PURDY - After being told something for so long, you start to believe it.
And the grins on the faces of the youngsters attending Camp Barnabas are proof that can be a good thing.
The camp, located about 45 miles from Springfield, emphasizes their abilities, not their disabilities and for a week, they can forget their illnesses and handicaps and focus on having fun and learning to do activities that build their confidence, courage and independence.
This is the second year the Kenny Rogers Children's Center staff loaded their vehicles and headed for Adventurers Week and according to Executive Director Chuck Martin, it won't be the last.
"We took 20 kids this year and there were more than 120 total children from across the United States at camp that week," he said. "The kids look forward to this camp year round."
What makes the camp different is the camp directors' vision of instilling only positive attributes in the youths which is exactly what the Kenny Rogers Children's Center is all about, Martin pointed out.
The camp caters to children who have diseases like cancer and cystic fibrosis but again this year during the KRCC's stay, the focus was placed on those with mental and physical challenges.
Martin said the camp's website probably best describes what makes this summer camp experience so special. He noted his favorite quote from the site begins by saying that summer camp conjures up images of outdoor adventures, a cool dip in a swimming pool, playing kick ball and creating crafts to take home to mom.
"But for most children facing life-threatening illness or disability, the words take on a completely different meaning," said the website. "To them it means being left out of the fun, left out of doing what healthy kids do."
Camp Barnabas is described as a place where childhood experiences are returned to youths who have been robbed of them by disease or disability. The camp offers non-stop fun in a spiritual foundation, giving children the courage to face disability or disease with dignity.
Naming any number of memorable moments at camp this year, Martin recalled a set of twins, James and John, who have cerebral palsy. This was their second trip to Camp Barnabas.
"They had a fantastic time last year and were really looking forward to going again this year," Martin said. "As we pulled into camp several of the counselors were there to meet us in a driving rainstorm. As soon as we opened the sliding van door several of the counselors saw James and John and shouted, 'Look, it's the sons of thunder,' a reference to what Christ's disciples James and John were called. The looks on the twins' faces were priceless. They felt so important. Who wouldn't have? How cool is it to have somebody remember you from the previous year and to be genuinely excited to see you again?"
Martin recalled they couldn't get the twins out of the van quick enough. "There were lots of hugs, a few tears and a broad smile on all of our faces. That moment is what it's all about. The words from the camp's website came echoing back to me. Those counselors gave life to those words through their enthusiastic welcome to our kids. A priceless moment."
This was the second year at camp for two other KRCC youths who have cerebral palsy. At the end of the session they decided they want to eventually want to become counselors.
"I was so pleased to hear their plans," Martin said. "They've walked the road. They know first hand what it is to have a disability and to face life's challenges head on. Both of these guys are great kids and I have no doubt that they'll be super counselors and make a tremendous impact in the lives of younger campers in the years to come."