A popular summer camp south of Red Lodge is held each year for children with special needs in the Billings area. We'll cut right to the chase... they desperately need three things from the community to help make 2024 a success:

  • Critical sponsorship money.
  • Volunteers
  • More Optimists

The Optimist Children's Camp was founded in 1967 as a Billings Optimist Club joint project. Since its inception, the weeklong camp (held at the Lion's Campground near Red Lodge) has hosted thousands of kids, giving them a week away from home in a safe, supervised environment with their peers.

Campers between the ages of 8 and 21 get to experience fishing, hiking, swimming, and camping and the camps also give parents a respite from tasks that can become tedious for those caring for a special needs child. Typically, 50 - 55 kids participate each year, at no cost to the families.

Volunteer counselors are needed. Credit Canva
Volunteer counselors are needed. Credit Canva

COVID disrupted the camp, financially and otherwise.

An Optimist Club representative shared some of the struggles their camp program has experienced since the pandemic. A big one is that the cost to run the camp has essentially doubled in the last three years. No camps were held for two years, and in 2023 the program struggled to fill its pipeline of volunteer counselors.

Credit Canva
Credit Canva

Want to be a volunteer camp counselor?

The Optimist Children's Camp needs 30 - 40 vetted volunteer counselors each summer to help support each child's unique needs. The organization told us, "We need young and young at heart counselors for a week of one-on-one support and companionship." This sounds like a great opportunity to experience the rewards of volunteerism. If interested, reach out HERE, or inquire with any Optimist Club member in Billings.

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Another need is financial support.

There are six Optimist Clubs in Billings and Lockwood, which support a variety of fantastic youth programs, including Scouts, Junior Golf, Friendship House, Tumbleweed, and many others.

Their biggest collaborative project is the summer camp. Your tax-deductible donation to the camp helps cover camp scholarships, overhead costs, and a small staff of paid camp employees which includes four team leaders, two registered nurses, and the camp cook. You can donate online HERE.

The story was updated to correct the spelling of Lion's Park. 

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