Mom of special needs child: Camp Barnabas ‘greatest place on Earth’

Kris Presley's son, Chance, has greatly benefited from Camp Barnabas.
Kris Presley’s son, Chance, has greatly benefited from Camp Barnabas.

Ask about Camp Barnabas – a Purdy, Mo., ministry geared toward kids with special needs and chronic illnesses — and Kris Presley cannot say enough.

Which is understandable. Her son Chance, a 16-year-old with special needs whom she calls “medically fragile,” has benefited greatly from his stays there.

“I’ve said many times that it’s the greatest place on Earth,” Presley said. “He doesn’t stay anywhere else. That’s how big camp is for him.”

How big?

“He’s non-verbal so he can’t tell you how much he loves going. But he won’t stop watching their videos (after attending). He wears them out,” Presley explained. “We have to order new ones. And he hums along.”

Which is why the Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper is proud to call Camp Barnabas part of its team again this year. The tournament, a PGA Web.com Tour stop in August in Springfield,  has raised almost $12 million for Ozarks-area children’s charities – including a record $1 million last year.

Camp Barnabas is among 45 charities this year, and here’s how to throw your support to help kids like Chance:

SUPPORTING THE PCCC = SUPPORTING CHARITIES

Buy a $25 TLC Properties Charity Sweepstakes ticket and all the money goes to your favorite charity -- and you also could win this 2015 Ford Mustang.
Buy a $25 TLC Properties Charity Sweepstakes ticket and all the money goes to your favorite charity — and you also could win this 2015 Ford Mustang.
  • HELP CAMP BARNABAS: The non-profit Christian ministry focuses on fun activities for kids with special needs and chronic illnesses. Call 417-476-2565.
  • FOR GOLF FANS, WIN PRIZES: The purchase of a $25 TLC Properties Charity Sweepstakes ticket serves as a four-day tournament pass, but it’s better than that. It enters you to win daily prizes during the tournament as well as grand prizes of $10,000 and a 2015 Ford Mustang. You can also call the PCCC staff at 417-887-3400.
  • TICKET REVENUE GOES WHERE: Contact the local charity of your choice, simply because they receive revenue directly from those TLC Property Charity Sweepstakes tickets marked with their names.
  • BUSINESS SPONSORSHIPS: Businesses can support the PCCC through various sponsorships, such as the daily newsletter, website or through several events such as a dozen Pro-Ams. Additionally, restaurants, clothing stores and entertainment stops and such are asked to donate a gift card with at least a $25 value.
  • WHEN, WHERE: The tournament is Aug. 7-17 at Highland Springs Country Club, with the pros playing beginning Aug. 13.

About Camp Barnabas

At Camp Barnabas, special needs kids receive a ton of attention in a fun environment.
At Camp Barnabas, special needs kids receive a ton of attention in a fun environment.

If you think about it, it’s incredible the way charities become a reality – and how they’re inspired. Cyndy Teas and her husband Paul launched Camp Barnabas after witnessing a young girl unable to attend camp.

Lauren Hauschild attended the Kanakuk Kamps for several summers but was diagnosed with cancer in 1992, when she underwent chemotherapy and ultimately lost a leg.

Still, she soldiered on. In camp 1993, toward the end of Lauren’s stay, she expressed that she just wanted to be a normal kid at camp. Asked what she envisioned, Lauren put it this way:

“Everyone would be in a wheelchair or on crutches. No one would care that your hair was missing from chemo,” Lauren said. “It would be easy for anyone to do all of the activities of camp. Cancer wouldn’t isolate you – it would unite you – and when you came home, you would be loved.”

In 1994 and 1995, the Teas rented a Kanakuk facility and hosted a camp for children affected by cancer or blood diseases, and their siblings. A year later, they purchased Soaring Hawk Camp near Monett and soon Camp Barnabas opened.

It's all smiles at Camp Barnabas.
It’s all smiles at Camp Barnabas.

In March 2015, the final $115,000 of last year’s $1 million was awarded. Camp Barnabas was awarded $4,500, a sum that will go toward improvements to a sensory room. The room is used as a quiet area for the camp’s children with autism.

In other words, Camp Barnabas puts its PCCC donations toward the campers.

“We have so many ongoing expenses, the extras are hard for us to purchase,” said Krista Adams, director of development for Camp Barnabas. “But the extra things are what make the camp fun. It allows us to do things we normally don’t get to do.”

For the Presley family, saying thank-you isn’t enough. You see, Kris adopted Chance when he was young and the medical outlook appeared tenuous, and then Camp Barnabas came into their lives.

“When I adopted Chance, he was 4 ½, and I was told he probably wasn’t going to live to be 5. He turns 16 (this) week,” Kris said. “I didn’t think of letting him go anywhere. He’s medically fragile.

“But I talked to Camp Barnabas, and they assured me he would be OK.”

Through Camp Barnabas, Kris and Chance have beaten the odds.
Through Camp Barnabas, Kris and Chance have beaten the odds.

The camp has medical teams on site – perfect for Chance, who requires a feeding tube. Their good work with him and others led Kris recently to launch their own non-profit called Chance in Charge. A fundraiser led to two $12,000 donations, including one to Camp Barnabas.

“When I dropped him off (the first time), I stopped in the middle of the road and wanted to get him,” Kris said. “I didn’t, which was the best thing I ever did for him. At camp, he’s just normal. In the real world, people would wonder what’s wrong with him and stare at him. He’s just Chance at camp.”

A great place indeed.