For the 42nd year, West Texas Rehab is having their annual summer camp at the Barnhart Ranch in San Angelo.
“Our dad met up with Shelly Smith and said ‘why aren’t these kids going to the Lions Camp?’ They said, ‘they’re too young, they have too many disabilities, they don’t qualify.’ So Daddy said, ‘we have to do something about that.’ So that’s when we started,” said Laura Gillis, a member of the Barnhart Family.
The camp was first created so that all children, regardless of any disability, could experience a summer camp.
“Out here, their diagnosis does not define them and we just want them to have the ultimate camp experience,” said Suzanne Click, the Director of Marketing at West Texas Rehab.
What started as an overnight camp with 13 campers in 1978 is now a 3-day camp with up to 100 campers.
Every camper is assigned to a “buddy” — a youth volunteer who is with them throughout the duration of the camp.
Each day is filled with different activities, all giving the campers an unforgettable experience.
“Today we’ve got a petting zoo, we’ve got fishing, we’ve got s’mores,” added Click.
Organizations volunteer their time and services to make the experience possible.
“We’ve got a garden club. The Texas Parks & Wildlife bring the fish out here,” explained Click.
In previous years, the camp was a collaboration between the Barnhart Family and West Texas Rehab, but this year is a special one.
“Usually we do the planning. Our mother passed away in August. We know our parents would want the camp to continue, so we have donated to the West Texas Rehab so that camp will go on forever,” explained Gillis.
“We’re just super grateful for the Barnhart family. They’re leaving their legacy to the Rehab Center. We appreciate them and their support,” said Chad Hirt, the VP of Development for West Texas Rehab.