Sam and Susan Torn, owners, have dedicated their lives to serving today's youth through the incomparable experience that is Camp Ozark.
Sam first came to Camp Ozark in 1951 at the age of 3 with his family. He later spent five summers as a camper and six years as a counselor at Camp Ozark (then known as Ozark Boys Camp). A former baseball player and yell leader at Texas A&M, Sam's biggest asset is that he has experienced Camp Ozark from every angle -- camper, counselor, staff member, parent and owner -- and is able to translate these experiences into the development of an incomparable camp program. In addition, Sam is a frequent speaker to parents and teenagers on a variety of subjects including abstinence, parenting and growing in faith.
Susan, a registered nurse, oversees all food, medical and support aspects of the camp on a daily basis. Sam and Susan are not absentee owners. They live on the premises during the summer and oversee all aspects of Camp Ozark on a daily basis. Sam and Susan have three adult children and nine grandchildren: Son Scott, his wife Secily and their four children, Sam II, Jack, Tucker and Anna Scott; son Chris, his wife Ceci, and their five children, Caroline, Caitlin, Mary Claire, Christopher II, and Charles Henry; and daughter Angela.
Scott's earliest memories of Camp Ozark were attending family camp with his cousins and relatives in the late ‘70's. In 1984, his father and mother acquired the assets of Camp Ozark, and Scott attended camp throughout his youth. In fact, Scott has experienced camp from many perspectives: camper, dishwasher, Lake Crew director, and Head Boy's counselor. Throughout his Camp Ozark tenure, Scott has been able to observe first-hand the unwavering commitment that both his father Sam and his mother Susan made to the mission and purpose of Camp Ozark.
Scott, along with his sister Angela, oversees all aspects of Camp Ozark. Scott is particularly involved with the Ozark staff, marketing, camper and camp family relations, camper registration and the incomparable Camp Ozark website. Scott is also co-director of the Camp Ozark Foundation.
Scott grew up in the Houston area and attended Texas A&M University, where he served as Head Yell Leader. After completing his law degree at South Texas College of Law, Scott pursued a career in commercial real estate. Eventually he and his partners (including his brother) formed their own company which was later acquired by a national firm. In 2007, Scott and his wife Secily decided to make the same commitment that his mother and father did in 1984 and now he, his wife Secily and his four children live the incomparable Ozark life.
Scott brings great perspective and vision to Camp Ozark. His commitment to pursuing excellence in all areas is a reflection of his passion for making Camp Ozark truly incomparable, and for carrying on the best traditions of Camp Ozark while looking to the future. Scott has immense talent for managing large, complex projects while also paying attention to the smallest detail. Scott possesses a genuine, Christ-centered passion for others, particularly those less fortunate, and a wry sense of humor.
Scott began dating his wife Secily in the fall of 1992 as a result of their Camp Ozark counselor experience. They married in the fall of 1996 and have four children, Sam, Jack, Tucker and Anna Scott. Both Scott and Secily are active in the community, serving in various capacities for Family Point
In 1985, Angela's parents, Sam and Susan, bought Camp Ozark. That first summer, though only 5 years old, Angela took an open bunk in the youngest girl's cabin and has never looked back. Through the years Angela has experienced Camp Ozark as a camper, LIT, counselor, Head Girl's counselor, Kitchen Crew, SWAT team member and Top Staff member. Angela joined the Permanent staff in 2009 after a successful law career.
Angela, along with her brother Scott, oversees all aspects of Camp Ozark. Angela is particularly involved with the risk management, accreditation, and the general camp program. Angela also oversees all of camp's legal and legislative initiatives.
Angela grew up in the Houston area and attended Texas A&M University. After completing her law degree, Angela took a job with the prestigious form of Bracewell and Giuliani. In 2009, Angela decided to make the same commitment that her mother and father did in 1984, and joined the Camp Ozark permanent staff. In 2012, Angela married Stephan Shaw, a practicing attorney in Houston.
