Campfire Stories

To celebrate Joy “acorns” – who have flourished into beautiful oaks – read some of our client testimonials below.

Connecting With People Just Like Me

I first started going to Camp Joy when I was in 6th grade with my elementary school. I had recently been diagnosed with type one diabetes. I was worried about going to camp even just for the few days. It was the first time I had been away from my mom and dad since I was diagnosed. I ended up loving it there. All my doctors and nurses afterward were telling me I should go to a summer camp there called Camp Korelitz. I ended up going and loving it. I’ve been going to Korelitz for 5 years now.

This summer will be my 6th year there but this time will be different because I will be a counselor there. Camp holds a dear spot in my heart because it’s the one place where I don’t have to feel like I need to be anyone but myself. It’s an amazing feeling to connect with people just like me. There was a little boy in foster care that I connected with last summer as a C.I.T. It was special because connecting with him brought back memories from when I was in foster care. I believe it made me respect what Camp Joy does even more. The fact that it makes kids who feel like they have no one in the world who cares about them, feel loved, valued and they can do anything in the world.

 The past week I have been at my very first staff training at Camp Joy, honestly, it’s been amazing. I connected with all kinds of different personalities and meet many people with different life obstacles. I personally don’t have the same as some of the other staff members but their stories touch a special place in my heart. It was amazing hearing them talk about past memories from camp and help them make new memories.

Camp Joy is a special place for too many reasons to fit into one page. I love it and all the wonderful staff there who help make not only the campers but the families and other counselors feel loved and valued. I know in my heart Camp Joy will always be the place I call home.

- Brooklynn Parker

My Wish

It was my first year at Camp Wekandu (Arthritis Camp). I felt so lonely cause I didn’t know anyone. As the week went on I made tons of life-long friends. But every good thing must come to an end. The night before we had to leave we had a dance. At the end of the dance they played My Wish by Rascal Flatts, and it took everything in my not to cry like a baby. But it happened anyway. We all got in a big circle and belted out the song. At the end hugs and cries we shared all around and I looked right at the lifeguard Liz and she gave me the biggest hug ever. And from that moment on I knew I had to come back. Six years later I’m becoming a counselor. It’s been my dream job ever since I shared that moment with so many people like me, and I will never forget it.

- Kamille Ward

Summer Super Heroes

Magic Makers, Gigglebox Tuners, Gaga Gurus…In my two summers at Joy, I’ve been equipped with what it takes to be a difference maker. My Chaco’s have filled with pool water and gravel, to make sure every road was worth traveling for our campers. My fanny pack has held bandaids, even when some wounds were more than skin deep. My bandana carried the sweat the comes from hard play and hard times. With this, and so much more, I have learn that no child is too hard to love. I’ve learned that 23,000 steps in one day just gives us a new goal for the next day. Camp is about facing challenges and leaving stronger and better than when you first came. Camp has taught me to love myself, even the not-so-perfect and rough-edged parts. Camp taught me how to be a Superhero.

- Courtney Knox

I thought that was brilliant.

It’s been tough at times, and spending time with colleagues at Camp Joy really provided me with an opportunity to open up, talk, and listen to others as they offered advice and encouragement.  And in many cases, I was able to return the gift.  I totally get why you take us into the woods.  If you think about it, when was the last time you camped, in a cabin, with a group of giggly people sleeping in bunk beds, playing?  For most people, it was when we were children.  And Camp Joy re-creates that child-like atmosphere – the atmosphere where we as humans are most receptive to learning.  I thought that was brilliant.  So, I returned to work Monday re-energized and ready to be the best leader I can be for my team here at KTNV.  I’m not tired anymore, at least not right now. 

- Traci Wilson
Assistant News Director

Beautiful Experience

Dear Ms. Thompson: My wife and I had the great pleasure of attending the Burn Camp this past month sponsored by the OSU Burn Clinic. It was a wonderful experience – not only us your facility beautiful and filled with many outstanding recreational opportunities for families of all ages, the food was excellent and the surroundings peaceful and beautiful.

