COPIAH COUNTY, Miss. (WJTV) – Coming soon, Camp Kamassa. When completed, 400-plus acres in Copiah County will be home to Mississippi’s only fully handicap accessible year-round camp for children and adults with serious illnesses, physical, mental, and emotional challenges and other special needs.

Kasmassa is a Choctaw word meaning tough to persevere under difficulties and not give up.

“And that describes our campers. And so, we love that word,” said Mary Kitchens, a 2023 Mississippi Remarkable Woman nominee.

The dynamo behind this $27,000,000 project is Kitchens whose passion began after one of her children was diagnosed with cancer, survived and was later able to attend the state’s first Camp Rainbow, specifically for children with cancer.

Years later in 2009, she would form the Mississippi tough kids’ foundation a 501 (c) 3 non-profit and begin raising money and awareness by selling cookbooks from the trunk of her car at area flea markets and festivals.

“One year, we would go every Saturday somewhere, sell cookbooks, give out literature and tell people about what we were doing,” said Kitchens.

By January of 2013, the land was purchased. To clear the land and begin the building, Kitchens would need the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy. And she got them.

It took a trip to Washington, but it was worth it. The Department of Defense said it was the perfect project for their innovative readiness training program.

“It allows us to get out in the community and train our airmen and troops in their career fields, which is trades and crafts, plumbers and electricians,” said a command leader from Air Reserves.

Fast forward to January 2018 when the work started, and it hasn’t ended. Thousands of soldiers have come throughout the years and continue to do so with the Department of Defense picking up the bill for labor as well as the rental costs of the huge machinery needed to complete the camp.

The Mississippi Toughest Kids’ Foundation pays for all the building supplies. Kitchens makes sure the soldiers know who they are doing this for.

“We have children right in this area with muscular dystrophy, children that are blind, children that are mentally challenged and they’ve met them. They come see them while they’re here and that just is really meaningful to them,” said Kitchens.

The southern hospitality comes free of charge.

“They get a southern home cooked meal once a week while they’re in Mississippi,” said Kitchens.

Camp Kamassa is on target to have their first campers in 2024 and will serve generations to come.