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A Long Tradition

Bob Barrus and Dorothy Somers first met on a camping trip. They were hiking with their fathers to climb Mount Marcy, the highest point in New York State.

Camp Celo Boys Tent 1965

Camp Celo, 1965. Left to right: Burnie Bass, Gib Barrus, John Morgan, Tony Mace, Jody Pred

After World War II, Bob traveled to Italy to work with the American Friends Service Committee doing reconstruction of villages destroyed by the war. Dot soon joined him and worked as his secretary. In 1946, they were married in Rome, Italy. When they returned to the United States, they lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where Bob was director of the campus YMCA at the University.

Bob and Dot Barrus moved to Celo in 1951 in search of a supportive community to raise their family, especially their daughter Rommie, who was intellectually disabled.

In 1955, they joined with Ernest and Elizabeth Morgan in leadership of Camp Celo. They were not very confident about running a business, but they had experience teaching and working with children.

Camp Celo Pioneers 1969

One thing Bob and Dot were sure of was that the world would be a better place if children learned to live, work, and play together in a loving setting focused on cooperation.

From the very beginning, creating a diverse community of campers representing all races, religions, and economic classes was a top priority for them.

Camp Celo 1991

After a few years, Ernest and Elizabeth moved on to other projects. Ernest had his printing business and Elizabeth started the Arthur Morgan School.

Camp Celo ephemeraCamp Celo became established as a family business with a goal of furthering Bob and Dot’s Quaker values of tolerance, non-violence, and cooperation.

Camp Celo 2000Finding an integrated, diverse camper group was a challenge in those early years. Much of the effort spent on recruitment was dedicated to diversity. Bob and Dot wanted Camp to be accessible to all children, so in addition to keeping the tuition low, they gave tuition discounts to encourage minority enrollment.

In 2011, Friends of Camp Celo, Inc. was established to support and further Bob and Dot’s original goals. Since that time, Campership grants have greatly increased Camp Celo’s ability to serve a diverse camper community.Camp Celo 1990


In 2023, we provided $28,099 in Campership awards, enabling all 24 children who applied for funds through Friends of Camp Celo, Inc. to attend Camp.

Our goal for 2024 is to raise $29,000 to continue our support of Bob and Dot’s vision.

Friends, please be a part of this long tradition by making a contribution to our campaign.

You can donate online or mail a contribution to:

Friends of Camp Celo
P.O. Box 2392
Asheville, NC 28802

From the Friends of Camp Celo board of directors – Thank you!

Clark Rinard (President), Tony Mace (Vice President), Evan Raskin (Treasurer), Maria Ikenberry, Lizzie Ellis, Christina Hubbard, Daniel Seltz, Eliza Gordon, Ruby-Beth Buitekant, Adelyn Luke, Mary Lane

Camp Celo 2023

A Jubilant Summer

December, 2022

Dear Friends of Camp Celo,

It was a jubilant summer at Camp Celo! Counting all sessions, close to 300 children attended – a record number driven by the appetite for a “normal” camp experience.

The farm and garden brought a mountain of abundance to mealtimes. Fresh cow and goat milk, as well as rainbow chard, corn, green beans, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries, and blueberries were all on the table this summer. At each meal, the group celebrated the vegetables grown and applauded the campers who picked them!

In addition, there was a bumper crop of families in need of financial assistance to attend Camp. Thanks to your generous ongoing support, we were able to provide a record amount of $31,157.50 in Campership awards, enabling all 27 children who applied for funds through Friends of Camp Celo to participate in this magical experience.

We are also seeing longer-term impacts of our work – three of this summer’s counselors were Campership recipients when they were campers. They have grown, stayed in touch, and returned to help pass on the values and experience of Camp to the next generation of children.


We delight in seeing the familiar joys of Camp experienced for the first time, as shown in this letter home, written by a new Friends of Camp Celo Campership recipient:

“There are things called chores where you do fun things and learn how to do stuff. Mine is cow chore!… No offense, but I don’t miss you guys very much! I mean yes I do, but I’m having so much fun that I don’t have time to be sad!”

Part of our “harvest” is the satisfaction of knowing the good that our donations can do. We love hearing from parents about the positive impacts of Camp. Here are a few quotes from parents this summer:

“Camp Celo is the single most important thing he has done that has contributed to his well being.”

“He came home from Camp Celo as the best version of himself.”

“She spent the rest of the summer telling us how much fun she had, and we even did a trip to camp out under a tarp as a family on Mt. Mitchell. It was awesome!!”

“Camp Celo is her favorite place on earth. She is always her best after camp.”

