Summertime came with a massive wave of campers to Central Oklahoma Camp and Conference Center which was a good thing. The camp, which is located just south of town on Camp Road, is a non-profit organization that partners with a multitude of other non-profit programs to facilitate outdoor recreation experiences for youth and adults, most of whom are at risk.
“Our in house program is called Make Promises Happen. The only place this program happens is at our camp.” explained Executive Director Josh McClennahan. “It’s a camping program for our friends that have physical or intellectual disabilities. We start at age six and do not age out. We only separate by age. We take campers and match them up with volunteer counselors, ages 14 and up, and we do camp.”
Some of the activities of the camp include boating, fishing, archery, paint ball, high ropes tower with a zip line, dancing, talent shows and arts and crafts.
“We believe in providing that experience that our friends with disabilities don’t get in the real world. They can come out and be themselves,” said McClennahan. “Our counselors get to be in a position of care and get to learn a little bit about service outside themselves.”
Central Oklahoma Camp (originally Central Oklahoma Christian Camp) began in 1955 and will celebrate 65 years in 2020. Make Promises Happen was founded in the 1980s and has slowly grown into the only camping and travel program in the state for campers with special needs. The modified camping program takes place right on site, and the travel program happens offsite. The camp has slowly grown and gone through a lot of transitions and seen a lot of different campers over the years.
“Everywhere I go I hear ‘yah I went out to camp for this or I was part of this group,’” said McClennahan. “To hear how everyone has had a part of camp in their lives is really, really powerful.”
The travel program of the camp has taken a small group of campers to places like Winter Park Colorado to ski, Costa Rico to zip line through the rain forest, Port Aransas, Texas to surf, small trips across Oklahoma and more.
McClennahan shared, “We’re really trying to take the concept that we believe at camp of leaving limitations behind and saying ‘hey, if we can do it here, we can do it in the real world.’”
Central Oklahoma Camp also partner with other organizations to provide many different types of camps. One of them being Diabetes Solutions, which provides a camping experience for
teenagers with Type 1 diabetes through Camp Endres.
Central Oklahoma Camp also partners with Camp Live a Dream which is through Ally’s House and is for kids that have or have had cancer and also Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA), a youth leadership program through Rotary International. It also partners with the Regional First Christian Church to facilitate summer church camps, and the Edmond YMCA as a day camp site. The camp provides different things for each group.
“It’s really cool to see that whether directly or indirectly lives are being changed through camp because of what’s happening within our gates. Whether it be through leadership camp, special needs camp with modified activities, or through one of our other camps, it’s a surreal event.” expressed McClennahan. “The mission and ministry of camp has expanded exponentially.”
One of the camp’s fundraisers will take place today: the Like a Boss Mud Run. This is the fourth annual run. The back side of their camp is transformed into a course which is about two and a quarter miles. There are obstacles, ponds, telephone poles to shimmy across and plenty of mud. The race has transformed over the years into an individual or team run, youth run, and buddy run. Runners can time themselves if they’d like to run for competition.
“There’s a lot more modified mud experience,” said McClennahan. “It really is a fun family event.”
A new multi-purpose building is being constructed now. It’s an 11,000 square-foot indoor facility that will allow classroom settings as well as activities such as basketball. Once completed the building will be available for businesses and organizations that would like to rent it.
To learn more about Central Oklahoma Camp and Conference Center visit their website at www.centralokcamp.org, call 405-282-2811 or find them on Facebook and Instagram