Camp Hope / Camp Lake of the Woods / Swope Park / Kansas City, Missouri


Profile by Michael Mardikes, This Month in Kansas City November, 1966

On the last day of this month, a good man who has for 26 years affected the lives of thousands of Kansas Citians will quietly leave City Hall. John Banghart, Assistant Superintendent of Public Recreation in the Welfare Department, will retire to his hobbies of long standing: Nature photography, camping, and nature study.

He looks back on successful programs that brought our city 40 ball diamonds, 3 community centers, and the summer camp at Swope Park for children.

John was born in St. Louis 65 years ago. He lost his father before he was ten and had to work his way through life. He earned his way through Park College and has attended New York University and Indiana University. He had planned to be a minister, but decided to be a social worker instead.Before coming to Kansas City he worked in a settlement house in St. Joseph until he left to organize St. Joseph’s recreation department (1933). In 1940 he moved to Kansas City and began his service at City Hall.

Of his many achievements, he is most proud of the Swope Summer Camp. The camp accommodates (700) children each summer, children with permanent or temporary health restrictions who can only attend a camp if under 24 hour medical supervision. Children with Cerebral Palsy, Diabetes, Cardiac disorders can have two weeks of forest camping and group activity. (There are three sessions of Environmental Science Camp, and of city-wide group camping, and an Optimist Club session.) During the rest of the year the camp has a Saturday morning Science Club, open to all children in the City.Many Kansas Citians worked and still work to create and maintain the Summer Camp, but all these people acknowledge that John’s driving determination made the camp physically possible.

He and his wife, Alice, are selling their home at 6420 South Benton to move into a 20 foot trailer.

Camping is a love they share. They will drive to Alaska and from there to the Panama Canal, camping all the way.

They have 9 grandchildren to visit on their travels, children of their two sons: Les, an Annapolis graduate in the navy and Roger, Superintendent of Mines in Silver King, Nevada.

No one takes John’s threat of retirement seriously. He (has been) National Secretary of the American Camping Association, active in the Audubon Society, the Burroughs Club, a founding board member of the Presbyterian Camping Association, and an elder in the Linwood Presbyterian Church.When pinned down about how long he can be a "free-lance human being," as he plans to call himself, his eyes twinkle and the confession comes out.

‘Well, after awhile, if I really don’t like sitting around, I might go over and help those people working in the War on Poverty. I know how hard that work is. Maybe, just maybe, I could lend them a hand."

Nobody really believes John will retire.