Camp Encourage


Kansas City, MO   |


The mission of Camp Encourage is to provide youth with autism spectrum disorder meaningful experiences in which they build the knowledge, courage, and skills to be empowered participants in the community.

Ruling year info


Principal Officer

Mrs. Kelly Nicole Lee

Main address

4025 Central Street

Kansas City, MO 64111 USA

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NTEE code info

Autism (G84)

Recreational and Sporting Camps (Day, Overnight, etc.) (N20)

Youth Development Programs (O50)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Overnight camping is a childhood activity that encourages positive social emotional growth, but typical overnight camps are often not prepared to positively support children on the autism spectrum. Sadly, this is true with many recreational, summer, and after school activities. Camp Encourage offers tailored programming designed by autism specialists. With a focus on strengthening emotional development, teaching coping and self-help strategies, and assisting in the development of positive social relationships, we hope to decrease the likelihood of facing future mental health issues. These long-term coping skills and strategies are an essential focus for this population and, without a doubt, necessary for future employment, independent living, and community involvement.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Overnight camps for youth on the autism spectrum

Tailored to meet the needs of individuals on the autism spectrum, Camp Encourage offers five quality overnight camps, ranging from two day to four day experiences. Each camp takes place at Heartland Center in Parkville, MO and includes traditional camp activities such as horseback riding, arts and crafts, fishing, and singing around the campfire as well as activities that are individualized according to each camper’s needs and abilities.

Each camp session provides a safe environment for those on the autism spectrum where: abilities are celebrated, campers are comfortable taking risks and trying new adventures, campers grow and become more socially confident and independent, and the necessary supports are in place to meet their needs.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
People with disabilities

Camp "Family" Events are provided free of charge to encourage campers and supporters to remain connected outside of camp sessions. A welcoming, understanding, and safe environment is provided where current and potential campers, volunteers, and supporters gather, connect, grow, are encouraged, and learn from one another. Activities may include but not be limited to: an autistic panel, a day at the park (boating, fishing, games, and ice cream), a summer swimming party, and a holiday gathering.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
People with disabilities

Where we work


American Camp Association, Accredited Camp 2019

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Studies show the benefits of overnight camp opportunities include: creating a greater sense of independence as youth learn to do more things on their own without the help of their parents or caretaker, connecting with individuals who have similar interests, having a sense of belonging, feeling free to “be who you truly are,” increasing social skills, and trying new things. For autistic youth who require additional supports and structured activities, opportunities for overnight camp experiences are sparse. A lack of recreational services and overnight camp opportunities for these youth puts a greater strain on families who often already feel the stress of their situations. Many campers come to Camp Encourage having never spent the night away from home; many parents have never had the opportunity to have an evening out, let alone a night or three of respite away from a child who requires additional attention. This has a tendency to affect not only the parents and siblings, but also their larger families, peers, co-workers, and surrounding community. We have a goal to meet that need—to support families with quality care, to empower youth on the autism spectrum and to give those served the support and confidence needed long after camp has ended. It is our goal that our campers: Increase skills of independence; Increase one’s own personal self-esteem, self-understanding and awareness; Increase social abilities and connections; and Increase awareness of recreation opportunities and skills of recreation. These goals are broken down in detail with measurable objectives and evaluation methods. We strive to provide a place where each camper: feels proud about who he or she is, can shine by exhibiting his or her talents, is able to share positive experiences with others with similar interests and abilities, can connect and keep in touch with new friends, and knows that there is a place where judgments and teasing are absent. Being able to extend this opportunity to additional families and children is needed and would be great growth toward the continuation of extending the services of Camp Encourage.

After each camp session, Camp Encourage measures the effectiveness of its programming and its mission through an online survey. Through the years, professionals have assisted Camp Encourage in strengthening the survey to yield relevant and telling results. Parents, campers, peer model campers, and volunteers provide input against each goal and regarding general details we believe are important when providing a quality service for youth on the autism spectrum. We are hoping the results reveal that each camper gains increased confidence, skills of independence, and self-acceptance. Further, it is our intention to create successful social connections, build relationships, and introduce campers to recreational activities they may not otherwise be exposed to. Through the experience, we also hope to provide parents with much needed respite. The surveys are qualitative (getting valuable heart-tugging remarks) but also quantitative in that a 4 point Likert Scale is used. Results are evaluated to ensure quality.

Strongly believing in our mission and with high retention rates and positive feedback, we plan to thrive for many years. Evidence of sustainability, including sources of support include:

-Successful annual fundraising events

-Established funders

-Dedicated volunteer base, who annually give over 22,500 hours of service

-Strong relationships with community partners, area service providers, and many local colleges and universities

-Actively engaged Board of Directors, with 100% giving, dedicated to the long-term sustainability of our organization and smart growth

-Strong (and generous) individual donor base, who believe in the mission and the individuals served

-Annual Development Plan that employs diverse funding sources, including individuals, local businesses, foundation support, and events

-Strategic Plan that incorporates annual budget growth for long-term sustainability.

Camp Encourage is mighty and beautifully grounded. Programming and donor support continue to grow. As we develop our next Strategic Plan, we are making plans for continued growth and stability.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive, We share the feedback we received with the people we serve, We tell the people who gave us feedback how we acted on their feedback, We ask the people who gave us feedback how well they think we responded

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    Some goals we target are difficult to QUANTIFY. However, we are creative and outcomes are meaningful


Camp Encourage

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
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Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

Camp Encourage

Board of directors
as of 06/27/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Brian Henke

Kansas City Art Institute

Term: 2021 - 2023

Michael Butkovich

Large Federal Agency

Erin Cowan

Children's Mercy Hospital

Brian Henke

Kansas City Art Institute

Jeannie DeVeney

Littler Mendelson

Madison Holcomb

Staci Mathes

Lee's Summit R-7 School District

Justin Farmer

MMGY Global

Shawntae Griffin


Heidi Erenberg

Congregation Beth Shalom Preschool

Schylon Kubic

Parson + Associates, LLC

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 5/19/2023

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation


We do not display disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff.

Equity strategies

Last updated: 05/19/2023

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We use a vetting process to identify vendors and partners that share our commitment to race equity.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We measure and then disaggregate job satisfaction and retention data by race, function, level, and/or team.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.