By Briesha Stidham
Some people are as bouncy as a ping pong ball. One person at Middle College is more like a whole box of them, torn open and dropped all at once on a ceramic-tile floor, and she has learned to use her energy to brighten the lives of other people.
Janel Coy, 18 year old Middle college student at OTC and Staff member at Camp Barnabas is a dedicated person to everything she does.
Janel has been attending Barnabas for nine summers but has been working there for four. “I got to the point where I said I need to stop being a camper and be a volunteer,” Janel said. “Then I became a staff member and I just can’t live without it. It’s an addiction.”
According to camp officials, Janel has made a huge impact on people at Barnabas. “She’s a joyful person and gives others joy when they’re around her,” Barnabas Project Director George White said. “She’s really passionate and dedicated to what we do here.” White says Janel does a lot of volunteering and goes to every event Barnabas has even if she’s not participating in it. Twice a week Janel coaches adults with disabilities.
“My favorite thing about Barnabas is when we get someone new we don’t say, ‘You can’t do this,’” Janel said, “We say, ‘Okay, we are going to find a way for you to do this.’”
A lot of Barnabas campers are in wheel chairs. Normally, you can’t take a wheelchair into a pool, so Barnabas has water wheelchairs and a zero-entry pool so counselors can just roll campers into the pool. Barnabas’ rope course is built so they can lift somebody into a hanging chair and pull them through the whole course.
“Everything is really adaptable and interesting,” Janel said. “When I get in a situation, I stop and think how I can adapt to this, how can I make this work for me? We can make anything work for anybody with some effort.”
Outside of working with Camp Barnabas Janel spends her time with loved ones and going to North Point Church. Janel is part of a church group that goes to other churches to have a Bible discussions and to encourage these other churches to consider working with Barnabas.
“We haven’t had any success yet,” said Janel. “But we will continue to do our Bible studies on Mondays in Springfield and Thursdays in Branson. I’m a regular attender, a.k.a. I go to every single one!”
Janel has had very many wonderful experiences with Barnabas, most recently of which was seeing her friend Steven and Conner run a marathon.
“One of my really good friends Steven who has cerebral palsy was talking with this guy named Conner who is on leadership,” Janel said. “Steven is in a wheel chair so he can’t walk and has trouble forming words and relies on people for daily life. But they were at the marathon handing out medals at the finish line, and Steven looked at Conner and said, ‘I want to run a marathon.’ Conner said, ‘Let’s do it!’ So over the summer Conner trained every day, and a couple times a week they’d go running. Conner would get Steven up and they would run in a regular wheelchair.”
Because racing wheelchairs are really expensive, Conner told Steven that they were going to try to raise money for it, Janel said.
“During that announcement, our staff director came up and said, ‘Hey Conner, you don’t know this but we purchased a running chair from the donations of our staffers.’ So they got the racing chair the last week of camp!”
The two boys were able to practice with the new chair the last four days, Janel said.
“The first morning they ran with it I got up at 5 a.m. to see them run off. Eventually they had to part ways because Conner had to go back to Texas for school and Steven went back home to Tulsa. But this past weekend they ran their marathon and it had a huge turn out and was super special. It was great awareness that you can live out your dreams, just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you can’t run a marathon, or go tubing, because Steven and Conner also did that over the summer together.”
Janel plans to continue working with Barnabas and someday start her career as a high school special education teacher. So, not only has Janel made a big impact on Barnabas, but Barnabas has made a big impact on her.
“I am very grateful,” Janel said.