Some don’t look forward to getting up to go to work, but for Carowinds Campground Supervisor Kathy Kirby, work is a joy in spite of her disabilities that make some things harder in life. Kathy was born without one of her hands and feet, but she hasn’t let that stop her from being a positive force wherever she goes with a smile and a love for people, especially her campers at Camp Wilderness Carowinds where she has worked for over 38 years.

People need to be important. People need to know that they’re loved and that they’re cared about. And a smile goes a long way.

Kathy Kirby, Carowinds Campground Manager

Kathy Kirby said she is definitely her momma’s child. “My momma met no strangers.” And that’s how Kirby runs her campground, Camp Wilderness Carowinds. Treating everyone like an old friend, and warmly greeting all of her guests.

“People need to be important,” Kirby said. “People need to know that they’re loved and that they’re cared about. And a smile goes a long way.”

Kirby never expected to make a career out of working at Camp Wilderness Carowinds. She started working there one summer over 38 years ago, and said she fell in love with the place. Carowinds is also where she met her husband.

“I feel that when I’m here, I’m home,” she said.

While Kathy loves her job, she’s had to deal with some obstacles in life, having been born without one of her hands and feet. But following the frame of mind that her mother taught her at a young age, Kirby focuses on reaching her goals, and what she clearly has a gift to do: spreading joy to the people at her campground.

“[My momma] never told me about my birth defect, she never called it that,” Kirby said. “She never let me use the word can’t. She said, ‘Can’t can’t do anything, but can can do a lot.'”