Angela brings unparalleled experience and perspective to Camp Ozark. Having served in so many different roles – camper, summer staff member, summer leadership and more – Angela is uniquely suited to see camp from all angles. Additionally, Angela is fiercely competitive (just ask her brothers!), which is borne out in her commitment to make each and every area of camp the best it can be. Angela is tireless in her pursuit of excellence, and is fully committed to leaving no stone unturned in order provide the safest and most enjoyable camp experience possible.
Angela began dating her husband Stephen in 2010, and they were married in 2012. Although Stephan and Angela did not meet at camp (as so many others have done), they did meet through mutual camp acquaintances. Stephan proposed to Angela at the Cross, high above Camp Ozark, and their wedding and reception was held at Camp Ozark. Angela and Stephan have one son, Mack.
Chris Torn, Associate Director, first made his appearance when he was 3 months old at "Family Week" at Camp Ozark. Chris has been fortunate to experience Camp Ozark from all sides including camper, CIT, Dishwasher, Counselor, Top Staff, Permanent Staff and now as a camper parent. Most importantly, Chris met the love his life, Ceci, while she was serving as a counselor (and Osage Chieftess) during the summer of 1995. Both Chris and Ceci graduated from Texas A&M. While at A&M, Chris was a member of the Corps of Cadets, and served as Head Yell Leader. Ceci was an All-Conference Heptathlete on the A&M Track Team and served as President of the Chi Omega Sorority. Chris and Ceci have been married since 1998 and have 5 Children: Caroline, Caitlin, Mary Claire, Christopher and Charles Henry...All OSAGE!
While living in the nearby town of Oden, Arkansas, Gene began working at Camp Ozark in 1979 while still in High School. In 1984 Gene joined Sam and Susan Torn for their inaugural year as owners of Camp Ozark, serving as the camp program director. Except for a short stint in the Peace Corp, Gene has worked at Camp Ozark every summer since 1979.
Gene oversees the entire Camp Ozark facility, including maintenance and new construction. In addition, Gene oversees all camp office operations, including camper registration.
Gene has a gift for managing complex projects, complimented by his great attention to detail and his unwavering commitment to getting things right, in every way, all the time. Gene loves the challenges of working at Camp Ozark, and is particularly passionate about creating new facilities and attractions the campers will really enjoy.
Growing up in Arkansas, Gene has long had a passion for the outdoors and hunting. Gene also loves garage sales and auctions, and is always on the prowl for the next great find.
Gene met his wife, Amy, at Camp Ozark when they were both members of the summer staff. Married in 1988, they have 3 children – Ginny, Callie and Will. Gene and Amy are both very active with their family as well as the local community.
Dave has been a part of Camp Ozark since 1988, when he first began as a cabin counselor. In fact, Dave was the very first Mountain Bike instructor at Camp Ozark! He then served 5 summers on the Camp Ozark Top Staff, and joined the Camp Ozark Permanent Staff in 1995. Dave and Andi now live in Arkansas very near the camp property.
Dave oversees the Camp Ozark media team (both photography and video), and assists with all marketing efforts. Dave manages a variety of summer programs, such as the Camp Ozark LIT program, nightly Special Events, and camper behavior.
Dave grew up in small-town Oklahoma and attended Oklahoma State University. After completing his M.S. degree from OSU, Dave pursued a PhD in Exercise Physiology from the University of Missouri, but soon decided to follow his heart and commit to Camp Ozark full-time. Dave began dating his wife Andi in the fall of 2013, and was married in fall 2015.
Dave has a gift for connecting with and relating to campers, and plays a critical role in ensuring our campers have a positive and meaningful experience. Dave's greatest joy at camp is getting to know campers and watching them grow in confidence. Dave also loves doing the Morning Show each day!
