Camp Wamp hits the road for a cross-country trip
It’s a common coming-of-age trip: a group of college-aged kids traveling across the country. Five young men from Coronado are doing just that, but with a purpose.
Joe Wampler, Elliot MacAdam, Lance Mann, Sean O’Connor and Jonathan Mehki travel across America in an RV, celebrating disability and raising awareness about Camp Wamp, a summer program for people with disabilities. The camp has been run by the parents of Joe, Stephen and Elizabeth Wampler since 2004.
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“We kind of knew we wouldn’t be able to have Camp Wamp this summer, and we couldn’t do that last summer too, and so we thought it would be a shame if we couldn’t not have him two years in a row, ”Joe said.
After some brainstorming, they decided to take Camp Wamp down the road. The group has been friends for years and now goes to different schools across the country, so they jumped at the chance to come together for a good cause.
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“When this opportunity presented itself, I really had no choice, I had to take this great opportunity,” said Jonathan.
They left San Diego in early June, making several stops along the way. Now they’re in New York, about halfway through their two-month trip.
“It was a really great experience, to interact with different kids, to give these kids some fun activities that they don’t get the chance to do every day,” Joe said.
In December, Joe launched a TikTok Account as a surprise to his parents, and it took off. He continued to be successful with the account, increasing his number of subscribers to over 246,000 subscribers.
“TikTok has been a phenomenal way to get our message out,” Joe said. “The second we released our first video, people were on board and so willing to help and because of these people, it spread like wildfire.”
They’re also using the power of social media on this trip, with the help of Wampler Foundation employee Ale Bruyere, who helps coordinate meetings with the kids at each stop.
“A few days ago we were in Chicago and got to go backstage with some of the kids at the aquarium,” Elliot said. “You could really see the children’s faces light up … and it was really a beautiful thing to see.”
It is also an opportunity to learn more about the rest of the country.
“It showed me that there is so much more to the United States than the California bubble,” Lance said. “Everyone has their own views on something like disability and we all vary in this very diverse country. “
Although they took the journey to raise awareness about disability, their journeys have also changed the way they approach the subject themselves.
“When it comes to non-verbal people in particular, it’s so important to always see them as a person and treat them the way you normally would,” Lance said.
“In Denver, one of the parents said, it’s not that they can’t hear you, it’s just that you have to listen differently. And it completely changed my way of looking at this whole situation and my way of seeing disabilities as a whole. “
Ultimately, Joe says he hopes people learn to treat people with disabilities like anyone else.
“It’s so important to get to know people after their disability, because so many people think it’s a huge determining factor, but I would say it’s not.
Camp Wamp Across America East sponsored by ESET.