Camp Barnabas to close this summer because of coronavirus
"Camp is my favorite place on earth because it brings people who are often isolated from the community and allows them to experience love and inclusion and not feel different about their life circumstances."
Those words from a camp counselor during last year's 25th anniversary celebration of Camp Barnabas explains why it is truly a life-changing experience for the 2,500 hundred campers with special needs or chronic illnesses who visit each summer and find others just like them who don't judge, pity, or condescend to them.
"You are unique, wonderful and beautiful and exactly who you're meant to be and we celebrate that here," explained Camp Barnabas Marketing Director Andrea Harp of the way campers are treated at the summer retreats. "The big things don't matter out here. It's appreciating the butterfly that you see. It's taking a moment to sit and breathe. It's the simple act of getting to go down the slide that the camper doesn't get to do back home."
But after 25 years of giving 90,000 campers that great experience, Camp Barnabas won't be open this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We care for a high-risk population and there's a lot of unknowns going on right now and what it came down to was the health and safety of our Camp Barnabas family," Harp said. "We had to make that really difficult decision but there's not an easy answer. Lots of prayer, lots of thought went into making that decision."
"There have been a few tears," Becky Korasick of Monett said of her children's reaction to the news. Korasick is the mom of four children who have all been involved in the camps. Two of them have been counselors and two are campers (one with a traumatic brain injury and the other with cerebral palsy) who all look forward to breaking free at Camp Barnabas each summer.
"Just that experience of being so included because both of the boys are used to being told 'no' to a lot of things that are not adaptable in our community," Korasick said. "And at camp the answer is just always 'yes'."
"Understandable they're heartbroken but we will reunite again and there will be a most glorious summer next year," Harp said of the plan to bring the camps back next summer.
Until then camp officials will be staying in touch with campers and their families online and hosting other virtual fundraising events throughout the summer.
The general public is also being encouraged to lend its support by either writing letters to the campers or making a donation.
You can visit www.campbarnabas.org/donate to make a monetary contribution.
You can send letters at Send Love & Give Love/Camp Barnabas at the website campbarnabas.org.
Both Harp and Korasick explained that it was really important for the campers to understand that the cancellation was for a good reason and limit the negative feelings.
"We just really emphasized to the kids that they have been able to count on Camp Barnabas to love on them so well for over 10 years now," Korasick said. "This is just another way that Barnabas is loving our children by keeping them safe for the summer."