By Libby Hopkins
Rotary’s Camp Florida is considered to be one of Brandon’s hidden gems. The 21-acre, non-profit camp was founded to host year-round camps for children with special medical needs such as cancer, diabetes, muscular dystrophy and other debilitating diseases. The camp also makes its facilities available to special needs adults. Ed Johns became the camp’s interim director this past July when the former director took another position out of state. Johns has served on the camp’s board of directors for many years in various positions. The board felt he would be the perfect interim director for the camp while they searched for a permanent director. “This camp is a wonderful part of the Brandon community and they needed someone who could take charge of it and keep it organized,” Johns said.
The camp was built in the 1950’s and originally was not designed for special needs children. A committee was formed to research the feasibility of turning the camp into a special needs camp. Rotarians throughout the state came forward to help make the upgrades to the camp and in June of 1992, the camp hosted its first group of special needs campers.
Johns has been a member of the Brandon 86 Rotary Club for 26 years and has had perfect attendance during his years with the club. “I joined rotary because I wanted to get involved with the great community work they do,” Johns said. “Being in a rotary is great way to serve your community.” He also felt that his rotary and the many other rotary clubs in the area are the reason the camp has been thriving for so many years. “The camp was in need of some organization and they reached out to the local rotary clubs to pitch in and help maintain the camp,” Johns said. “I stepped up and volunteered to help get the camp more organized.”
The camp board of directors formed a search committee to find a permanent full-time camp director, but until that person is found, Johns is happy to be taking care of the camp. “The camp keeps improving and growing,” Johns said. If you would like to learn more about Rotary’s Camp Florida, you can visit the camp’s website at www.rotaryscampflorida.com or you can contact Johns at 654-4042. The camp is located at 1915 Camp Florida Rd. in Brandon.