Resort for disabled campers saved

Back when I first wrote about their dilemma two years ago, things looked bleak for Kevin and Lori Johnson, of Madison Lake, Minn., who have cared for Kirk Williams, a disabled veteran, for more than 25 years.

The province of Ontario was going to sell the land on which the Wilderness Discovery Resort for the Disabled rests near Thunder Bay, where they once took Kirk twice a year. It was prepared to do so for market value, which was prohibitive for the resort owner, who cited management costs for letting a lease expire.

The campground is a chance for the disabled to enjoy the outdoors, and the campers worried Ontario saw it as a chance to make some money.

The Johnsons took on the campaign, starting an online petition. They made a sign, and traveled to wherever someone famous would hold it. Anything to get some attention for their cause.

These sorts of things usually fail.

This one didn’t.

On Friday, the Ontario government and a host of service clubs, reached a deal to transfer the property to a not-for-profit corporation for the next 20 years, the CBC reports.

Today the Thunder Bay groups will sit down with representatives from the province’s infrastructure and community and social services ministries to finalize the deal and figure out how to bring the property back up to standard since it closed in 2015.

The head of a Rotary Club, who spearheaded fundraising efforts, says it’s unlikely it will open in 2017.

With their victory in hand, the Johnsons said in a news release they now want to pursue a similar facility in Minnesota for people with disability challenges.

  • rallysocks

    //With their victory in hand, the Johnsons said in a news release they now want to pursue a similar facility in Minnesota for people with disability challenges.//

    Woo hoo!

  • chlost

    I know Kevin. He has been unrelenting in this fight over the last two years. He called, cajoled, wrote letters, editorials, talked with reporters, he did anything and contacted everyone possible in working for the “ramp camp”. He is too modest to take the credit. He keeps passing it off to the others who worked for this cause. But he was the key to it all.
    Thanks, Kevin and Lori. Kirk and many others will reap the reward of your hard work and persistence. Minnesota might just as well set up a camp right now and be done. Because they will just end up doing so in the end. You will make it happen, I am sure.

  • Diana

    Wonderful. Luckily, Minnesota does have some great camps already, but we could probably use more. My brother, who has intellectual disabilities, has attended Camp Friendship, for many years. Camp Friendship is part of Truefriends.org, a partnership that includes the Courage Center and provides several accessible camps in MN to those with physical and intellectual disabilities as well as respite care for caregivers. They are amazing places.

    • chlost

      I think the difference is that the camp Kevin is looking to see is one that a camper, adult or child, as well as their family would be able to go there for vacationing. The camps we already have, I think, are for the individual only. Just like everyone else, the idea would be that a family could say “Let’s go camping up North”, and this would be a place that would be fully accessible for the differently abled family member, but the entire family would be together vacationing.

      • Diana

        Thanks for clarifying. Any efforts that expand the opportunities to make camp experiences accessible to those with disabilities and their families is fabulous.