Kanakuk Kamps has been in the Ozarks since 1926, and in 2012 they opened KampOut!, their day camps. These camps offer children ages 5-12 the opportunity to see what Kanakuk Kamps is about through day camp activities hosted at Woodland Hills Family Church and other churches and schools across the country.
Jimmy Funderburk, Kanakuk Kamps director, said children at the camp are divided up into small groups called tents. Here, the children are with others their age and with a camp counselor who helps them with activities. He said the tents begin with check-in and getting settled before moving on to two sessions of activities followed by a snack indoors. After the snack, the children go back for two more activities, then lunch. After lunch, the groups have one more session of activities before heading to K-Life. This gives the children a chance to practice the camp’s theme. This year it is Jesus Is, and they learn about Jesus through music, skits and a gospel presentation.
“It’s a really good way to get kids introduced to Kanakuk. Because, at first, a lot of times parents may not want to send their kids to spend the night, you know, away. But, they see this and see what we do and see the quality of what we do and then a lot of these kids will end up overnight campers at our base camp in Branson,” Funderburk said.
Funderburk began his journey with Kanakuk in 1989 when he spent a summer as a camp counselor. He has been with the organization since and moved to Branson full time in 2004. Though he took some time off from working full time at the camps, he said he came back in 2018 full time as director.
Just like himself, Funderburk said, many of the children who come to KampOut! look forward to the next steps that lead them to Kanakuk’s overnight camps.
While at KampOut!, the children get to enjoy games like life-size “Hungry Hippo,” rock climbing and zip lining, water slides, indoor archery and much more.
With activities like archery and many of the others at KampOut!, Funderburk said, “We are trying to make it more interactive and fun.”
The goal, Funderburk said, is to always have more activities than there are groups of kids, so they will always be at something new and exciting.
Through a partnership with Woodland Hills, Funderburk explained, Kanakuk has been able to provide a different experience for the Branson KampOut! attendees because of the unique landscape of the church. Woodland Hills is located at what used to be the home of Celebration City. This has allowed KampOut! to use renovated buildings that give them a variety of indoor and outdoor activities.
“We are a Christian camp,” Funderburk said. “We are a Christian camp but we try to add, you know, athletics, games, activities and stuff like that. And one of the best things that we do, that I think helps us, is our staff.”
The children at KampOut! are not the only ones who get to have fun. Funderburk said the counselors spend the summer traveling the country to the various KampOuts! Each group of the five groups of counselors and staff will visit 10 cities.
Next year, Funderburk said, Kanakuk will be adding another “trail,” groups of counselors and staff, with an addition of 10 more cities.