How the Rotary Youth Camp Changed the Life of a Girl with Cerebral Palsy

(Note: This story is based on an actual camper’s experience. The camper’s name has been changed.)

Diane always felt separated from her peers in school because of her cerebral palsy. It confined her to a wheelchair from a very young age and made life extremely difficult in ways that most people couldn’t understand. The worst part was how socially isolated she felt because she was the only person in her school with this condition.

As a result, she often had to deal with feelings of depression and loneliness even when surrounded by her able-bodied friends. None of them had to experience the problems she faced, and sometimes people could be insensitive in how they treated her. This always hurt her feelings whether they meant to be rude or not.

More than anything, Diane just wanted to feel like she wasn’t so different than everybody else. However, she resigned herself to the belief that she would always feel different because there’s no cure for cerebral palsy.

One day, Diane’s mother heard about the Rotary Youth Camp. It provides opportunities for children with developmental disorders like Diane’s to have normal camping experiences together. Diane signed up to participate in a camping session that summer and it was one of the best choices she ever made.

Diane was amazed when she first arrived at the Camp. For the first time in her entire life, she was surrounded by kids who had cerebral palsy and other conditions like hers. No longer was she different than anybody else; she was just another girl who was there to play.

During the camp, Diane had more fun than she’d ever experienced in her entire life. She made incredible friends with whom she laughed and had adventures in a safe and welcoming environment at the Camp. The time flew by, and she felt an enormously positive change occur within herself.

She returned the next summer and every summer thereafter until it was time for her to go to college. After that, she began coming back to serve as a Camp counselor to other young women with disabilities like hers. She made lifelong connections with people who looked and felt like her, and created a special bond with them that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.

Your donations to Greater Kansas City Day make it possible for girls like Diane to have awesome experiences at the Rotary Youth Camp every year. Click the “Donate” button to donate any amount.

How the Rotary Youth Camp Helped a Girl Move Past Her Juvenile Arthritis

Runner touching painful knee. Athlete runner training accident. Sport running knee sprain.(Note: This story is based on an actual camper’s experience. The camper’s name has been changed.)

For most of her childhood, Julie felt the agonizing symptoms of juvenile arthritis. These included searing pain in her joints as well as stiffness, fever, and swelling. Every day was a struggle for her because the severity of her symptoms would wax and wane without warning. Sleep was elusive as well because the pain prevented her from being able to rest.

The problem was that Julie’s immune system attacked her healthy cells and her doctors didn’t know why. What they did know was that she needed to exercise when her symptoms weren’t as severe to support her physical development. However, she couldn’t play sports regularly or engage in physical activities with her peers when her symptoms flared up. This caused her to feel socially isolated, depressed, and anxious.

One day, Julie’s parents heard about a program for children with juvenile arthritis that included a camping experience at the Rotary Youth Camp. She decided to sign up for it and it changed her life forever.

At the Camp, she became friends with kids who also had arthritis and other rheumatic issues. She was no longer the only one she knew who had problems like this, and she could relate to them because of their shared experiences.

The camp had sports and swimming for when her symptoms weren’t as severe, and activities such as board games and arts and crafts when it was too painful for her to move. Julie had an amazing time at the Camp, and she made lifelong friendships as a result.

The Rotary Youth Camp exists to serve kids like Julie to give them opportunities for normal camping experiences despite their limitations. Your donations to Greater Kansas City Day ensure that the Camp can maintain its operations every year. Click the “Donate” button or buy a paper on April 10 to support the Rotary Youth Camp.

How the Rotary Youth Camp Helped a Boy with High Functioning Autism

Little boy at a therapist's office, sitting in a white chair in front of his psychologist(Note: This story is based on an actual camper’s experience. The camper’s name has been changed.)

Jeremy’s parents were always worried about him because of his high functioning autism. He was extremely intelligent and had an incredible memory with sharp attention to detail. However, he had a difficult time with social interactions and often engaged in repetitive behaviors without a clear reason or benefit.

Jeremy had an especially hard time grasping communication skills and fell behind his peers in his social development. He became socially isolated as a result.

His parents had realized that he was on the autism spectrum from an early age, and they’d done everything they could to support his development. Still, his lack of socialization was troubling and they feared that it would lead to greater problems later in life.

They found an organization that would help provide Jeremy with the opportunities he needed to grow and become as independent as possible. This organization had a program that helped children on the autism spectrum to develop their social and life skills. Part of that program involved a camping experience at the Rotary Youth Camp.

At the Camp, Jeremy was given the chance to have a normal camping experience with other kids who were also on the autism spectrum. He was treated like any other child without disabilities, and he wasn’t judged when his symptoms manifested themselves. There, he could play and make friends despite his challenges.

Jeremy had a wonderful time hanging out with other kids who were also on the spectrum, and the experience helped his ongoing development overall. Jeremy’s parents were relieved when they saw that he’d had fun, and they decided that the Camp would be a regular part of Jeremy’s childhood as he grew up.

The Rotary Youth Camp exists to help kids like Jeremy who are on the autism spectrum to have a fun, normal camping experience despite their challenges in life. Your donation to Greater Kansas City Day helps ensure that the Camp continues to provide these opportunities to disabled and disadvantaged kids. Click the “Donate” button or buy a paper April 10 and donate any amount to the Rotary Youth Camp.

How the Rotary Youth Camp Eased an Abused Boy’s Pain

(Note: This story is based on an actual camper’s experience. The camper’s name has been changed.)

Edward was only four years old when his father began to abuse him physically and emotionally. Edward internalized the abuse and believed that he somehow deserved it, and this made him feel terrible all the time. He never wanted to go home at the end of school each day.

