Drive down Alabama Hwy 63 across the Kowlagia Bridge and you will see a little lighthouse and white chapel along the shores of Lake Martin. You've arrived at the Lake Martin campus of Children's Harbor.
I never tire of seeing Children's Harbor. The lighthouse somehow brings a bit of magic to Lake Martin. The magic really though is in what Children's Harbor brings to so many hurting families in our state. Families with seriously ill children.
In 1987 Ben and Luanne Russell dreamed of building a place for seriously ill children and their families on Lake Martin. With the dedication ceremonies of Children's Harbor in 1990 their dream became reality. The mission of Children's Harbor, a not-for-profit organization, is simple: strengthening children and families.The Lake Martin campus of Children's Harbor provides camping, retreat and adventure services to children with long-term serious illnesses and their families. The lighthouse, a replica of Plymouth Lighthouse, is the icon of Children's Harbor symbolizing their goal of helping children and their families find their way through the difficult waters of serious illness.
Camp Smile-a-Mile makes its permanent home at Children's Harbor. Camp Smile-a-Mile is a camp for children who have or have had cancer. I know of children who look forward to Camp SAM each year, to feel just like everyone else for that one week. I can't imagine going through such a difficult experience as these families.
Children's Harbor is also host to the Magic Moments Family Camp each Memorial Day weekend. I've had the opportunity to help serve meals to the families that have attended the Magic Moments Family Camp and am reminded how much I take for granted. Other camps are held there as well such as Camp Bridges for children who have had various organ transplants.
For the past couple of years I have looked forward to a newer tradition at Children's Harbor. Art on the Lake is held at Children's Harbor the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. It features local and regional artists of all sorts and a percentage of their sales go to benefit Children's Harbor. Children's Harbor also provides a Family Center in Birmingham where counseling, social work, education and support services are given to these children and their families. The Family Center is a joint effort with Children's Hospital of Alabama.
So if you happen to be driving across Lake Martin and see the beautiful lighthouse, remember what a wonderful place it is and how it helps so many families in our state.