Originally from Kilgore, Texas, Debbie began working at Camp Ozark in 1985 while a student at Baylor University. In fact, Debbie was one of the very first people hired by Sam and Susan after they purchased Camp Ozark in 1984. Debbie also has the distinction of being the original Mish Mash lady!
With over 20 years of experience at Camp Ozark, Debbie has served as a cabin counselor, Head Girl's counselor, Top Staff and Permanent Staff. Debbie now oversees all aspects of our summer staff hiring, training and supervision. Debbie is also responsible for all HR concerns relating to the Camp Ozark permanent staff.
Debbie has a gift for encouraging and bringing out the very best from our summer staff, and plays a critical role in ensuring our cabin counselors meet the very high standards of Camp Ozark. Debbie's greatest joy at camp is seeing the hard work of staff recruiting result in an incomparable camp experience for the campers, of finding those staff members who can truly make a difference in a camper's life.
Due to her husband's service in the U.S. Marine Corp., Debbie has lived in several different places, coast to coast, while working for Camp Ozark. Debbie currently lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where she loves to spend time with her family, attend her kid's sporting events, and run and hike the mountains in the Chattanooga area.
Debbie met her husband, Wade, at Camp Ozark while both were working as counselors, and married in 1990. They have 2 children, Andy and Bailey, and 2 huge dogs, Moose and Molly.
Look at these two awesome guys! Motivated by the desire to do something for those less fortunate, brothers Austin and Andrew came up with a great idea and opened a lemonade stand in support of Ozark For All. Their donation to the Camp Ozark Foundation will help a deserving child attend Camp Ozark this summer. To find out more about Ozark For All, Click Here.
Former Camp Ozark Staff member and Caddo Chief John Gatlin hit in the winning run for Ole Miss in the College World Series! Talk about the "Heart of a champion"…great job, John! Check out the video: Click Here.
We meet many amazing people at Camp Ozark. Former camper and staff member Carly Freels is certainly one of these, and we are so very proud of her with the release of her book "When Faith > Fear." Her story and courage is an inspiration to us all! #ozarkfamily
Carly Freels was a lot of things in high school… a star volleyball player, a Camp Ozark camper, an Ozone participant, and the Memorial High School Homecoming Queen. But more than all of those things, she was an inspiration. After being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, all of us here at Camp Ozark had the privilege of watching Carly walk through a particularly challenging season in her life with courage, poise, grace and a cheerful heart. Carly beat cancer, and in turn showed people, young and old, what it means to live with a FAITH greater than fear.
Since her diagnosis, Carly has served as a cabin counselor at Camp Ozark for two summers and her story of triumph and faith have been an inspiration to many, many young girls. We are excited to celebrate the release of her book, "When Faith > Fear," and even more excited to watch the Lord use her story to touch the lives of many. Check out this video interview with Carly!
Campers Bailey, Emma, & Caroline with staff member Samantha Kherker Ernst.
Our campers often experience a deep and long-lasting impact as a result of the investment of our summer staff. In 2011, three campers-Bailey, Emma and Caroline-began just such an experience. We'll let Samantha, the summer staff member, tell the story:
In 2011, during my first session as a counselor at Ozark, God decided to put these three INCREDIBLE girls in my cabin. They came up to me on the first day and asked me if I would lead a Bible study for them every morning that week. Of all the counselors at Ozark, I was shocked that they wanted me to do but I will never stop thanking and praising the Lord that they did. I agreed, and each morning we would wake up early…and it was awesome! After our week of morning Bible study was over and I had to switch cabins, they asked me if we could continue meeting in the mornings for another week. I agreed wholeheartedly. Within a week, God had used these three girls to give me the courage to begin to dig into His Word. So I asked my three sweet campers if they wanted to start at the beginning, Genesis, and go from the there. And they agreed!
