Camp Barnabas in Barry County receives $100K donation

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Donor asks to remain anonymous

Krystal Simon, chief development officer for Camp Barnabas, a rural Barry County camp that provides a one-of-a-kind camping experience for individuals with special needs, writes grants as part of her duties to help make the experience a possibility.

The unique camp literally pushes the limits on the limitations those with special needs or chronic illnesses so often encounter, so that they can enjoy the same traditional camp activities their peers enjoy. As a result, when the week-long camp concludes, the camper is forever changed, because the limitations they have dealt with all their lives are removed, and they feel empowered, accepted, and are never made to feel different.

However, as much as Simon would like, not every grant application she writes goes through. So when the mail was opened one day in June, staff got a huge surprise when they found a check for $100,000.

“There was no call [preceding the gift], just a check in the mail,” Simon said. “It was unbelievable. We were beyond excited.”

The individual donor requested to remain anonymous, receiving no recognition for the extremely generous gift. Receiving gifts of that size is not typical.

“We receive large gifts throughout the fiscal year, but most of those are planned, and we know they are going to come through,” Simon said. “This gift was unexpected.”

The money will be used to fund camper attendance scholarships — one of the camp’s greatest and most important needs each year.

“One of the things we are so thankful for is that we have never had to turn a camper away due to inability to pay,” Simon said. “It costs us about $1,300 to send a camper to camp, but we realize that is not realistic for our families, so we charge about $775, and at least 60 percent of those families need a scholarship of some type.

In the past year, over 2,500 campers attended between their Purdy and Shell Knob locations. At the faith-based camp, campers have a devotional each day, and discuss the verse at the end of the day.

“All $100,000 will be used to send kids to camp, which is our mission and what we are passionate about it,” Simon said. “Receiving gifts like this makes our job easier and allows us to stretch our dollars and do more, because it allows us to use other resources to make improvements at camp.

“We put in a paintball course last year and our campers absolutely loved it. Many are turned away from participating in activities because the place wasn’t able to accommodate their wheelchair, or their walker was too much of a liability, so this gift is another opportunity for us to say ‘yes’ to our campers, because so many times in their life they are told ‘no.’

Simon said staff want campers to enjoy all the experiences they would not ordinarily get to back home — like going into a pool, going canoeing, or shooting a rifle.

“We have rifles that can be fired with a straw,” she said. “And a zero-entry pool. We have had campers who have been on ventilators and life support. There are no limitations. We do lake activities, canoing, fishing, archery rifles, pool and art. We have made everything accessible. We are blessed that we have a phenomenal medical team to ensure our campers are well cared for.

“It’s magical to watch when a camper goes down the slide for the first time and experience that adrenaline rush, and it’s unbelievable to see the parents’ reaction, too. Their response as just as powerful. Their child with autism is loved, and the joy you get to see on their faces — there are no words for it. Parents also have a week of respite, and the reassurance their child is going to have the time of their life and be loved and cared for. We say that God’s hand is on this organization.”

For more information, to volunteer, or donate to Camp Barnabas, call 417-708-5297, or visit

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