"We reached out to our employees and subscribers to nominate people who were unsung heroes in their community," said Caley Cronin, DIRECTV public relations. "We received hundreds of nominations and weeded them down to 29 truly deserving unsung heroes."
Last year, DIRECTV crews began filming Minda Cox, an accomplished artist who attends Camp Barnabas, which is located northeast of Purdy. During an interview, Cox, who was born without legs or arms, told crew members that the best thing she does is go to camp. That remark led DIRECTV to Camp Barnabas and the Teases.
|Crews spent a full day at Camp Barnabas interviewing campers, volunteers and staff members.|
"They saw a good cross section of all the activities that go on at the camp," said Paul. "They saw the typical chaos in the dining hall, and all the fun that goes on there. I think they got a good feel for the campers, staff and volunteers, and everything it takes to make the place work."
Although he has not been able to preview the episode that will run this Sunday, Paul is hopeful that the show will inspire viewers.
"They followed a camper who most folks would be inclined to not give a second thought to," said Paul. "She has a terrific talent, and she is so good at what she does.
"I hope next time people see a person with a disability they will realize how many abilities that person has," said Paul. "If they find out about that person, they will find out how neat that person is."
Paul and Cyndy Teas, developed the idea for Camp Barnabas over 15 years ago while working at Kanakuk Kamps in Branson. While Cyndy was serving as medical director, camper Lauren Hauschild visited the medical clinic several times complaining that her leg was hurting.
When Hauschild's family picked her up after the week of camp, Cyndy notified them about Hauschild's complaints. A health examination revealed that Hauschild was suffering from a form of bone cancer. Doctors scheduled surgery and amputated Hauschild's leg.
The next summer, Hauschild returned to camp but found that she was not able to participate in the same way that she had before. Later, she confided in Cyndy that she would like to attend a camp where all of the campers were just like her.
Paul and Cyndy told Joe White, Kanakuk Kamps founder, about the idea to start a camp for disabled children. White supported the idea by giving the Teases the keys to one of his camp facilities.
"We had 25 kids our first summer," said Paul. "The next summer, we had 50 kids."
In 1996, the Teas purchased Camp Soaring Hawk and moved Camp Barnabas to its present location. That year, 250 campers attended Camp Barnabas. The campers were supported by 150 volunteers and 25 paid staff members.
"This year, we will have 1,400 campers, 1,800 volunteers and 135 paid staff members," said Paul. "The neatest thing is that Lauren joined our paid staff one year ago. You never know what door God is opening for you."
Serving as Camp Barnabas directors can often be a tiring job, but Paul said that he is lucky to have the opportunity to work with the campers.
"We've been so incredibly blessed," said Paul. "It's been a lot of work, a lot of fun, and we have met a lot of wonderful people."
In addition to the inspiration Paul has received from campers, he has also learned a lot from the camp's volunteers and staff members.
"I've learned not to underestimate people," said Paul. "We've hired a lot of college staff, and at the beginning of the summer, I've thought maybe that was not such a good idea. By the end of the summer, those kids have a big red S on their shirts.
"You have to always keep your mind open and your heart open for God to teach you and make you a better person," said Paul.
Hometown Heroes, which is hosted by Joan Lunden, formerly of Good Morning America, airs every Sunday night at 8 p.m. on DIRECTV channel 101.