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 had developed a strategic plan and was planning for 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 continues to grow and as the rates for ASD continue to increase, growth will again be occurring in 2017. We will be welcoming campers and volunteers to weekend overnight sessions and 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.
Alissa Workman, MPA
Alissa received both a B.A. in Political Science and a Master of Public Administration with an emphasis in Nonprofit Administration from the University of Missouri — Kansas City. Alissa has always had a passion for children/youth, the environment, and connecting the two together. She joined the Camp Encourage “family” in 2010 as a volunteer first, a Board member, and then as the Development Director in 2012.
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.
MEGAN BYRNE, M.S.Ed.
Starting her studies at Northwest Missouri State University, Megan earned her undergraduate degree in Special Education Cross Categorical (K-12) and Elementary Education (1-6). She then received her Master in Special Education emphasis in Autism from the University of Kansas. She has taught Special Education in the North Kansas City School District for 5 years and currently teaches in one of the Autism Programs in the Blue Springs School District.
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 the past 8 years. After serving as a volunteer for the first CE Movie event, she was hooked and has enjoyed working with Alissa to grow and improve upon the event each 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 offices! She graduated with honors from Shawnee Mission South High School, and intends to become a software engineer or database specialist.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
MARKETING COMMITTEE CHAIR
Parent of a child on the autism spectrum
ELIZABETH BORESOW, MT-BC
Music Therapist, Piano Teacher, Math Tutor; High Five
Adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder
LEIGH GRUBER Ed.D.
ORGANIZATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR
Director of Special Services; Harrisonville School District
Julius Karash Communications
TREASURER, FINANCE COMMITTEE CHAIR
Benefit and Planning Counselor; Principal Financial Group
FUNDRAISING COMMITTEE CHAIR
Founder; CAUSE:CORP Consulting
Marketing, Fundraising, and Event Planning Consultant: Creative Outreach Consulting
KAYE OTTEN, Ph.D.
CO-FOUNDER OF CAMP ENCOURAGE
Assistant Professor of Special Education; University of Central Missouri
SARAH OTTO, M.Ed., M.P.A.
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
RICHARD SIMPSON, Ph.D.
Retired, Professor of Special Education; University of Kansas
THERESA VOLLRATH, Ph.D.
Professor of Special Education; University of Central Missouri