Don & Marilou Simpson have been two of the most exceptional volunteers in the camp’s history. Don & Marilou have been involved with Camp Courageous for nearly 20-years and dedicated over 2-years of their lives to living at camp and volunteering, morning, noon and night. They first heard of Camp Courageous from being loyal listeners to Leo Greco on WMT. We first met at a Camp benefit JoAnna Lund from Healthy Exchanges was having in DeWitt IA. Don & Marilou talked to us about their interest in volunteering at Camp…but never did we dream, at that time, they would have such a huge impact on Camp and touched so many lives in so many special ways.
One can’t help talk about Marilou when we talk about Don…because they were a team. They have been incredible role models for thousands of us. In over 60-years of marriage, they held true to their wedding vows… promising each other to be loving and faithful to each other in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as long as they both shall live…and they did. Through tough times, broken bones, heart attacks, the need for dialysis, and so much more, they were there for each other. They most importantly taught us, through example, how to live our lives…how to share our most valuable treasure…our time. They talked the talk and more importantly, they walked the walk.
Don Simpson was a fairly quiet, soft-spoken man. His size made one think of a bear of a man, but he was a teddy bear, as tender, gentle, and as kind hearted as they come. His greatest interest and love was doing things for others, especially those less fortunate. Don, a retired farmer, could fix anything…from fixing a camper’s broken wheel chair to making an activity more accessible for a camper with unique needs…he was always there when help was needed.
Don & Marilou left two full time paying jobs to spend the rest of their lives together, sharing in the special love that comes with doing for others. They volunteered from Alaska to Florida and from New York to California.
Don and Marilou Simpson began their full time volunteer service in August of 1984, at Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka, Alaska, where they served for 3 school years. Marilou worked in the college library and Don was with the maintenance department. The following 2 years were served at Menaul School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Marilou did some substitute teaching, but basically worked in the school library, and Don again in maintenance. In over 20 years of volunteer service they have also served at Mary Holmes College in West Point, Mississippi; Stony Point Center in Stony Point, New York; Cook College and Theological School in Tempe, Arizona; in Homestead, Florida after Hurricane Andrew; Massanetta Springs Camp and Conference Center near Harrisonburg, Virginia; ECHO near Ft. Myers, Florida; Barber Scotia College in Concord, North Carolina; Heartland Center near Kansas City, Missouri; and Camp Calvin Crest near Fremont, Nebraska. Obviously Don and Marilou have traveled the country in search of exceptional volunteer opportunities.
Don and Marilou were always spreading the word about the camp. A couple strangers to them (Dale & Caryl Rammelsberg) were sitting in the Minneapolis Airport and Don just struck-up a conversation, like he tended to do. Quickly the conversation turned to Camp Courageous…when they all learned they were friends of the camp.
Once a person was a friend of Don’s, they would always be a friend. Don worked compassionately with volunteers, like electricians, counselors and so many others to see the camp continue to grow. Don was among the first at the bedside of a volunteer electrician (Don Hagen) who had a serious heart attack while volunteering at camp. Don was also camp’s welcoming wagon. He introduced so many of the most caring, dedicated, and hard working volunteers and friends, to camp.
To give you just a sampling of Don’s dedication…even after Don broke his leg doing volunteer work at camp, he insisted on wanting things to do…he knew things needed to get done…and somehow, even with a broken leg, he was going to see that it didn’t slow him down. Even though Don had many challenges of his own, he was always so positive and happy, always putting the needs of others, before his own.
Don & Marilou Simpson’s volunteerism was so exceptional they were recognized as one of the “Nine Who Care” recipients and they went on to Washington DC to represent the region in the National Jefferson Awards for their outstanding volunteerism!
After leaving camp, Don and Marilou’s help did not stop. They continued to collect pop can tabs, donations for the Manchester Garage Sale, baked and sold fruitcakes, attended camp breakfasts, and many special events. Don will be dearly missed by the thousands he touched at Camp Courageous and across the country…but his legacy will live on, because there is a piece of Don in each of us.