Friends, we invite you to help us “plant more seeds” for the future, by making a tax-deductible contribution to Friends of Camp Celo.

You may donate online or mail a contribution to:

Friends of Camp Celo
P.O. Box 2392
Asheville, NC 28802

Thank you!

Clark Rinard (President), Tony Mace (Vice President), Evan Raskin (Treasurer), Maria Ikenberry, Lizzie Ellis, Christina Hubbard, Daniel Seltz, Eliza Gordon, Ruby-Beth Buitekant, Adelyn Luke, Mary Lane

Letter to Our Friends

December, 2018

Dear friends of Camp Celo,

Dot Barrus, who embodied so much of the spirit of Camp, died peacefully at home in late May surrounded by family and friends. Her deep commitment to peace and nonviolence; her focus on the positive; her reverence for all living things; and her belief in power of love and the power of song influenced many young lives. Her spirit lives on in the lives of hundreds of campers and staff who knew her, and in the spirit of Camp itself.

In 2018, Friends of Camp Celo awarded $25,000 in scholarship funds to 28 campers. Seven full and 21 partial scholarships made it financially possible for a diverse group of children to experience a session at Camp.


The summer’s most unique additions were five children from a single family who spent most of their early years in a refugee camp in Uganda. Their father was killed years ago during the Civil War in the Congo. Their mother is an industrious single parent who earned less than $20,000 working full time last year. This spring she was diagnosed with cancer. While the children were at Camp, she received her second and third chemotherapy treatments. Without the assistance of FOCC, these children would never have been able to attend Camp Celo.

One of these children said,

“Camp Celo is a place to have fun where I can be myself. At Camp Celo people don’t judge, and everybody’s equal. We all have the same things at camp.”

A friend of the family wrote,

“Camp Celo’s commitment to have a diversity of children in all shades of colors, ethnicity, cultures, and personal history has reaped benefits for generations of young people who have been given the opportunity to play with kids who are different than they are.

“. . . Camp Celo’s love of the two older boys — who have had adjustment issues at school — demonstrated to me that an ‘institution’ could see them in the same light that I do. That Light is filled with love and acceptance — seeing the strength in children rather than their shortcomings (which is how our school systems are often focused).

“Living most of their childhood in a refugee camp . . . and then spending a summer at Camp Celo transforms the word ‘camp’ into a very different, life-giving experience. There are many refugee children who would benefit from this transformative experience of life at Camp Celo.”

We ask that you help us meet our scholarship goal for the coming camp season and continue the vital work that FOCC is doing. Currently we have raised $11,911 toward our goal of $25,000.

Thank you for helping us honor the memory of Dot Barrus by making a contribution today to The Friends of Camp Celo. Contributions are tax-deductible.

You may donate online or mail a contribution to:

Friends of Camp Celo
P.O. Box 2392
Asheville, NC 28802

Thank you for helping us to share the gift of Camp in 2019 with a new generation of children.

A Thank You Letter

A letter from a camper who received financial assistance through the Friends of Camp Celo Campership program.

“Dear Camp Celo Family,

Thank you for taking care of me and all the others inside of the beautiful location of the Black Mountains. At Camp Celo friends were easy to make. I was never bored with all the tetherball poles, the swing set, May pole and luscious green grass. The space in which we had our morning, midday and evening meetings was quite nice because it protected us from the rain and most of the wind.

The bread was delicious because homemade bread is always the best nutritionally and with the way it tastes. I wonder if the delicious salad dressing was made from the Camp Celo community gardens.

I enjoyed the amount of room there was in our tents, and at night I enjoyed the pitter patter of the rain falling on the ground and tent roof. It sounded nice and cozy on the cloth (I think) roof! The activities we did were creative and interesting and fun. My personal top three were candle making, tie dying, and skits. But Wildcard and the others were very entertaining.

3legraceThe grass was soft and always smelled fresh and healthy. When my feet were bare, I felt as I was completely free. I felt as if there was nothing under me but air.

It’s amazing how almost every junior camper contributed something to Leprechaun Village. Fairyland is also a very special place because of all the log benches, wooden seats and giant hemlock trees.

I think the idea of separating the boys’ and the girls’ tents and bathrooms is a great idea for it gives an ideal amount of privacy to both genders.

Another thing that makes Camp Celo special in many ways is the lodge. It gives kids a place to read and hangout and has a good selection of books and things to do outside and in. With the fireplace, a roof and walls with windows that can open and close, making it possible to keep warm air in on a cold or stormy night.

I think in all these ways including the kind and warm hearted staff makes Camp Celo unique and special in its own way. I will never forget what you have done for all of these children including me. It was an experience of a lifetime!

Gratefully, Your Camper K________”