However, what made the weekend so memorable was the people involved, including your wonderful staff. While each of the individuals with whom we came in contact were friendly, enthusiastic and clearly committed to giving their talents and skills to helping others, we particularly want to single out Jack Murphy. He was wonderfully happy and an inspiration to all of us – he made the weekend very memorable. Thank you for a great experience. We look forward to our return.

- OSU Burn Camp Family


Nothing great has ever been accomplished without enthusiasm. Three weeks before going to camp one of my struggling students started a countdown for camp. Every day he would say “__ days before camp Mrs. Campbell. I’m going to do the zipline.

I’m so excited” He would tell me this about 5 times per day. I always knew how many days it was before camp. Well, yesterday, it was his turn to do the zipline. I will preface this by saying how hard it is to get up that pole to get onto the zipline. I did it several years ago with great difficulty. You have to climb up about 8 feet of pole, over wires and around the pole to get onto the platform, which is 40 feet in the air. Ok, so he begins climbing and he is struggling. I am standing at the bottom giving him encouragement and trying to slowly explain which foot and hand to put where. Not easy when a child doesn’t know his right from his left. He gets up a few steps, freaks out and comes back down. He is then unharnessed and goes to the bottom of the stairs, takes a few deep breaths, stops shaking and I say, “Remember how excited you were? Do you want to try again?” Well, of course he does. I smile at him and tell him I will be there to help again and he goes up again. By this time, many are there to encourage him. Second try, he makes it a little farther, comes back down. By this time several of the camp counselors have encouraged him and so have more of his friends and another one of his teachers. Well, needless to say, his perseverance overcame his fear, and the help of others got him on that zipline. He was so excited and he just screamed with happiness all the way across. There wasn’t a dry eye around that zipline because he is just loved by all. I love camp.

- Note from a Hillsboro teacher with her take on the magic of the Camp Joy experience.

Facing My Fears

Camp Joy helped me face a lot of fears, whether they be physically challenging or mentally. It helped me to step out of my comfort zone and be braver than I ever knew I could be. It helped me realize being a leader is exactly what I want to do, it’s what I was born to do, and I was and still am striving to help people push through their own fears and reach those goals that at one time may have felt unreachable. It was an invaluable experience.

- Faith
Social Media Specialist
WEWS NewsChannel5

Grey Middle School

Gray Middle School has been attending Camp Joy for over 15 years and the response that we get from our students each year is “Wow—this is so much fun. Can we come back?” That happens with many of our students. Our 8th graders have such a good time that they return as chaperones when they are seniors at the neighboring high school. Camp Joy has successfully accommodated our 200 plus 8th graders with ease. We have been forced to split our group, but the camp staff has made arrangements so that we can visit in back to back trips and adjusted their curriculum to match the Kentucky Core Content. There is no experience that can match the overnight trip to Camp Joy. It has become an 8th grade highlight that brings parents and students alike back for more. Thank you, Camp Joy for making such a difference in the lives of the students at Gray Middle School in Union, KY.

- Pam Ollier and Angie Ballie
Gray Middle School
Union, KY

I learned what I love doing

Camp Joy introduced me to the importance of engagement with nature and fellow human beings. Joy helped me figure out what kind of things, both inside and outside of the workplace, nurtured me. I learned what I love doing: helping others, and interacting with peers and colleagues in a learning environment.  That was huge for me and has enabled me to work in roles I love that allow me to sleep at night.  That means a lot!

- Frank

The Leadership Challenge Workshop

Few people know that Camp Joy has been the venue for The Leadership Challenge Workshop for thirty years. Acclaimed around the world as one of the very best leadership development programs, The Leadership Challenge was designed to include the kind of purposeful and impactful experiential learning activities at which Joy excels. Jim Kouzes, co-author of the award winning best-seller, The Leadership Challenge, was twice on campus in 1987 to co-facilitate the first sessions. There is no other place on the planet that offers this program, the way Joy does. It has been a pleasure partnering with Camp Joy for three decades to bring this powerful leadership message to thousands of people from around the world.

- Steve
Leadership Challenge Program

The excitement of learning and growing at Camp Joy all begins with our first connection with you.