Eldora Handicamp will be marking its 33rd year on Friday, as the three-day camp begins for the first time without either of its co-founders.
The camp for special-needs children was founded in 1986 by Brent Simpson and Paul Key and is held at Homeplace Recreational Park in Ararat. Key died several years ago and Simpson passed away in May.
“Some of the campers asked if we were still going to have it,” said Kevin Simpson, Brent Simpson’s son who has stepped forward to serve as president of the non-profit organization that sponsors the camp. Steven Norman is vice president, Heather Norman is secretary and Laken Simpson is treasurer.
“We never considered not continuing,” said Simpson. “It was just some of the campers themselves who were afraid it might stop. Our sister is handicapped and Paul Key has a challenged child, so they started it for their kids.”
“When you have people coming back to volunteer year after year and see kids like this having such a good time, we have no choice but to keep going,” added Simpson.
“Everybody is signed up. We have our volunteers lined up. We hope we have enough, but we won’t know until Friday,” said Simpson.
Between 100 and 200 volunteers will help out over the course of the weekend to make the camp a success for the 28 kids who have signed up this year. Fourteen will be staying overnight, while the others will be commuting each day.
Camper owners have donated the use of their RVs for the kids who will be sleeping over, according to Simpson.
Eldora HandiCamp is not just for the kids who participate. It’s also for the parents of the kids, who serve as their caregivers, to give them a break.
“Keeping up with a handicapped person is a full-time job,” said Simpson, who adds that for one weekend a year, parents can have some free time while Eldora’s volunteers care for and entertain the campers.
Activities scheduled for the weekend include a hayride on Friday evening, swimming on Saturday, and singing and dancing on Saturday. Saturday night a band is coming in to play beach music for the campers.
On Sunday morning, there will be a church service conducted by two campers, both in wheelchairs.
“We used to get a preacher to come in,” said Simpson, ” but about 10 years ago, these two campers wanted to do the service themselves. They’ve been doing it ever since.”
” I started out as a volunteer,” said Simpson. That was 33 years ago. Simpson is still having fun continuing the work his father started.
“It’s been a blessing,” he said.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.