Camp Ability of Special Kids celebrates its 10th summer of helping kids grow in Jesus Christ. Camp started in 2007 with 25 campers and has grown to serve 90 campers this summer. The Camp Ability vision is to provide hope, fun and support to children with special needs and their families.
Camp Ability tries to instill in each camper that they “can do all things through Christ who strengthens,” Philippians 4:13.
“It truly has been humbling to see that verse come to life,” says Alexis Ramsey Camp Ability founder and Special Kids Director of Strategic Initiatives. “Whether it is a child developing confidence and strength to go down the water slide at MTSU, or another making connections and friendships with other campers and staff, a staff member choosing to dedicate their life to Christ, a camper reciting the memory verse, or a mom feeling a sense of belonging, God has blown out of the water my initial expectations of what this program could provide.”
Ramsey is encouraged by how much camp has grown. That very first year, the hope was to help families struggling to find adequate care for their children during the summer. It was hard for Ramsey to find a location that would open their facility to a program all throughout the summer. The next year, she approached North Blvd Church of Christ to use their facility and they welcomed Special Kids with open arms.
Children and youth ages 6-25 enjoy seven weeks of fun making new friends and trying new activities. The camp staff members emphasize children's abilities rather than disabilities and find ways for all campers to participate in activities.
Each year, Camp Ability has continued to increase the number of spots available for camp and each year they have been filled. When camp started 10 years ago there were 25 campers divided into 3 groups according to their ages. This past year, camp served over 75 kids divided into 7 different age/ability groups. The programs and activities each year have developed and increased. A few are Weekly Bible Studies, Arts and Crafts, Life Skills, Job Skills placement to Jim and Nicks, Publix, Amelia’s Closet and Greenhouse Ministries, Music Classes, Gymnastics provided by ETC, Karate provided by Bill Taylor, Construction Day provided by Lowes, MTSU sports program clinics including football, basketball and tennis, fieldtrips to Jump Street, Bounce U, Discovery Center, Strike and Spare Bowling Alley, and MTSU Swimming Pool.
"My son loves Camp Ability” says one camp parent. “He gets excited everyday when we pull into the parking lot. He receives so much love and encouragement."
One young man came to camp with a walker. His parents had the goal for him at camp to increase how far he could go without his walker. After only a few weeks, he was walking so far that he completely stopped bringing his walker to camp.
One camper struggled greatly with socializing with other campers. Only a few weeks into camp, he was saying 'Hi' and 'Bye' to the other campers and soon was starting conversations with his new friends as well.
Some of those amazing staff members that have made Camp Ability a success year after year are Brandon Deal our Camp Director, Gina Hayden and Carmen Wilson. Brandon has been camp director for 8 years. He is a middle school social studies teacher during the school year, but always has camp on his mind and heart. He loves these kids and is always trying to improve the programming provided during Camp.
Gina has been with Camp Ability for ALL 10 years! This summer she is our Life Skills Specialist, working specifically with our older campers with the Life and Job Skills Program, along with being a Co-Assistant Camp Director.
Carmen has been with Camp Ability for 9 years! This summer she continues in her role as Lead Counselor of our youngest group, along with acting as the other Co-Assistant Director. Carmen and Gina have been an amazing part in developing camp through the years. They both have great wisdom, insight and knowledge in working with children with special needs and show so much heart and patience to all they interact with and touch.
It is amazing all the people and organizations that have been involved over the years to help us grow Camp Ability. North Boulevard Church of Christ, Baptist Healing Trust, Richard Siegel Foundation. Bill Taylor, ETC, MTSU, Greenhouse Ministries, Jim N Nicks, Publix, Amelia’s Closet have all been a huge part of helping Camp Ability come together to serve so many children and young adults. Not to mention the wonderful staff & volunteers that return each year giving the campers something special to look forward to.
The future vision for Camp Ability is to expand camp into a year round program by providing an after school program and additional respite programs. We would also love to continue to develop and increase our opportunities for Job Skills and placement for our campers.
“This year we have had one of our first Job Skills participants to be employed,” exclaims Ramsey. “God is amazing and has such plans for His camp and miracles in store for all who participate! Praising HIM for 10 years and counting!!!”