Chuck and Jodi Ferguson spent several years traveling in the summer to take their autistic son to Missouri so he could attend Camp Barnabas, a camp designed for special needs children. After years of traveling to Missouri in the summer, the couple decided there was a need closer to home for a similar summer camp for special needs children. In 2006, they founded Camp Blessing Texas in Tomball.
The Fergusons used Camp Barnabas as a model for Camp Blessing and designed it as a Christian camp that focuses on love, acceptance and fun. All campers have some form of special needs such as autism, Down syndrome or cerebral palsy.
"We really want every camper to feel loved by God just the way they were made," said Glen Elder, executive director for Camp Blessing. "It's a big, life-changing event for these kids by getting the chance to get out and play with others."
Elder and his wife, Laura, joined Camp Blessing in 2006 after being approached by the Fergusons to help with their endeavor. The Elders have five children, two that have special needs, and said they were thrilled to volunteer their time to a cause that was important to them.
"We saw how the camp can really impact kids and gets them away from electronics and their busy lives," Glen said. "Camp Blessing allows them the opportunity to slow down and enjoy God's creation for a little bit."
Each camp week lasts five days and four nights and each camper is assigned his or her own counselor so there is a one-on-one focus, Glen said.
Counselors are all volunteers who come to camp a day early to undergo training. There is a theme to every summer and each camp has a Christian focus with Bible study in the morning and worship in the evenings, he said.
"We do normal camp stuff so everyone can enjoy [the experience] and has a chance to succeed," Glen said. "We offer everything from zip lines to horseback riding and swimming. Volunteers are taught how to serve, the campers have fun and parents get a break from the sometimes overwhelming job of taking care of a special needs kid."
In its inaugural year, the camp ran for one week and had 17 campers, Glen said.
For the first five years, the camp operated solely on the help of volunteers until Glen left his job in 2010 to focus fully on growing and developing Camp Blessing. He said the camp has grown by about 30 percent every year in its short existence and now boasts seven weeks of camp with 365 campers and 558 volunteers.
Since 2006, Camp Blessing has rented out camps throughout Texas to host its summer camps, Glen said. As a result of its rapid growth in terms of volunteers, campers and weeks needed for the camps, Glen said it has become more difficult to rent out camps for the summer.
"Our dream has always been to build our own camp," he said. "Thanks to the donation of 72 acres of land, that dream is really starting to come along."
The donated acreage is northwest of Tomball and master planning of the property along with land clearing and engineering are underway, he said. The goal is to have the camp completed in time for the summer of 2016, but Camp Blessing still needs to raise $12 million. When completed, the camp will include lodging, a dining hall, a worship hall and plenty of outdoor activities, he said.
Camp Blessing Texas 2014 Summer Camps
June summer camp will have three sessions at Hill Top Camp, 217 Hilltop Road, Garrison, Texas.
- Session 1: June 14–18
- Session 2: June 21–25
- Session 3: June 28–July 2
July summer camp will have four sessions at Camp Holy Wild, 22152 Baptist Encampment Road, New Caney, Texas.
- Session 1: July 8–12
- Session 2: July 15–19
- Session 3: July 22–26
- Session 4: July 29–Aug. 2
For more information regarding summer camps, volunteering or donating to the campaign to build a new camp, call 281-259-5789 or visit www.campblessing.org.