ARARAT — For the 27 participants of this year’s Eldora Handi-Camp, the weekend’s on-again, off-again rain was of little concern.
“It’s been raining, but it’s going really well,” said camp President Kevin Simpson as joyful laughter rang around him during a spirited cornhole game under a shelter at Homeplace Park.
Simpson, whose father organized the first event in 1986, said every year it’s something he looks forward to.
The event features activities familiar to anyone who has been to summer camp — a hay ride, crafts, swimming, and more — but some of the events had to be canceled due to the weather this year.
This was of little consequence to the campers.
“We had to cut the hay ride, but everyone seems to be having a great time without it,” Simpson said. “But we’ll do crafts, play Bingo and have a golf cart parade with 27 golf carts taking a ride around the campground.”
Another peal of laughter.
“These guys are smiling from the time they get out of the car on Friday afternoon until they get back in on Sunday,” Simpson said.
The impetus for the camp is simple, according to Simpson.
“My sister is in a wheelchair, so I know what it’s like to have to be with someone all the time and never get a break,” he said. “This camp is an opportunity to give parents a weekend away from their handicapped children.”
He became quiet, if only for a second.
“I’m involved because of her,” he said, gesturing to his sister. “This is a lot of hard work, but it’s fun and rewarding at the same time.”
Camper Neal Joyner, who has been attending the camp for 28 years, said he looks forward to the camp each year.
“I love it,” he said with his characteristic smile. “I get to see a lot of people and especially enjoy meeting the new campers every year. Besides, I’ve become friends with some of these campers over the years, and I get to catch up with my friends.”
Simpson said that without the support of Homeplace Park and a generous community the camp wouldn’t be possible.
“We would like to offer special thanks to the folks here at Homeplace and all of our donors, contributors and volunteers,” he said.
Homeplace co-owner Elwin Key said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The whole purpose for this park was to provide a place for the community to go, play and have fun,” he said, surrounded by enthusiastic campers. “It just falls to reason that this would be the thing to do. We get the blessings from this, too.”
Volunteer Charles Davis, who has been giving of his time since the camp’s inception, agreed.
“I probably get more out of this than the kids do,” he said. “Each year it just warms my heart and I can’t wait for the next year.”
Keith Strange can be reached at 336-415-4698 or via Twitter @strangereporter.