Camp ASCCA ‘spectacular’ experience for two DHS seniors

Lots of kids go to summer camp. They enjoy the water sports, horseback riding and arts and crafts, depending on what the camp offers.

But for one group of students, summer camps usually are only a dream. Their disabilities prevent them from being able to take part in those activities.

Brandon Lewis and Nigel Davis

Brandon Lewis and Nigel Davis

Unless they go to Camp ASCCA.

Two seniors at Demopolis High School are among those who call themselves campers now after attending sessions at Alabama’s Special Camp for Children and Adults. Located on Lake Martin, the camp offers a nationally recognized therapeutic recreation program for children and adults with disabilities.

Nigel Davis and Brandon Lewis, both of whom suffer from cerebral palsy, had never heard about Camp ASCCA until approached by their principal Dr. Tony Speegle. He is a member of the Demopolis Rotary Club which, along with other clubs in its district, support Camp ASCCA. The boys’ tuition to camp was paid for by the local club.

They had no expectations of what camp would be like, but, said Nigel, Speegle “told me it was going to be a great experience.”

Brandon, confined to a wheelchair, said he most enjoyed “the freedom” of camp, “being on my own.”

Nigel, who uses a walker, said that although he was scared of the unknown before he went to camp, he soon embraced the experience. “It was spectacular!”

Brandon enjoyed the “thrill of the ride” when he went tubing, and Nigel brought home a scuba diving award. Both took advantage of what Brandon called the “exhilarating” zip line. Nigel even went twice.

As for the food? It was “the best food I ever had,” said Nigel.

But both young men said they had the most fun at the dances. “I enjoyed the prom,” said Brandon. “The prom was the best part for me.”

Speegle first met the two young when he was principal at U.S. Jones Elementary School. “They were just good guys,” he explained.

He began conversations with the boys’ parents, and about two years began working on getting scholarships to the camp for the two of them.

Speegle sees a difference in Brandon and Nigel since their return. “They have been much more outgoing,” he said. “It really helped them.”

Nigel, he said, made such an impression on the camp administrators that they brought him back later in the summer for a second week.

Nigel says he is a social person to begin with, and Brandon admits he is the opposite, but both believe they have become more self-confident since attending camp.

“It’s made me more of a positive and open person,” explained Brandon.

“It made me see certain things in a different perspective,” added Nigel, who texts several friends he made while at Camp ASCCA. “Special needs can also enjoy things” as well as others.

The two of them no longer focus on their limitations. Brandon hopes to pursue a coaching career and try out wheelchair basketball. Nigel hopes to study broadcast journalism.

“Don’t judge me by my condition,” said Brandon. “Judge me for who I am as a person.”

“People need to be relaxed and be more open, and Camp ASCCA helps you to do that,” added Nigel.

As for the chance to return, “I’d go back in a heartbeat,” said Nigel.

“The very second you told me I’d be out the door,” grinned Brandon.