With this beginning, from June 2011 to June 2015 we read the entire Bible together. I sent them reflections on what we were reading for the first 3 years, then they started taking turns and writing the reflections via letters, email, and text during the final year. Oh, how amazing their reflections were because their love for the Lord radiated out of them! They never ceased to teach me something new, inspire my heart, or encourage me. They were and still are wise beyond their years. Of course, we are proud of our accomplishment of reading the entire Bible. But it is so much more than that. I know and love the Lord so much more deeply and thoroughly after having this Word ingrained on my heart over the past 4 years. I have gotten to witness these girls grow and mature spiritually, and it has been an honor to play a part in that. These sweet girls have poured into me in more ways than I could ever describe.
I love my three sweet friends and their families so much. Connor (my husband) and I were honored to have them at our wedding to witness our marriage covenant and celebrate with us! Bailey, Caroline, and Emma will always have a place in my heart!
Camp Ozark friends are special! Every summer new friendships are forged, and existing friendships are strengthened, in some cases despite living thousands of miles apart. This got us thinking: What's the furthest apart Camp Ozark friends live from each other? Well, here are two examples of the special bonds that are formed out of the Camp Ozark experience:
“Thank you Camp Ozark for an incomparable 7 years and one of my best friends. We live 8,660 miles apart and we still keep up. So thankful for this 2 weeks every summer where we get to see each other!!”
Emma is from Alexandria, LA and attends 3rd session with Claudia, who currently lives in South Africa.
Many of our campers and staff go on to do amazing things, and find success in a wide variety of ways: Doctors, authors, actors and actresses, athletes, businessmen and businesswomen, missionaries, lawyers, teachers, executives, entrepreneurs…this list goes on and on. We believe Camp Ozark's emphasis on values, such as confidence, teamwork and integrity and independence, can help lay the foundation for a young person's future success. But don't just take our word for it, hear what two successful brothers have to say:
“Camp Ozark instilled the confidence in both Roy and myself to go out and start our own business. If you have a young camper that might want to be an entrepreneur, the leadership skills and values learned at Camp Ozark are invaluable.”- Ryan Seiders, Co-Founder & President of YETI Coolers
It's not only campers and staff that have an "incomparable" Camp Ozark experience. See what some proud grandparents have to say:
My husband and I would like to thank you and your entire staff for all your efforts and time put into your camp the entire year. One granddaughter is attending for her 5th year, and another for her 3rd year. In the world today it is hard for children to be "Just Kids" without daily pressures. At Camp Ozark, these kids can be whoever they truly are knowing it is okay. It is a comfort to my husband and I knowing this one entire week out of the year is the "Happy Soft Place" where our Granddaughters can fall. For that we are forever thankful to you for providing them and all the children this opportunity.
-- John and Missie
I have been blessed to work at Camp Ozark for almost 30 summers. I started in the late ‘80s as a young college student, and am now in my 50's. During these years I've had the deep privilege of seeing thousands and thousands of campers and staff come through the gates of this place, and I know for the vast majority it was a life-changing experience. I've seen countless campers grow in their faith and confidence, make life-long friends, and experience a fun and joy unlike any other. I've watched as little 7-year old boys and girls grew into strong, faithful and passionate teenagers. I've watched as confident teenagers went off to college and assumed roles of leadership and responsibility using the skills and values they learned at camp.
I've also watched as staff members found their purpose in life, deepened their dependence on God, and found joy in service. I've smiled as I've watched our staff learn the value of sacrifice and the deep pleasure of doing something as well as you can. And I've even smiled as our staff, sometimes, found the love of their life at Camp Ozark (hey, it happens).
I was REALLY smiling when I, too, found the love of my life out of my Camp Ozark experience. This came later in life than I anticipated, but I know beyond doubt God had a plan for the two of us. Likewise, I also know God has a plan for those who come to Camp Ozark and experience His love and joy. Camp Ozark is a special place, with special people. And the fact is, lives are changed because of the Ozark experience. Believe me, I know.
