By Leah Roberson
Mississippi state legislators were invited to attend an appreciation brunch Dec. 6 for their past support of the Mississippi’s Toughest Kids Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to build and maintain Mississippi’s first and only year-round fully handicap-accessible camp facility for children and adults with serious illnesses, physical and mental challenges, and other special needs.
Mary Kitchens, director and co-founder of the foundation, welcomed her guests and spoke of the importance of having a completely barrier-free, fully-accessible facility available for the special needs community. Kitchens shared her personal testimony of the two-year battle with cancer that her son, Dan, faced when he was a child. Their experience with attending summer camps for pediatric cancer patients began a discussion for the need of a camping facility for the chronically-ill. Camp Kamassa will be like no other camp in Mississippi, as it will enable all campers the opportunity to participate in all activities.
Often, kids with special needs come to camp carrying self-pity, bitterness, anger, sadness, and loneliness. Spending several days with other kids who face the same challenges can offer healing experiences and opportunities to build lasting friendships. In Kitchens’ opinion, camp is a place where they feel welcomed; something they look forward to with eagerness and excitement that keeps them going throughout the year.
Following the brunch, legislators were treated to a tour of the campgrounds where they viewed current progress and were shown future plans needed to see project completion. On the tour, Kitchens highlighted the uniqueness in design of having the eight duplex and six family cabins centrally-located and easily accessible by covered sidewalks. This contrasts greatly with other camp facilities where activity buildings and camper cabins are spread throughout the property, making it extremely difficult for those with special needs to navigate. Areas on the campground that still need to be completed include an equestrian area, swimming pool with therapeutic hot tub, cafeteria, infirmary, chapel, playground, sports field, archery range, open air recreation building, and amphitheater.
District 98 Rep. Daryl Porter Jr. said this was his first time visiting the camp, but what he saw was amazing; and he will apprise his fellow representatives to the work being done at Camp Kamassa.
District 46 Rep. Karl Oliver was extremely impressed with the camp and plans to continue his support of the MTK Foundation.
District 66 Rep. De’Keither Stamps said that although he saw the initial stages of the land being cleared for the site, he was thrilled to see the great amount of progress that has been made in such a short amount of time. His mother, Debra Stamps, is a resident of Copiah County and a committed and long-serving volunteer to the MTK Foundation. Stamps shared that his premature birth and the resulting physical impairments requiring the use of corrective leg braces may have contributed to her involvement with MTK. He loves the idea of “good people working together for Mississippi children.”
Although Camp Kamassa is about halfway through the construction process, Kitchens hopes to rally more legislative support to continue the project’s momentum. She told the representatives present that with their support, MTK has made “great progress, and she is excited about the future.”
For more information on how to get involved with MTK or help build Camp Kamassa, visit their website at https://campkamassa.com/how-you-can-help-1.
By Leah Roberson