“This place will change your heart,” said Tyre McIntosh, a junior rehabilitation major from Millbrook. “Camp ASCCA is another place that I call home.”
Camp ASCCA, located on Lake Martin, is Alabama’s Special Camp for Children and Adults. ASCCA spans across 230 acres of wooded area and lakeshore access.
According to its website, the camp provides a place “where campers with disabilities have the opportunity to express their individuality and independence within a carefully supervised setting.”
“The beauty of the location and the true retreat setting are a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life,” said John Kline, director of the Institute for Leadership Development, who has spoken at the camp during leadership retreats.
This past summer, Tyre and Janay McIntosh and Adrian Pitts, all Troy University students, worked at the camp as a unit leader, female camp counselor and male camp counselor, respectively.
As a unit leader, Tyre had a variety of responsibilities, which included training counselors, overseeing cabins and much more.
ASCCA counselors are required to go through an intensive orientation training week to learn how to properly care for people with mental and physical disabilities of all types.
The challenge for counselors was to go a step further and implement what they had learned. Each counselor was responsible for about one to three campers every week.
The campers and counselors go from being strangers to close friends within the week, and returning counselors often get assigned campers they have bonded with from previous years.
The counselors serve to provide the campers with an unforgettable week of excitement, fun and new friends. Many campers and staff members continue to keep in touch once the camp has ended.
“When campers cry about having to leave on Fridays, they aren’t crying because of the activities. It’s the people and the friendships they create,” said Camp Director Matt Rickman.
Janay McIntosh, a sophomore rehabilitation major from Millbrook, discussed the additional impact the campers have on the staff.
“Some of the campers aren’t able to do much, but still manage to be happy,” McIntosh said. “That’s how I want to start living my life.”
Campers at ASCCA are provided with opportunities to participate in a wide variety of activities that they otherwise might not have had the chance to participate in.
Every activity is made accessible to every camper, regardless of the disability, from physical activities such as swimming, zip lining, tubing, horseback riding and canoeing, to more relaxing activities such as nature walks or boat rides.
Night events could involve a dance party, pool party, talent show, movie night or special guest appearances.
Some of the guest appearances at ASCCA this summer were Elvis, Captain America, Darth Vader, a storm trooper and a Jedi.
There was also a different theme each week, including Vegas, Mardi Gras and Independence Day.
Each week brought new surprises as well as new accomplishments from the campers, said Adrian Pitts, a sophomore collaborative education major from Huntsville.
“The things that happened at camp were unbelievable, and you wouldn’t see it outside of camp. That’s what makes this place so special,” Pitts said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. The kids and adults that come to camp give you life.”
According to the website, the organization is always looking for new counselors to join the experience.
“We will be looking for staff that have high moral character, love for the outdoors, an enthusiasm for life and an interest in working with special populations.”
Applications for summer 2017 are currently unavailable, but general employment information can be found at http://www.campascca.org/uploadedFiles/File/2016HiringInfo.pdf.