My life has been changed by Camp Ozark. As a seven-year camper, I grew up experiencing the love and selflessness of my counselors. Clay, Kyle, Tal, Tim, DW, Patrick…I could go on and on but the fact of the matter is that I am 25 years old and can still name the counselors I had at camp as a ten year old. Year after year, I spent the two best weeks of my summer learning to believe in myself, conquering my fears, and becoming the man I am today with the guidance and support of the Ozark Staff.
The beauty of the Camp Ozark experience isn't in all of the amazing activities and program, even if they truly are incomparable. There is not a more incredible place to spend a couple weeks doing everything under the sun, but, ultimately, Camp Ozark's people are what make it such an unbelievable place.
For the last 15 years of my life, whether I have travelled to Arkansas as a camper, a counselor, a Top Staff member, or a full-time member of the Permanent Staff, I have known one thing to be true: that the people who call Camp Ozark home are uniquely kind and gifted role models, unceasingly committed to the loving development of children. It was true when I walked through the gates of Camp Ozark in 2001 and it is still true today. The Camp Ozark Staff is the thing that makes this place so great.
In 2004, I met Jason Dunn at Camp Ozark and immediately thought he was the coolest guy around. A spirited and compassionate graduate from Texas A&M University, Jason was an outstanding example of the joy that comes from a relationship with Christ. Over the next few summers and during the school year through Ozone Ministries, Jason served as a consistent example of a Godly man and demonstrated a genuine commitment to my growth as a Christian and as a young man. Jason's example throughout my formative years shaped the way I view myself and the world, and I firmly believe that I am a stronger, wiser, and more faithful because of the role he played as a mentor in my life.
Following in Jason's footsteps, I served as a counselor at Ozark during my summers while attending the University of Virginia and was blessed with the opportunity to encourage, support, and connect with children in the camp environment. When 3rd session rolled around, I met a soon-to-be-freshman from Houston named Ty McGowen. For the next four years I walked with him through high school, and, during his Senior year, was blessed to participate in his baptism. Returning to camp summer after summer, I witnessed him deepen his faith and develop a confidence in himself that prepared him for his journey to the University of Mississippi. Ty truly has developed into an outstanding individual and a faithful man of God.
This summer, Ty will be on Top Staff after serving as a Camp Ozark counselor for two summers. A member of the Counselor Leadership Team in 2015, he is uniquely gifted in his ability to connect with and encourage middle school aged children and creates a cabin environment that simply makes kids know they are loved. Campers in Ty's cabins have a complete blast at Camp Ozark because of Ty's dynamism and fun disposition and in 2014, a group of Ty's campers from Houston loved their experience in Ty's cabin so much they couldn't imagine coming back to camp without Ty as their counselor. Matt, Will, and Max's lives have been changed by Ty's commitment to their development as individuals and the example of love that he has set.
As I reflect on my years at Camp Ozark, I am floored by the fact that the impact Jason had on my life in 2004 has ultimately influenced Matt, Will and Max. I am the man I am today in part due to consistent mentorship of Jason and the love he showed me as a high school student and I firmly believe that Ty would say the same thing about me if you asked him. Ultimately, these young men have never met Jason Dunn, and probably never will, but their lives have inexorably been touched by his example.
This story, while inspiring, is not unique, which makes it even more incredible. There are countless stories just like this that span all the way back to 1985, when Sam Torn purchased Camp Ozark, and beyond. Simply put, Camp Ozark has a tradition of providing an incomparable setting for the interaction of children with passionate, loving, and incredibly fun college aged role models of the highest caliber. Camp Ozark’s value lies in the people who commit themselves to the growth and development of the children that come through its gates. No doubt, Camp Ozark is a lot of fun, and it is almost impossible not to have total blast as there is something for everyone to love. But beneath it all lies the Ozark family, a family filled to brim with the love of Christ and a desire to show children they are uniquely beautiful and eternally valued as a creation of God.