In 1995, Elmer and Marjorie Guidi, as well as Mitchell and Catherine (Guidi) Goldstein purchased 102 acres of former surface coal mine land in Central Illinois as an investment. For the next 5 years, their families and friends enjoyed hunting, fishing, and camping on the property. As time passed, the land was developed with a cabin, campsites, and wetlands.
In 1996, Brad Guidi, son of Elmer and Marjorie Guidi, approached the Guidi’s and Goldstein’s with an idea: to share the land with people with disabilities (there were no such facilities in Illinois at the time). With the family’s approval , Camp Big Sky was incorporated under the name, “Why Not Now?” in May 2000 until officially changing its name to “Camp Big Sky” in 2007. The Goldstein’s sold their shares in the land equally to Marjorie, Brad, and Willa Guidi in 2002. The Guidi family leases the land to Camp Big Sky at no charge.
The land consists of native hardwood timber, wetland, grassland pasture, and two large spring fed lakes. Together, the land supports a diverse habitat of wildlife while simultaneously creating a beautiful place to visit.
In 2007, Illinois Mutual Insurance Company became our lead charitable sponsor, making significant financial and in-kind contributions which allowed us to make major capital improvements to our accessible infrastructure. These generous contributions played a major role in making Camp Big Sky a regional destination for people with disabilities seeking opportunities to enjoy the outdoors like everybody else.
In 2010, the Woodforest Charitable Foundation Cabin in the Woods and the 2000 square foot Quentin Yerby Multipurpose building were constructed.
During 2013, in collaboration with Bradley University’s Department of Teacher Education and the Special Education Association of Peoria County, the Camp Big Sky Life Skills Education Program was piloted with Farmington School District #265.
In 2014, our Life Skills program expanded to include 64 students from the Farmington, Dunlap, and Galesburg school districts. We also piloted our Adult Volunteer Trainee initiative. We hosted a total number of 2,062 visits from children and adults with disabilities, along with their families, friends, and caregivers from 27 counties in Central and West Central Illinois — an all time attendance record.
In 2015 we began the construction of a Learning Center& Lodge with the completion of the first level in 2018. It is used for large overnight groups, day training events for groups or businesses, and special events.
In 2016 we completed the Pilot Club Shelter, which now houses our craft activities. It also provides a cooling/heating center for campers, when body temperatures need to be adjusted.
The year 2018 was very busy. The upper level of the Learning Center and Lodge was completed; we moved all our education classes from the Multi-Purpose building and can host company retreats. Our overnight stays increased as we were able to host campers with more disability supports which include ADA accessible showers, kitchen and beds. A new entrance was built by the Operating Engineers Local Union #649 JATC, with the permission if neighbors Mike Honegger and Paul Meister from McCord Road. This gave our campers a more direct approach to the camp, making it more accessible.
In 2019 we completed the installation of our solar collectors to extend power to our campground, allowing groups from further distances to stay overnight as well as supporting their needs. We hosted 2,420 campers and their families and caregivers.