The impact that a Camp ASCCA experience can have on increasing confidence and the level of independence often remains long after the camp session has ended.
BY GLENN ROSWAL AND DANA RICKMAN
With more than 25 different activities from which to choose, Camp ASCCA is an exciting place to visit. Each activity area offers a unique experience and allows the camper to succeed on his or her own, as well as in an environment of peer support.
Situated in east central Alabama is one of the world’s largest year-round barrier-free camps for people with disabilities. Easterseals Camp ASCCA, or “Camp ASCCA” as it’s commonly known, is Alabama’s Special Camp for Children and Adults. It opened in 1976 and is situated on 230 acres along beautiful Lake Martin, Alabama’s largest recreational lake. Camp ASCCA is a place that allows children and adults with disabilities to increase their confidence, improve their physical skills and foster social skills in a fun environment. Over the past 40 years, Camp ASCCA has served nearly 100,000 individuals with disabilities. The mission of Camp ASCCA is to help eligible individuals with disabilities and/or health impairments achieve equality, dignity, and maximum independence. The benefits of the camp experience are immeasurable. The impact that a camp experience can have on increasing confidence and the level of independence often remains long after the camp session has ended.
With more than 25 different activities from which to choose, Camp ASCCA is an exciting place to visit. Each activity area offers a unique experience and allows the camper to succeed on his or her own, as well as in an environment of peer support. Camp ASCCA’s safe, supportive environment encourages the camper to meet new challenges. The major goal at Camp ASCCA is to serve those who can derive maximum benefit from the resident camp experience and provide a healthier, happier, longer, and more productive life for children and adults of all abilities. Camp ASCCA also accents inclusion by involving non-disabled persons with disabled persons in the resident camping experience. Camp ASCCA promotes the development of socialization, coping skills and independence skills through a series of programs designed to challenge each camper to their maximum potential.
Camp ASCCA means fun for the 5,000+ visitors who spend time at the facility each year. Campers with disabilities such as spinal cord injury, intellectual disability, autism, traumatic brain injury, spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, diabetes, and others enjoy unique camping experiences at Camp ASCCA. Funding for Camp ASCCA comes from a variety of sources, including a state grant, civic groups, foundations, and individual contributors. Through these fundraising efforts, Camp ASCCA has assured, that, to date, no camper has ever been denied participation at camp due to financial hardship. Rather, donations from organizations across Alabama have allowed many campers to experience the thrill of Camp ASCCA.
Facilities at Camp ASCCA include the Rotary Dining Social Hall, a spacious lodge with seating for 300, a variety of dorm-style to semi-private sleeping options, such as the Marc Roberts Lodge, Rotary-Lions Lodge, and Davis Lodge, the Rotary-Lions Education Center for meetings and conferences, over one mile of waterfront centered by the Hitchcock Marina, the Oscar C. Dunn-Rotary Environmental Center, which provides hands-on environmental learning, the Hoyt Webb Gymnasium and Pavilion for indoor recreational activities, the Lee Eiland Kravitz lighted baseball and multipurpose field, the Alabama Elks Association Administration Building, the Gunter-Dixon Infirmary, a fully equipped health care center staffed with three nurses during the summer program, Kiwanis Lodge, Rotary Club Therapeutic Swimming Pool, Tennis Pavilion, Kiwanis Fishing Center, ALFA and Farmers Federation Demonstration Farm, Levy-Roswal Adventure Course Area with Accessible Climbing Tower, Accessible Water Playground, a multi-sensory room for campers with autism, The Alabama Pilots and Solon & Martha Dixon miniature golf course, and the Outpost, a multi-purpose outdoor music and entertainment area, and seven permanent residences for our senior staff members. These diverse facilities allow Camp ASCCA to provide a myriad of exciting programming options. All facilities are accessible to people of all abilities. All buildings, except the Conference Center are on one level, with entrance ways by ramp at ground level access. The two story Conference Center has an elevator. Elevated ramp ways, boardwalks and concrete paths throughout the 230 acres allow campers of all abilities and ambulation to explore the outdoor environment.
Programs include summer resident and off-season resident camping experiences. The summer program operates from late May to mid-August. The off-season program consists of respite, family, and specialty camps that allow Camp ASCCA to serve a greater number and wider variety of disabled consumers.
In the aquatics area, campers have an opportunity to experience activities such as water skiing, tubing, pontoon boating, swimming, scuba diving instruction, stand up paddle boards, jet ski rides, and flatwater canoeing and the water playground. Swimming includes recreational swimming and swimming instruction with an emphasis on safety in water. From high adventure tubing and a 250 ft. waterslide, to programs for campers who have never been exposed to water play, the aquatics program offers something for everyone.
The largest program area at Camp ASCCA is the Outdoor Education component. This includes wildlife and farm animal studies, horseback riding, fishing, archery, riflery, arts and crafts, along with a variety of sports. Sports activities include a variety of indoor and outdoor sports and both team sports and individual sports. Skill instruction is offered in each sport, as well as recreational and team play. Sports include bocce, floor hockey, adapted golf, golf driving range, puttputt golf, disc golf, tennis, and billiards. For lower skilled campers, ball games and activities are used as lead-in activities. From tennis to basketball, a range of sports that require little or no adaptive equipment are demonstrated at Camp ASCCA.
With barrier-free adventure activities, Camp ASCCA offers children and adults with disabilities a chance to climb a tree, slide down a zip line, climb a 20-foot cargo net, tackle a low ropes course and rappel down a tower. The Camp ASCCA 40-foot high Climbing Tower allows each camper to choose how independent they will be or how much assistance they will receive. The adventure staff has a belay rope rigged to series of rope and carabiner pulleys that allow him/her to provide as much active assistance as is necessary for the camper to ascend the tower successfully. Campers can ascend the tower via a 90-degree climbing side, a 45-degree climbing ramp, or a 60-degree climbing ramp. Access to the tower by wheelchair users is through an accessible ramp and a traverse line. The ramp on the climbing tower allows the participant to wheel their chair to the base of the tower, lock into a harness system and then ascend at their own pace, with or without active assistance from adventure staff.
Once at the top of the tower, the camper is secured to a tether line. After securing the safety of the camper, he/she takes a 300 foot zipline ride. The zipline adventure starts with a leap of faith from the tower platform and a small drop before the zipline catches the fall. As the camper ascends the tower, a counselor moves the wheelchair to the take-off platform, where an innovative take-off platform allows the camper to remain independent throughout the experience.
As the camper begins the slide, the take-off platform is in an open position, allowing the camper to slide the length of the zip cable and then pendulum back toward the tower until they come to rest over the take-off platform. The two ends of the platform are pushed together, the zipliner unhooks the seat harness and either walks down the ramp or lowers himself/herself into their chair and wheels down the ramp to the next activity. Truly, inclusion with dignity and maximum independence. This is exhilarating for campers, particularly those that spend a majority of their time in a wheelchair. It is also joyous for parents who have been told many times of the things their child will be unable to do.
As stated by John Stephenson, Camp Administrator, “Our goal as an organization is to give each camper the best possible experience every time they visit Camp ASCCA.” For more information about Camp ASCCA, go to the camp website at www.campascca.org or contact Dana Rickman, Director of Marketing Communications at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Glenn Roswal, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus Jacksonville State University and a former Chair of the Camp ASCCA Board of Directors. Dana Rickman is Director of Marketing Communications at Camp ASCCA.