of the community, both teenagers and adults.  Converse, our community is greatly enriched as we spend time with these angels, sense their spirituality, marvel in their abilities, and appreciate their sweet personalities.

For more information on special-needs mutual, please email Joleen Kearsley at jokearsley@yahoo.com or at 801.829.3090 or Mark Loucks at 801.829.5282.