Barefoot Republic Camp and Retreat Center began as a vision in 1991. During that summer, Tommy Rhodes, the founder of Barefoot Republic, served as a 19-year-old camp counselor at Camp Mac outside of Birmingham, Alabama. Over the three months of camp, Tommy witnessed for the first time how God could use his life to impact the lives of others. This powerful redemption led to a restoration of hope within a young man scarred by a life filled with bad choices. Tommy left that summer with a God-sized dream and burden on his heart to provide similar opportunities to youth like himself who could not afford such experiences.
Upon completing his undergraduate degrees in Biology and Chemistry at Belmont University, Tommy was accepted to Vanderbilt University’s Ph.D. program in Biomedical Science. Although Tommy had never forgotten his calling to camp ministry, he felt that he would first have to attain significant status and wealth in order to launch the vision. However, during his third year of the program, Tommy shared with his wife, Lane, that God had revealed it was time to pursue his dream. After much prayer and due diligence, they discovered a stunning 70-acre farm (aerial image below) on a 20,000-acre lake outside Scottsville, Kentucky. Tommy felt led to leave his Ph.D. program and sell his baseball card collection in order to secure the land and initiate Barefoot Republic Camp and Retreat Center.