“It was the most heartbreaking decision we have ever had to make. It made me physically ill and I think I can speak for our staff and board of directors. It was not a decision any of us made lightly,” Clayton said.

The list of businesses and social services closing or temporarily suspending operation due to the COVID-19 pandemic grows daily. Even as Missouri and other states begin to reopen and stimulate the economy once more, more and more are added to the list every day. The lake area added one more of their own recently as Wonderland Camp announced it would be closing its doors during the summer season.

Wonderland Camp Director of Fund Development Mike Clayton says the camp has been monitoring the COVID situation on a daily basis for weeks. After meeting with the camp’s Physician Advisors and going over data, the camp was put in the position of suspending their 11-week summer program for the first time in 50 years.

“It was the most heartbreaking decision we have ever had to make. It made me physically ill and I think I can speak for our staff and board of directors. It was not a decision any of us made lightly,” Clayton said.

Clayton says that all hope is not lost, however. He says they will continue to monitor what the pandemic brings and may be able to host a number of fall weekend camps to bring their campers some sort of experience before the end of the year. He says the camp leaders are crossing their fingers that the pandemic will not extend into 2021 and cancel a second summer, as it would be devastating to the campers.

Currently, the camp is open for rental opportunities only. The camp houses 125 acres of outdoor fun and scenery and includes a dining and meeting hall, a chapel, outdoor pavilions, fire pits, mini golf, basketball, pool, soccer field, meeting rooms, game room, rock climbing wall, burma bridges, tree house, playground, boating, fishing, paddle boats and 12 heated and cooled cabins that sleep 18 plus a condo. Clayton hopes that families will make the camp a destination this summer to help resume some operations.

In the grand scheme of things, Clayton believes this pandemic will permanently alter camps such as Wonderland. He believes new safety procedures will be put in place moving forward and the camp will likely see a number of safety equipment items installed.

“One thing that won't change is the love and caring that we show each member of camp and the bond and friendship that is created between the counselors, staff and campers each season,“ Clayton said.

Clayton stressed that this decision put a burden on the financial side of the camp. Wonderland Camp will host several fundraisers in May through November and hopes the community will come out to help support the cause. Funds will not only be used towards continued operation in the future, but also to operate their virtual camp hosted on their website and YouTube page, which gives at-home campers a way to join in on fun, camp-like activities. For details on how you can help Wonderland Camp serve people with disabilities please reach out to Mike Clayton at 573-280-5648 or mike@wonderlandcamp.org