ALLEN — If memory serves Kayla Lawler right, she’s been attending church camps at Falls Creek since around the fourth grade. Lawler just finished her junior year of college this month.

Her long Falls Creek streak will come to an end this summer after Oklahoma Baptist leaders announced Monday that all 2020 sessions at the popular church camp venue near Davis were canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“With a heavy heart, and after extensive consultation with pastors, lay leaders and information from public health officials, we have made the difficult decision to cancel all Falls Creek and CrossTimbers-Davis and CrossTimbers-Grand Lake sessions for 2020,” said Hance Dilbeck, executive director-treasurer with Oklahoma Baptists in a press release posted on the Oklahoma Baptists official website.

Lawler, a graduate of Allen High School and who just became a senior at East Central University, said after many years of attending Falls Creek as a camper, she started volunteering her time as a sponsor for one or two youth camps each year. She had planned on attending two this summer before hearing the sad news on Monday.

“When I first heard about Falls Creek being canceled I was disappointed, but immediately understood their decision,” Lawler said. “I agree with their decision, as sad as it is, but I know they have to make the most responsible decision to ensure the safety of all campers and staff members.”

Falls Creek, which was established in 1917, is owned and operated by Oklahoma Baptists and draws an average attendance of more than 50,000 campers and guests each summer. Many churchgoers in the Ada area take groups of campers to Falls Creek each summer.

Three prior times — 1943, 1944 and 1945 — Falls Creek summer camp seasons were canceled. The 1943 session was canceled due partly to a poliomyelitis outbreak, according to historical records, while the 1944 and 1945 sessions were canceled due to World War II-related factors.

Lawler — who is a member of Allen First Baptist Church — said Falls Creek had a big impact on her life.

“Some of my favorite Falls Creek memories are just being able to get away from the fast-paced, normal routine and being able to be in a group of other believers, worshiping and growing closer to the Lord,” Lawler said. “It’s such a great time spent with friends and also meeting new friends. I love Falls creek so much, it’s just a very happy and fun place.”

The announcement to cancel the summer 2020 camp season comes as numerous other events across the state and nation have been shut down out of concerns for public health and safety.

Oklahoma Baptists’ President Blake Gideon, who is the senior pastor of Edmond’s First Baptist Church, said the committee’s decision was a tough one to make.

“During this time of uncertainty, safety and caution are of supreme importance. It is better to choose wisdom over desire,” Gideon said.

Jeff Cali has been covering sports in the Ada area since the mid-90s. He graduated from Byng High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from East Central University.

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