LAKE MARTIN, Ala. (WSFA) - Located on Lake Martin, Alabama’s Special Camp for Children and Adults (ASCCA) is a year-round camp for people with intellectual and or physical disabilities. Since its opening in 1976, this is the first year summer camp has been canceled.
Camp Director Matt Rickman has been working at Easterseals Camp ASCCA for 21 years. He said coming to the decision to close camp this summer was not easy, but it was necessary to ensure that employees and campers were kept safe.
“By the time we got to the end of April, we just knew that there was no way to have summer camp the way that we do things,” Rickman said. “In a residential camp, serving 100 campers each week, and bringing in staff to be their caregivers. I am not saying every camp needs to cancel in the state, but for us, there was no way to safely do what we do and safety is always going to be our number one concern.”
Brooke and Britani Owens have been going to Camp ASCCA for 13 years. The sisters said they look forward to camp every year and treasure the memories they make. A lot of the counselors have become lifelong friends.
“The counselors are really the ones we are going to miss, because they are special to everyone that goes there,” Britani said.
“We serve ages 6 to 86, and about 100 campers a week during the summer, close to 700 individuals with disabilities,” Rickman said. “For many of them, Camp ASCCA is the one thing on their calendar. That’s their vacation. This is their time to come and socialize and be the majority.”
“We’re really going to miss the dancing,” Britani said. “The dance last year was fun that was really, really something. We’re really going to miss everything about camp ASCCA this year.”
The pandemic, however, could not stop counselors and camp staff from continuing to meet with their fellow campers. This year, campers are chatting with their counselors through Zoom calls, and other forms of social media.
“We’ll do some Facebook lives, we’ll post some videos, some GoPro’s of activities, and do some educational things,” Rickman said.
The coronavirus has also proven to be hard on the camp financially.
“It’s going to be tough for any camp. Summer is your bread and butter. We are a year-round facility, but summer is the main part of your program. It’s going to be difficult for us financially, or any nonprofit that’s out there,” Rickman said. “We’re having to make difficult decisions. Obviously canceling camp was a difficult decision, but as we move forward and with the unknown of when you can open up, we are going to have to make some cuts in our full-time staff, furloughs, and pay cuts.”
The camp still remains hopeful that they will be able to pull through these unprecedented times.
“I know that we’re going to survive this and we’re going to come out better on the other side,” Rickman said.
To make a donation to Camp ASCCA, you can go to their website.