How One Man’s Dream Became a Labor of Love for Many
How One Man’s Dream Became a Labor of Love for so many…
Charles J. Miller had a dream. It all started in the summer of 1969 during a conversation with the Executive Director of the Woodhaven Learning Center, a school for children with disabilities in Columbia, Missouri.
His dream was of a residential summer camp on property he and his brother-in-law, Harry Brown, owned, located on the Lake of the Ozarks, a camp for everyone whatever their ability level. Their goal was to create a place for people and campers with disabilities to experience the exhilaration of outdoor play. A camp designed to match their special medical needs and provide them with the maximum safety with freedom to enjoy nature.
Meetings and discussions with concerned groups including the Missouri State Division of Mental Health, United Cerebral Palsy of Missouri, and Woodhaven Learning Center, led to a meeting with the Missouri Jaycees Executive Committee.
Mr. Miller told the Jaycees of his dream, and on May 17, 1970, the Missouri Jaycees voted to adopt the camp project. Mr. Miller and Mr. Brown donated their land; 35 undeveloped acres adjoining the Lake of the Ozarks with an additional 200 acres for nature trails and out camping.
They named it Wonderland Camp and it was incorporated as a not-for-profit foundation by the State of Missouri.
Jaycee chapters throughout the state came forward to contribute. The Kansas City Jaycees provided the professional architectural and planning services. The Southern Platte Chapter took on half the cost and labor involved in the installation of a well and pump. And Missouri Jaycee Chapters throughout the state gave liberally of their labor to build the facilities.
Although only a few buildings were completed, the camp was functionally sound and usable enough to welcome its first campers in the spring of 1972. By the August closing date, 157 children and 83 counselors and staff had used and thoroughly enjoyed the new Wonderland Camp.
Since the first small start, construction has gone forward. Facilities have been expanded to provide an outdoor camping experience for over 1,000 campers each summer. The camp is still growing. Click here to take a visual tour of the facilities at Wonderland Camp.