Some of the animals at Camp L.G. Barnes include pot bellied pigs, rabbits, llamas, goat and a donkey. (Contributed photo)

Some of the animals at Camp L.G. Barnes include pot bellied pigs, rabbits, llamas, goat and a donkey. (Contributed photo)

Gull Lake camp for adults with disabilities to reopen in September

Camp L.G. Barnes is transitioning away from Michener Centre funding

Camp L.G. Barnes is planning to reopen to adults with disabilities this fall after some grants were obtained to help it transition from Michener Centre funding.

The camp on Gull Lake isn’t expected to open this summer, due to pandemic restrictions. But board member Deb Simmons said there are plans to reopen facilities in September, as long as protocols allow.

In the meantime, she said the board is hoping to rent out some cabins and other camp amenities this summer to help raise money towards future operations.

Last fall, the government announced Michener Centre would no longer fund the camp or The Hub on Ross, a community meeting place for those with disabilities and others.

Camp L.G. Barnes’s non-profit society owns the land and buildings, while Michener Centre provided money for staff and food. Simmons believes about $500,000 was lost.

The government agreed to extend the employment of one staffer over the winter to help look after the camp’s animals, including horses, goat, llamas, pot bellied pigs, rabbits and a donkey.

Simmons said a grant was since obtained from Community and Social Services to hire two people for one year. And more funding was made available from a Canada Youth Employment grant program to hire about 10 full and part-time employees for an eight-week duration.

“We are going to do some experimenting with rentals on the property” in the meantime, she said, to try to add some revenues to casino money and other fundraisers.

Camp L.G. Barnes was supposed to gain proceeds from a casino this year. But Simmons expects it will be cancelled, due to COVID-19, leaving her group and many others in a long line-up for whenever casinos can be held again.

The non-profit board is offering a cash raffle, with a draw Saturday, and has sold flowers, gift certificates and other donated prizes.

Before the withdrawal of Michener funding, the camp formed in the 1970s, served about 4,000 disabled clients a year. Many of these people wouldn’t otherwise have an affordable outdoor experience as they often require lifts and other specialized equipment to be able to use the popular houseboat and other amenities, said Simmons.

She’s feeling more optimistic these days about the camp’s survival: “I was very worried at the outset, but I am beginning to feel a little better.”

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