When it comes to taking care of its community, Owasso excels at opening its arms and accepting those with special needs. Shawn Cunningham of the Owasso Spirits, along with others, has been bringing the Tulsa, Sand Springs, Collinsville, and Owasso special needs communities together.
As a mother with a daughter on the spectrum, Cunningham works with several other supporters within the community to give those with physical or mental challenges a safe space to socialize and learn new skills.
The monthly fun night hosted at the Owasso First Church is one of the local events that members of the community look forward to. Once a month Zorica and Eric Hamblin cooks a homemade, free, meal and teaches a new craft for anyone who shows up at the church. This meeting was created specifically for special needs adults so they could have a place to socialize with others their own age and do something fun. The Hamblin’s usually, see about 20-30 people show up every meeting for the food and fun so make sure to rsvp ahead of time.
If you’re more interested in learning something a little more challenging Cunningham also has a daytime summer camp, in June, that she has set up herself. As an independent artist, Cunningham creates a workshop plan for campers so they can learn how to use certain tools and make some pretty cool things.
The Owasso Spirits make a great effort to have something happening every month. Whether its a dance, a pancake breakfast, bowling party, or more, there is always something to do which makes this quarantine so difficult to adjust. Until the curve has been flattened enough that groups, larger than ten, can start to gather again, the Owasso Spirits will not be able to host these events anymore.
The pandemic has made Cunningham get creative because so many of the community members have lost something to look forward to this summer. Due to the uncertainty in the future, we do not know when events such as the Fun night and Summer Camp will be able to start up again or happen at all.
Since so many of these events have been canceled for the foreseeable future Cunningham has been working on other ways she can bring something for everyone to look forward to. On Easter weekend, the First United Methodist Church of Owasso gave the Owasso Spirits their parking lot to host a social distancing Easter parade. Anyone who wanted to decorate their cars could drive in the parade while guests parked in the center of the parking lot and honked their horns.
“You could really see how happy it made the kids. They really missed seeing each other,” said Cunningham when talking about the results of the parade. “We are even thinking about doing it again for Mother’s day.” After the success of the Easter parade, Cunningham plans on finding more reasons to bring the community together.
All because we have to distance ourselves from friends and family does not mean that the Owasso communities have disappeared. There are still many people who are fighting to keep their spirits up and give others something to look forward to.
Cunningham plans to keep everyone updated with changes to the summer calendar while adjusting to the new normal. And while we may be losing many events this summer we may be looking forward to a mock Special Olympics and a re-opening party for the First Church Fun night once the quarantine is lifted.
For more information on the Owasso Spirits and a calendar of activities check out their Facebook or email them at Owasso.Spirits@gmail.com