MANATEE COUNTY — Brooksann Cummings didn’t miss a beat after her 15-year-old brother Connor reminisced about slamming a pie in her face at camp last month. The 22-year-old had gotten her own slice of revenge after winning a game of bingo as her brother had done.
“I got him good, and I’m not sorry I did it,” she said with a grin.
Brooksann, Connor and their sister, Savannah, 14, all participated in Camp Able, a summer camp for individuals with disabilities July 19-24, although with different roles.
Brooksann, who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, has been a camper at Camp Able since the camp opened about four years ago. However, her siblings, were new to the experience as camp counselors this year.
“Usually, it’s her coming back and telling us stories,” Connor said. “But this time, we got to experience it too.”
Connor and Savannah, both students at Braden River High School, said they didn’t know what to expect when they arrived at Dayspring Episcopal Conference Center for camp. They knew each other and their sister but no one else. They quickly made friends with the other counselors, who had come a few days early for training, but the siblings still weren’t quite sure what to expect once campers arrived.
“We were accustomed to what (Brooksann’s) like, but it’s nothing like some of the other kids there,” Connor said. “Some of them, you can’t leave alone for a minute.”
Campers’ disabilities ranged from forms of autism spectrum disorder to Down syndrome to spina bifida, but each person had his own challenges and strengths. One boy with autism was admitted to The Juilliard School to study guitar and piano. Another with autism could read at college level in just eighth grade.
Campers each started in one of three houses with a medieval theme to coincide with the week’s theme of “Seek First the Kingdom of God.” Twenty-seven campers, including Brooksann, participated in activities such as fishing, canoeing, kickball, a dance, a talent show and a zip line.
“They can do anything a normal person can do at this camp,” Savannah said.
Connor added: “They were constantly in action. We were exhausted by the end of the day.”
Brooksann admits she warded off many of her siblings’ efforts to assist her at camp, particularly those of Connor, even though it was special to have them there.
“I tried to wheel her once, but she got another counselor to do it,” he said, laughing.
The siblings agreed Camp Able is extra special because individuals with disabilities such as Brooksann’s or others are not subject to ridicule as they often are in the public spectrum.
“Nobody gets left out,” Connor said. “Nobody gets picked on. It was unforgettable.”
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].