Heidi Strobel Hamels, a former Survivor contestant, and her husband, Texas Rangers pitcher Cole Hamels, are donating their $9.4 million home in Missouri to a children’s charity.
The Hamels gifted the 32,000 square foot home, which sits on more than 100 acres at Table Rock Lake, to Camp Barnabas, a charity that provides “life-changing experiences to individuals with special needs and chronic illnesses as well as their siblings,” according to a press release.
“There are tons of amazing charities in Southwest Missouri. Out of all of these, Barnabas really pulled on our heartstrings,” Cole and Heidi Hamels said in a statement. “Seeing the faces, hearing the laughter, reading the stories of the kids they serve; there is truly nothing like it. Barnabas makes dreams come true, and we felt called to help them in a big way.”
Here’s what you need to know about Heidi Hamels and her and her husband’s charitable efforts:
1. Heidi & Cole Say Camp Barnabas Is ‘Changing the Way the World Sees Disability Ministry’
Heidi and Cole Hamels said in a statement about the donation of their Missouri mansion, “We love that Barnabas sees the bigger picture. They are changing the way the world sees disability ministry.”
According to a press release, the Southwest Missouri-based Camp Barnabas has welcome more than 75,000 campers and missionaries over the pas 24 years.
“Barnabas also includes Barnabas Prep, a two-year faith-based collegiate program based in Branson, MO designed specifically for students with special needs. More than an independent living learning experience, Prep helps individuals recognize their strengths and potential while challenging them to grow into their best selves,” the press release says.
The Hamels’ gift is the largest the charity has ever received.
“This is so much more than a beautiful property,” Krystal Simon, Barnabas’ chief development officer said in a statement. “This incredible gift allows us to further our ministry and truly change thousands of lives for years to come.”
According to the press release, “Barnabas exists to offer life-changing opportunities to all individuals, regardless of their disability or diagnosis, and to the people who serve them by providing social experiences that increase spiritual knowledge, social learning and human dignity.”
CEO Jason Brawner said in a statement, “Our mission is to change lives through disability ministry, and we’ve been strategically looking for ways to expand our ministry outside of a summer camp. We have no doubt that this gift will allow us to do just that.”
2. Heidi, a Missouri Native, Was Working as a PE Teacher When She Appeared as a Contestant on ‘Survivor’ in 2002
Heidi Strobel was born in the small Missouri town of Buffalo. She gained fame in 2002 when she appeared as a contestant on the CBS reality show “Survivor” finishing in fifth place on the show’s sixth season, “Survivor: The Amazon.” She was a key ally of the show’s winner, Jenna Morasca.
Heidi, then 23, was working as a physical education teacher in Missouri after graduating from Drury University when she appeared on the show. According to Philly Mag, Heidi never auditioned for “Survivor.” She actually auditioned for another CBS show, “The Amazing Race,” but was recruited by Mark Burnett to appear on “Survivor.”
“He said they picked me because I was strong and tough,” she told the magazine, referring to the show’s host, Jeff Probst, “but that the GP—that’s the general public—wouldn’t believe a pretty blonde could be smart. That’s when I knew I was in trouble.”
She became best known for stripping naked for a reward of Oreos and peanut butter. She later posed nude in “Playboy” with Morasca.
“Pre-Survivor, I was very innocent,” she told Philly Mag. “I think I was mad at myself. Like, Oh my gosh, I don’t like to be had. I ask so many questions because I’m a calculated risk-taker. I felt like, man, I did not do my homework here. That’s my own fault.”
3. She Married Cole in 2006 After They Met When She Threw Out the First Pitch at a Minor League Baseball Game
Heidi and Cole Hamels have been married since 2006. They met in 2004 after she threw out the first pitch at a Clearwater Phillies game, the minor league baseball team that Cole was playing for at the time in Florida. He got her autograph after the pitch and asked her out. “Her throw might not quite compare to Cole’s changeup, but she had him hooked. On New Year’s Eve 2006, Cole and Heidi married in her hometown of Springfield, Missouri,” Cole Hamels website says.
Two years after they were married, Cole Hamels won the MVP award when the Phillies won the 2008 World Series. He was already a top pitcher, but he became even more famous after that.
“The worst part about it, is I don’t want it. But I knew what I signed up for, and Heidi understood,” Cole told Philly Mag. “For eight months out of the year, you’re gonna take a backseat. The next four months, I take the backseat. Heidi is so confident in herself that I knew she would be able to survive this lifestyle. We see it every day—a lot of people can’t.”
4. She & Cole Have 2 Sons & 2 Daughters
Heidi and Cole Hamels have four children, two sons and two daughters. Their son Caleb was born in 2009 and Braxton was born in 2011. They adopted their daughter, Reeve, from Ethiopia in 2012.
“It was Heidi who first admitted she dreamed to one day adopt internationally, and Cole was all for the idea. Cole and Heidi waited four, long years to adopt a child internationally,” according to Cole’s website. “Finally, they received a phone call telling them they were going to be the proud parents of a little girl in Ethiopia. Cole and Heidi traveled to Ethiopia within a matter of days after receiving the phone call to see their new daughter for the first time. Reeve Kenean Hamels was officially adopted on Christmas Eve in 2012.”
Their youngest child, Mackenzie, recently turned 1. The Hamels currently live in Pennsylvania and are planning a move to Texas, where they are building a new home.
5. She Started the Hamels Foundation Charity With Her Husband & Recently Began a Career as a Country Music Songwriter
Heidi Hamels founded the couple’s charity, The Hamels Foundation, in 2009 to “provide hope and a brighter future for children by providing financial support for educational opportunities.”
According to its website, “The Hamels Foundation works domestically and internationally to empower children in inner-city schools in the United States and in rural Malawi, Africa. Using a community-based approach to education, The Hamels Foundation provides assistance to schools and educational programs as well as financial support to other education-based nonprofits in the United States.”
Heidi Hamels recently began a new career as a country songwriter, according to Philly.com. She has written songs with singers Lee Gantt and Sara Spicer.
“My great-grandma Zora Sullivan was blind and she was a poet and she wrote eight poetry books,” Heidi Hamels told Philly.com in October. “She passed down all her poetry books, and I learned how to make rhythm change. I can play piano and drums. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m good. I’m not good. But I know how a beat should be carried. If you can carry a beat, you can make up a song. And I know if, lyrically, does it sound like something we all want to hear?”