Eventually, a school counselor intervened and a social worker removed him from the abusive environment. However, Edward was severely traumatized by his experiences and it affected every aspect of his life. He had poor grades and didn’t feel interested in anything. He found it especially difficult to cultivate lasting friendships, and he had no confidence or self-esteem. He slipped into a deep depression and almost gave up on himself entirely.

Then one day, his social worker heard about the Rotary Youth Camp and the opportunities it provides for abused children to have positive and healthy experiences. She encouraged Edward to sign up, and he decided to give it a try. He was extremely happy that he did.

That summer at the Camp, Edward met kids from all over the area who’d also been abused. He related to them as they shared their stories of survival, and for the first time in his life he felt like he wasn’t alone in his pain. He gained strength through the relationships he cultivated, and had an incredibly good time, as well.

The Camp gave Edward and his new friends the chance to build their self-esteem and to meet positive adult role models who encouraged them to believe in themselves. It also introduced them to new interests and hobbies that they could develop into useful skills. Edward never forgot his first experience at Camp, and he resolved to return every summer thereafter, which he did.

Edward grew into a capable, confident, and compassionate young man who dedicated his life to helping abused children. He returned to the Camp every year to share his story with new campers and to help them realize their potential in life.

Your donation to Greater Kansas City Day will ensure that the Rotary Youth Camp continues to serve abused children and improve the quality of their lives. Click the yellow “Donate” button or buy a paper April 10 to donate any amount to support the Rotary Youth Camp.

How Youth in the 4-H Pioneer Club Benefit from Greater Kansas City Day

Cabins 4 KidsBy: Tara Markley, 4H Youth Development Agent, Johnson County K-State, Research & Extension

Pioneer has used some of the money we’ve received from the Rotary Club in a few different ways. Pioneer is utilizing some of the money from the Rotary Club to give back to the local DeSoto community. The group is coordinating with the local nursing home to purchase board games and activities as a gift, then the Pioneer youth plan to schedule a game day where kids can play games/do activities along with the senior adults. Pioneer does Christmas caroling at the nursing home each year, and we felt this was a way to extend our reach to the seniors in the community outside of the holiday season.

To give back to youth in the greater Kansas City area, Pioneer is sending one youth to camp this summer as part of the Cabins4Kids program. Cabins4Kids sends inner city kids who would not otherwise get a chance to have a “camp experience” to Rock Springs 4-H camp near Junction City where they learn about self-awareness, leadership development, civic engagement, and a respect for life. Many have an unstable home life, and camp becomes like a second home to them. Youth members from the Pioneer Club have been counselors at Cabins4Kids over the years. You can find more info here:

We are spending another bit of the Rotary money on club t-shirts—we are making sure each child has a Pioneer 4-H shirt to wear around town to promote 4-H to the greater community.

We are truly thankful for the Greater Kansas City Day project and Club 13’s efforts to support youth in our community.

Your donations help kids with organizations like the 4-H Pioneer Club to have wonderful programs like Cabins4Kids. Buy a paper March 29 or click the “Donate” button to donate any amount to Greater Kansas City Day.

An Alternatively Abled Girl Forges Fond Memories at the Rotary Youth Camp

Old picture of camp
A building at the Rotary Youth Camp from the 1960’s

Barbi Richards fondly remembers her time at the Rotary Youth Camp. She was among a group of alternatively-abled girls who camped there in the 1960‘s as part of the Juliette Low sessions, named for the founder of the Girl Scouts of America.

Richards was a camper for five years and always enjoyed the experience. “The best part was that they treated you like a regular person. We had responsibilities we were expected to fulfill. If I didn‘t get all the silverware polished, I‘d have to deal with Cookie.

Cookie, the camp-name of Juanita Duncan, was the camp director at the time and was known for cultivating an aura of respect in the kitchen. ―She was tough, but you could tell she really loved you.” said Richards.

She recalls friends she met at the camp whom she maintained relationships with later on in life. She mentions Pam, her roommate at Emporia State, and Joan who, “had the greatest sense of humor.”

Richards graduated from Shawnee Mission West high school, and after earning a bachelor‘s degree in computer science she worked for the Federal Aviation Administration as a computer controller. As a participant in the recent Rotary picnic at the youth camp, Richards remarked on how well-maintained it is after so many years. “I love the new nature trail, and the campfire area is new as well. We used to have to go deep in the woods to have a campfire.”

Laurie Mozley, present-day camp director, discussed changes that have occurred since Richards‘ days as a camper. “We‘ve added new buildings as well as two permanent tent camp areas, but there remains a cabin and a barn from when the camp first opened, and the original flagpole by the gazebo.”

George Brett and Kansas City Star Publisher Mi-Ai Parrish sell newspapers to help alternatively-abled boys and girls have positive experiences at the Rotary Youth Camp
George Brett and Kansas City Star Publisher Mi-Ai Parrish sell newspapers to help alternatively-abled boys and girls have positive experiences at the Rotary Youth Camp

Another change is the addition of the swimming pool, one of the only pools in the region which has a ramp for wheelchair-bound swimmers. Marie Whitmer was among those Rotarians who helped raise money to fund the pool, and delights in the experience it offers campers. “It makes the water come to you,” she said.

The Rotary Youth Camp is located in Lee‘s Summit on the edge of Lake Jocomo. Every summer, disadvantaged and alternatively-abled youth come for 10 day camping sessions. As part of the experience, they are given service projects to perform which usually involve camp maintenance. Mozley said, “It‘s not uncommon for campers to return later on in life. John Sehorn was a camper in the 1950‘s back when it was called a camp for ‘crippled boys,‘ and he returns every year to help out and be involved in some way. It really makes a positive impact on the lives of campers.”

Stories like these fuel the Rotary Youth Camp and the thousands of volunteers and donors who make Greater Kansas City Day a success year after year. Donate now to make a difference in the lives of disabled and disadvantaged kids.