Camp Encourage was founded by Kaye Otten, Ph.D. and Kelly Lee, M.S.Ed. in 2007 due to the community expressing a dire need for a quality overnight camp opportunity for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and due to their leadership in a similar camp in the Kansas City area. The initial camp session was held in 2008 and provided a camp experience for 36 local children. Following the session, the organization received a flooding of positive feedback. Interest grew rapidly despite little marketing and recruitment. By 2011, nearly 100 youth from Missouri and Kansas between the age of eight and eighteen were placed on a waiting list following a lottery for acceptance. In anticipation of the continued growth, the Camp Encourage Board of Directors developed a strategic plan and focused on the development of a second camp session. In 2012, services more than doubled—providing two sessions of camp and allowing space for 86 campers.
As interest continued to grow and as the rates for ASD continue to increase, growth at Camp Encourage again occurred in 2017. We welcomed campers and volunteers to Mini Camp overnight sessions--allowing a) first time campers the chance to "sample" camp before jumping into a four-day summer session and b) returning campers a continuation of the goodness of Camp Encourage. We know future growth is on the horizon again and we are eager to see what the future will bring. Growth challenges include recruiting quality volunteers to support the needs of additional campers while also providing increased scholarship funds to meet the needs of the high percentage of applicants that seek and deserve financial support.
Kelly Lee, M.S.Ed.
Kelly received an undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia in Special Education (K through 12) and a master’s degree in Special Education with an emphasis in autism and Asperger syndrome from the University of Kansas. Past experiences include teaching, serving as an Autism Education Consultant, designing and facilitating social development groups, and serving as a summer camp counselor and director.
Aimee began her career in education as paraeducator for the Lee’s Summit R-7 school district, working under the direction our Executive Director, Kelly Lee. It was there her passion for working with individuals with autism spectrum disorder was ignited. Aimee earned undergraduate degree in Special Education from Graceland University and a masters degree in Assessment with an emphasis in Autism Spectrum Disorders from Missouri Western State University. She has served as a special education teacher in classrooms for individuals with autism spectrum disorder for the Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit school districts for the past 10 years.
Sandy Smith, M.S.Ed.
Sandy earned an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and a master’s degree in Special Education in the area of Behavior Disorders (K-9). She has taught for 37 years in the field of special education and currently teaches in the Gardner-Edgerton School District. While working on her master’s degree at Kansas University, she worked as a graduate assistant in one of the University’s very early teacher training programs in the area of autism.
KRISTI LOFTUS, M.S.Ed.
Kristi earned her undergraduate degree in the area of Psychology and Behavioral Health from MidAmerica Nazarene University. After having the opportunity to work at the school within Kids TLC in Olathe KS, she found a passion for dealing with behavioral needs and at risk youth within the classroom. She completed a Master in both High and Low Functioning Autism followed by a Master in Special Education (K-12) though Pittsburg State University. Kristi currently works for the Olathe Public Schools running one of their Alternative Education Programs that serves a variety of levels and needs.
Sara is the mother of a camper and a past peer model camper, as well as a long-time supportive fan of Camp Encourage. She has a passion for dreaming up fun and meaningful fundraising events and has been putting her skills to work with local not for profit organizations in Kansas City for over ten years. After serving as a volunteer for the first CE Movie event, she was hooked and has enjoyed growing our events year after year. Sara, her husband, and three children excitedly look forward to helping with Carnival Night at camp each summer and consider the Camp Encourage community to be part of their extended family.
Kate is currently studying for her BS in Computer Science at UMKC. She loves working with computers, and is learning a lot at the Camp Encourage office! She graduated with honors from Shawnee Mission South High School, and intends to become a software engineer or database specialist.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS COMMITTEE CO-CHAIR
Parent of a young adult on the autism spectrum
ELIZABETH BORESOW, MT-BC
Music Therapist, Piano Teacher, Math Tutor; High Five
Adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Director of Operations in Facilities, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
Julius Karash Communications
TREASURER, FINANCE COMMITTEE CHAIR
Benefit and Planning Counselor; Principal Financial Group
COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS COMMITTEE CO-CHAIR
Founder; CAUSE:CORP Consulting
Marketing, Fundraising, and Event Planning Consultant: Creative Outreach Consulting
KAYE OTTEN, Ph.D.
BOARD PRESIDENT, CO-FOUNDER OF CAMP ENCOURAGE
Private Behavior Consultant
Assistant Professor of Special Education; University of Central Missouri
SARAH OTTO, M.Ed., M.P.A.
EVENTS COMMITTEE CHAIR
Targeted Case Manager; Case Management Services, Inc.
Adjunct Professor; UMKC School of Special Education
JOHN D. TONGIER
Principal; Law Offices of John D. Tongier, LLC
KATHERINE E. COOK, Ph.D.
Autism Specialist; Olathe School District
MICHELLE LONG, CPA
Accountant and Owner; Long for Success, LLC
THERESA VOLLRATH, Ph.D.
Professor of Special Education; University of Central Missouri