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.