Country music star Joe Nichols recently took on a team of fifth graders on the celebrity edition of "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader,"" tackling a variety of subjects ranging from geography to social studies.
Nichols played for his favorite charity, Camp Barnabas, located near Purdy, winning $125,000 for the camp that caters to young people with special needs. His younger sister Kelli has attended the camp for several years.
The windfall came as a surprise to Camp Barnabas co-founders Paul and Cyndy Teas.
"We really don't know Mr. Nichols," said Cyndy Teas. "His sister has been here at camp for the last five years.
"About two and a half months ago, we received a call from [Nichols'] agent," Cyndy continued. "He said if [Nichols] won, he wanted to donate the winnings to Camp Barnabas."
The show was filming at that time but did not air for several weeks.
"We had to keep quiet for weeks," Cyndy said. "We saw the show when it aired."
According to Cyndy, the funds came at a good time for the camp.
"We will use them as part of a matching grant from the Mabee Foundation," she said. "So the money has already doubled."
Mabee Foundation funds are used to aid Christian religious organizations, charitable organizations, institutions of higher learning and hospitals, among others.
The combined funds will be used to build Lauren's WellHouse, a new clinic facility on the grounds at Camp Barnabas. The WellHouse is named for Lauren Hauschild, a camper who inspired Paul and Cyndy Teas to start the Christian-based summer camp program in 1994. Following her experience with cancer, Hauschild expressed her desire to "just be a normal kid at camp" to Cyndy, who was at that time the director of health services at Kanakuk Kamps in Branson.
Cyndy said she doesn't know what the impact of the CMT airing of Nichols' episode of "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader," but following national exposure on ABC's 2005 "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" that featured the camp, they went from serving 100 kids a week at camp to 150.
"We never had enough bed space," Cyndy said. "We were full before 'Makeover' aired. Then we built 21 more cabins and were able to put an extra bed in each cabin. They have aired the show several times, and I think that helps keep the camp fresh in people's minds."
Cyndy and the staffers at Camp Barnabas are grateful to the people who have seen the shows featuring the camp and sent donations.
"They have even aired the show in Europe and on military stations," Cyndy said. "And we have an awesome response from people who want to come and just be a part of things here."
|The camp runs primarily eight weeks through the summer.||Assisting campers throughout the course of the summer are over 2,400 volunteers, 110 summer staff and 12 year-round staff.|
"We have one-on-one staff to camper ratios," Cyndy said. "And some kids on ventilators not only have their one staffer who is with them all the time, but a nurse to watch their vents at night and to give breathing treatments and watch over them while they sleep in case something goes wrong. The ratio to chronically ill kids that need a lot of attention is more like three-to-one."
Teas has a list of student nurses who work one-on-one with chronically ill children during the weeks of summer camp.
"They get more practical experience here during the course of one summer than they would ordinarily get in several years working in a hospital setting," Cyndy said. "We have kids with some of the rarest illnesses in the world that come to camp, where in a hospital or clinic."
With the explosion in camp population, the Teases are finding it necessary to build on to their dining hall.
"We never thought that we would have more than 400 kids a week in the dining hall," Cyndy said. "But when you add the kids, their staff, the doctors, nurses and full-time workers, we are having between 450 to 480 people through there three times a day.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect things to get this big," Cyndy said.
Another wish that the dream team has on their list is a pavilion-style chapel in which to hold their worship services.
"With the WellHouse, the enlarged dining area and the chapel, I think we would be pretty well set," Cyndy said. "Every building on the grounds is new. We have a new pool. We've come a long way in 15 years."
"This is an exciting time for us and God's not finished with me yet," Cyndy continued. "God is writing this book and this isn't the last chapter."