Eight-year old Mason M. wore a smile this week as he enjoyed numerous activities and fun at Camp Quality Ozarks. Mason, like all the other campers, has cancer but that diagnosis didn't hold him back or any of the other kids from having a blast. Mason was one of 49 kids who came to Camp Quality Ozarks this year from around the Four State Area. Campers were from Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas.
"It's fun," Mason said, when asked about his camp experience. "My favorite is the bungee jumping."
Bungee jumping was just one of many ways the kids had fun during Camp Quality Ozarks.
The camp accepts children 4-17 years of age in all stages of cancer. Camp Quality is all about hope - hope for a successful treatment, hope for a cure, and hope for the future. And it's about fun - and kids being kids.
The week-long camp began on Sunday as campers and their camp companions arrived. Camp Quality's programs are unique with a one on one ratio. Each child is assigned a volunteer companion for the week. The companion's responsibility is to be a friend, mentor, and cheerleader throughout the week of camp. Many campers and companions develop friendships that last for years.
In what's become a tradition, the Christopher Foundation prepared dinner for the kids on Sunday evening. The foundation also donated $5,000 to Camp Quality.
The Christopher Foundation, based in Neosho, inspired by Christopher Cooley, has a mission to raise public awareness of pediatric cancer, support patient and families, and gain knowledge through research funding.
Hot air balloon rides were available, provided by Sizzler on Sunday evening.
During the week, meals in the dining hall offered a wide variety of food that included donated pizza from CiCi's Pizza in Joplin for a meal. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served along with plenty of water and Gatorade.
"Yeah, the food's good," Mason said.
"Tell them what you like best," Matthew, Mason's camp companion said. "Tell them what you've been eating a lot of."
"Candy!" Mason said with a smile.
On Wednesday, inflatables and bungee jumping was available.
Other activities including tie-dye and other crafts held in the Craft Tabernacle at Camp Quality as well as movie nights. The Redings Mill Fire Department came out and provided the water for some inflatable water slides.
The kids enjoyed a variety of games and some fished in a stream that runs through the camp.
Almost any activity that a kid would enjoy was offered during the week.
Camp Quality Ozarks is part of Camp Quality USA which has 16 locations in 12 different states.
In the area, Camp Quality has offered the chance for kids to be free to be themselves and free to be kids again since 1988 at the same site.
"We've been here every year since 1988," Leona Belk, camper/companion coordinator for Camp Quality Ozarks, said. "There was just one year we weren't because of the Iris Road tornado."
That tornado occured in 2008 and caused major damage to the camp, which has existed since the 1940's. The original dining hall, cabins, and other structures were damaged or destroyed but have been rebuilt. For that one year, Camp Quality Ozarks was at another location.
Camp Quality promotes hope and inspiration while helping children foster life skills and develop their full potential. Hope is evident in the young faces, as well as the big grins on the faces of campers and companions.
There is no cost for campers to participate - the only requirement is that they must be between 4-18 years of age and have been diagnosed with cancer.
Camp Quality Ozarks is located between Neosho and Joplin in a wooded rural setting.
Donations for the ongoing Camp Quality Ozarks program may be made at