Camp Barnabas sets record number for campers this year
A very special summer camp here in the Ozarks that gained global attention because of the TV series "Extreme Makeover" is having a record year for attendance at its two locations in Purdy and Shell Knob.
When you see the laundry hanging outside the cabins, view the tranquil setting, and see all the fun the campers have making new friends and bonding over the shared experiences, it may seem like any other summer camp.
But Camp Barnabas is different. For the past 24 years over 75,000 people with special needs and chronic illnesses have been able to enjoy summer camp just like everybody else thanks to this Christian ministry.
Ridgley Harless is now a member of the staff, but he started coming here with his brother Trenton, a 20-year camp veteran who always brings his stuffed dog and his Uno cards. Trenton has epilepsy, and early in his life he had up to 200 seizures a day. He's had three brain surgeries, and Ridgley admits "growing up with sibling who has special needs has been a struggle."
But Camp Barnabas changed all that.
"Trenton's life would be a lot less full without camp," Ridgley explained. "Camp is a place he can come where everybody wants to meet him and love on him and get to know him. And that's not the case outside of camp."
Like all the other special needs campers here, their siblings are allowed to come along too. And each camper has their own counselor who unconditionally provides love and support through each days activities. And as Ridgley discovered, it's not just the campers who's lives are changed.
"Camp is my favorite place on earth, Ridgley said. "It brings together people from the community who are often isolated from that community and brings them here and it allows them to experience inclusion and not have to worry about or feel different about their life circumstances."
"It's some camper achieving something that they didn't think was possible because the rest of the world doesn't give them that opportunity or they're told no or someone doesn't believe in them," added Andrea Harp, the Camp Barnabas marketing director. "You get to see that here."
As the word about Camp Barnabas continues to spread, so does the number of campers. This year a record of over 2,000 will come through its gates thanks to the donations and support of you, the public.
"We've had a lot of additional support come in," Harp said. "So the more support you have the more camper scholarships you can allow. People who couldn't come before because of financial need now can come and we can let more people in."
If you'd like more information, just go to www.campbarnabas.org or call 417-476-2565.