A lot of people thought Lindsey Luebber and DeAnna Reed's cardboard boat wouldn't float.

Made to resemble a campfire, it featured a heron in the back and pennants — each pennant was named for a campsite at Camp Mintahama.

The boat held up, and it even won prizes. During the cardboard boat race at the Shoal Creek Water Festival earlier this month, the two rowed and floated their way to a third-place finish. Their boat also won a people's choice award.

And that wasn't even the best part.

"The coolest thing was that we met Girl Scouts who didn't know what our group was," said Luebber, media organizer for Friends of Camp Mintahama. "They found out we were still fighting to keep the camp open."

Like the boat, the organization is floating toward its own prize: the ability to purchase the camp, which was sold by Girl Scouts of the Missouri Heartland last year. Group members are preparing to kick off a capital campaign that will enable the group to purchase and run the camp for all sorts of boys and girls in the future.

Members of that group have begun the process of becoming a nonprofit corporation. They have been attending public events, such as the water festival, raising awareness of their upcoming campaign. A short documentary about the camp is under development and is expected to be released next month.

All so that the group can raise a lump sum of about $300,000, enabling it to buy the camp.

"If we had ownership today, we could run the camp tomorrow," Luebber said. "We have that knowledge because we were out there running the camp and supporting its cost. We just need the lump sum, then we can grant-write for the rest."

About the camp

Located on about 180 acres south of Joplin near the Walter Woods Conservation Area, the camp features a spring-fed lake, forested hills and a large open-field plain.

In 2012, Girl Scouts of the Missouri Heartland proposed selling the camp, which had been open as a Girl Scout camp since 1946. Instead, it reached an agreement with volunteers who had organized under the name Friends of Camp Mintahama. Under the agreement, the friends group led property maintenance, covered fundraising and operated camp programs.

Girl Scouts ended that relationship in January and sold the camp. But the buyer offered a lifeline to the friends group. Mark Cupps offered them the opportunity to purchase about 140 of the camp's 180 acres for about $1.25 million.

Since April, the friends group has been mobilizing to raise that down payment. That includes expanding the camp's original mission: It will offer traditional camp activities, entertainment and skills instruction to girls, boys and families, including summer camps and other getaways. The group has targeted summer of 2020 for its first camp programs.

Part of the group's public awareness mission is a documentary. Produced by Jeremy Ward, founder of 458 Digital, "Reclaiming Mintahama" will feature interviews with board members, former campers and others who talk about the history of the camp, their experiences and what the property means to them.

Ward saw photos of the camp at Bookhouse Cinema and was inspired by the story.

"When I heard the story, it struck a chord," Ward said. "I went to a summer camp growing up (in Arkansas), and the same thing happened. The property was closed, and the summer camp is long gone. Mintahama's story hit close to home."

The video project has been a whirlwind. Ward said he is still recording interviews for the short documentary, which will have a run time of 10 to 20 minutes, he said.

The stories he has gathered so far reveal how experiences at the camp, while not always comfortable or even pleasant, had a formative effect on lives.

"A lot of people think of summer camp as being about activities or skills, but the thing that people consistently evoke emotion about is the relationships they built," Ward said. "They told me about having to endure horrible weather, including storms and tornado warnings, but all that was mentioned in passing. What everyone really remembers are the friendships."

In addition to the documentary, members of the group will be much more visible over the next few months. Luebber said about 40 people are staffing a variety of active committees, working on infrastructure and business planning. They will be at public events, including numerous fall festivals and parades planned until the end of the year.

All the seeds planted by the friends group will blossom into a nonprofit called Mintahama Inc. But only the name of the group will be new, Luebber said.

"It's a new company, but it's not new to us," Luebber said. "It has the same people who have been fighting for the camp for years."

Watch a trailer for the "Reclaiming Mintahama" documentary at 


Joe Hadsall is the digital editor for The Joplin Globe. He has been the editor of the former Nixa News-Enterprise and has worked for the Christian County Headliner News and 417 Magazine.

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