Alabama's Special Camp for Children and Adults is located in Jackson’s Gap, Lake Martin. The camp is for people of all ages with disabilities, and they experience forming all kinds of friendships as well as get to participate in all kinds of fun activities that they normally do not get to experience in their normal daily lives.
The camp is looking for nurses, male counselors and counselors in training (CITs). Normally other positions are available, such as program staff, female counselors and PR Interns, but those staff positions for the summer of 2023 are full.
For those who haven’t heard of ASCCA, it is a camp where campers with different kinds of disabilities and ages can express their individuality and independence within a supervised setting.
Campers get to experience doing things that they normally don’t get to do in their day-to-day lives. The activities that are offered at the camp include horseback riding, swimming, canoeing, fishing, arts and crafts, zip-lining, water-tubing, archery and so much more. Whether a person is a staff member or a camper, individuals benefit from experiencing a camp such as ASCCA.
ASCCA is broken up into weekly sessions. In the summer, there are about seven sessions, and they last the entire summer. Each week consists of daily activity rotations, a talent show, and a dance. During session three, teen week, the camp does something special and puts on a prom. During session one, that takes place around the 4th of July, there is a firework show.
The camp also does weekend camps that take place in the fall and winter.
Burdette and Kelly, both students at Auburn University, talked about how long they’ve been involved in ASCCA and what staff positions they have both had since then.
“I started working at ASCCA during the summer of 2019. I was 15 years old and was a CIT for two weeks during that summer. I was a counselor during the summer of 2021 and 2022. This upcoming summer I will be a part of the outdoor adventure program staff," said Burdette, freshman in special education.
Kelly has a similar background.
“I started working at ASCCA during the summer of 2019, was 15 years old, and started out as a CIT. I was a CIT for most of that summer. I was a counselor in the summer of 2021 and was a part of the aquatics program staff the summer of 2022 as a lifeguard. This summer I’ll be a unit leader," said Kelly, freshman in nursing.
Burdette talked about how she heard of Camp ASCCA.
“I heard about it from a couple different places. My grandmother had a coworker tell her about it. I also was babysitting for a little girl that attended camp, so I had heard wonderful things from her family," Burdette said.
Burdette explained that she initially signed up because she thought it sounded really cool and it was another way to expose herself to individuals with disabilities. She had no idea how much it would change her life.
“I first heard about Camp ASCCA from my brother Brandon who had previously worked there for some years," Kelly said. "At first, I never really thought anything of it because I was young and thought it was just a summer camp that my brother worked at with some of his friends, but as I got older my perspective on it changed.”
Kelly continued to say once he got to high school is when he really realized how cool Camp ASCCA was and how the opportunities that they offer there are incredible. He talked about it with his brother, and when he turned 15 he applied to be a CIT and that is when his journey to loving working at camp started.
Both Burdette and Kelly gave insight and different perspectives as to what it’s like being a staff member.
“It is the hardest yet most rewarding job you will ever have. It also one of the most fun jobs ever! I would also go as far as to say it is one of the only jobs that allows you to be fully embraced for who you truly are," Burdette said. "The campers we interact with are some of the most precious humans that have walked the earth. When you are on staff, you are one big diverse family.”
Burdette talked about how individuals get to serve under amazing directors who have worked at camp for over 20 years. She stated that compared to other camps that ASCCA has a relatively small sized staff which allows individuals to form connections and really get to know everyone that they are working with. Burdette stated how there are a wide variety of staff positions available at camp as well.
She went on to say that if being a counselor isn’t quite your thing that there are program staff and PR positions as well that you can apply for. Counselors are paired with two or three different campers each week and they are fully in charge of caring for them. Burdette informed that program staff run the activities during the day and PR interns are the ones in charge of taking photos and videos.
Kelly said, “Being a staff member at Camp is such an indescribable feeling because there are so many aspects of it. You work with awesome people, who for the most part have a lot of similar qualities and interests, and you end up becoming great friends with them because you spend so much time together.
He went on to say that one of the biggest things is that working at camp is one of the most rewarding things you can and will ever do and that you are always reminded that what you do is super important.
Kelly continued on and explained why ASCCA's mission is so important to him.
“Camp ASCCA is a place where you can make dreams come true. Everything at camp is accessible. Many campers are told that they can't do certain things their entire life, like zip lining, water tubing, et cetera, but they are actually able to do those things at camp," Kelly said. "For example, a person in a wheelchair can easily be able to go down a zip line. Let me tell you, there is such an indescribable feeling of happiness and fulfillment being able to see a camper, who is in a wheelchair, be able to go down a zipline for the first time after thinking they would never be able to do something like that.”
Burdette said, “ I have so many amazing memories. The first one that comes to mind happened during my second summer at camp and my first summer being a counselor. It was during session four of 2021, I was paired one-on-one with a camper who had cerebral palsy, was nonverbal, and used a wheelchair. It was our turn at the zipline, and I was unsure if she would enjoy it."
She talked about how the staff got the harness on the camper, the camper went down the zipline, and the second Burdette met the camper at the bottom she asked her if she had fun and she smiled.
"The rest of the week was filled with so many more amazing moments like these and it just makes you think about all the things our campers can do at camp that they can’t do anywhere else," Burdette said.
Kelly was excited when he told his favorite memory that involved a specific camper.
“I would say one of my absolute favorite memories of camp happened this past summer when I was a part of the aquatics program staff. As part of my duty of being a lifeguard, many days I had to ride on a water tube with campers around Lake Martin," Kelly said. "On one particular day, it was a camper's first time riding on a tube. This camper was nonverbal, so he could not express anything to us with words, and oftentimes did not show much emotion. The second we got on the tube his smile spanned from ear to ear and you could hear his laugh a mile away.”
Kelly explained how this was one of the moments when he realized that even though after working for so many years that sometimes staff members forget that although it's their 100th time doing something it is a camper’s first time. Since it is the camper's first time, he said that the staff should always should make sure that specific activity, no matter what it is, is the best time for the camper.
Kelly added that this memory was a good reminder for him that he loves doing what he does, and it made him very happy that he could be a part of such a sweet memory for that camper.
Burdette said, “Take the leap of faith and apply because you have no idea how much this place can change your life. We get to experience miracles every single day as we watch our campers come out of their wheelchairs and fly down a zipline or get out of the chair for the chance to go tubing on the lake. We provide real concerts so that people who may never get to see live music get the chance to see it.”
Burdette went on to explain how campers are allowed the chance to socialize and experience a dance just like all other individuals do in high school. By serving and working at camp, she explained how the staff at ASCCA allow parents and caregivers to have a much-needed week off and gets the chance to experience a fully inclusive and fully adaptive environment that models how the world truly should be.
Burdette talked about how what staff members put into it is what they are going to get out of it, and she promised that if you show up each week ready to have the time of your life, you will.
“To a person who is on the fence I would say to them, just do it. Take the chance and you won’t regret it. Camp can be a scary place from the outside looking in, but the second you arrive to camp, you will realize that it is not. You will always have people to help you and build you up as well as the experiences that you will have will be like no other," Kelly said. "I think something like Camp ASCCA is an awesome place to find who you are and really learn from others around you. A bonus is it is really fun, you get to live on the lake the whole entire summer doing cool activities with even cooler people. I mean, who wouldn't want to do that?”
If any individuals are looking for a job, particularly for this summer who are nurses, young people around the age of 15, or guys, there is a job available.
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