ASCCA 01Jennifer Christy, PT, Ph.D. and camper“Jennifer, please come to the cabin and rub my legs and my back!” This common request, made by the campers at the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Summer Camp, is music to my ears since I know it is because the kids have been active all day swimming, riding the zip-line, dancing and doing other fun activities that they would not typically do.

I am beyond privileged to serve as the Camp Physical Therapist each year at a week-long camp for children with neuromuscular diseases.

As a new graduate physical therapist in Louisiana I treated children of all ages and abilities who had disorders that affected their movement. My job was to help them to move better, feel better and meet their movement related goals. Among my patients were two brothers with Duchene Muscular Dystrophy who introduced me to a whole new world, the MDA Summer Camp.

The MDA is a non-profit organization devoted to research and service for individuals who are diagnosed with a form of neuromuscular disease. Currently the MDA covers 91 types of diseases. The MDA also funds SUMMER CAMP!   

ASCCA 02MDA Summer Camp at Camp ASCCAMDA Summer Camp is a haven for the campers, who look forward to camp week all year. The camp is staffed by MDA staff as well as volunteers to include a counselor for each camper, medical doctors, nurses and physical therapists. To pass through the gates of camp is to leave the cares of the world behind and to enter a world where there is no DISABILITY, only ABILITY.

The campers have a large range of abilities and diagnoses. Some are ambulatory while others have difficulty moving their legs and arms. Regardless of ability, if a camper wants to do an activity, the volunteers make it happen and make sure that the campers are having a good time and are safe. The campers are positive, gracious and rarely complain. The volunteers leave with a sense that they have gained more than they have given.

My service as the Camp PT for the Alabama MDA Summer Camp is supported by the UAB Department of Physical Therapy, School of Health Professions and 2014 marked my 18th camp. As the Camp PT, I instruct the counselors on proper and safe lifting and transfer techniques, as well as how to perform daily range of motion and stretching exercises for the campers.

I am also available to help the counselors who become sore and tired from the physical work involved with the day to day requirements of caring for campers. Camp is held at the Alabama Special Camp for Children and Adults (Camp ASCCA) located on Lake Martin, a facility unlike any that I have ever seen. Camp ASCCA is completely wheelchair accessible. Every camper has the opportunity to participate in activities such as zip line, horseback riding, swimming, tubing, fishing, canoeing, arts and crafts, and archery.

ASCCA 03Alison Barnard, Jennifer Christy and camperWhen I return to UAB each year after my week at camp, I cannot help but incorporate camp experiences into teaching moments for the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program, to hopefully encourage the students to become MDA camp counselors when they graduate. This year, the UAB Occupational Therapy students and faculty attended the carnival at camp where they provided fun adapted games which the campers loved.

A UAB DPT graduate, Alison Barnard, class of 2010, served as a counselor for 3 camps. Alison was recently accepted to a PhD program at the University of Florida where she will conduct research related to Duchene Muscular Dystrophy. Alison and I both look forward to camp each year where we are refreshed by the invaluable life experiences and relationships that cannot be experienced anywhere else.

To learn more about camp, please visit the following websites:

MDA Alabama Website:

Camp ASCCA Website:

MDA Alabama Facebook page (lots of pictures of the 2014 camp!):