Spotlight on AmpuCamp.org

Reaching Out to People ‘Just Like Us’ – and to More of Them

An Interview With Brian J. Johnston, Founder

Brian J. Johnston and his son, Brennan, who is an amputee

Brian J. Johnston and his son, Brennan, who is an amputee

AmputeeNews: What is AmpuCamp, and what does the organization do?

Brian Johnston: AmpuCamp is a nonprofit organization designed to provide vital support, encouragement and resources to anyone (regardless of age or background) personally affected by or caring for someone with limb loss/difference via on-site and online programs.

The specific purposes and activities of AmpuCamp include, but are not limited to, the following:

 Provide immediate and ongoing opportunities for limb loss/difference individuals and their families and caregivers to connect with others “just like me” for support,  encouragement and mentoring in a neutral, non-threatening and nurturing environment

 Incorporate individual/group therapeutic and recreational activities that are supportive,  engaging and fun (games, sports, arts/crafts, dance, special events, etc.) to help     increase self-esteem, reduce potential barriers (real/perceived) between people, and  facilitate open communication

 Connect participants with various support personnel and organizations (medical,  counseling, rehabilitation, O&P providers, etc.) and others (sports, motivational, celebrity) to explore various personal care options and advancements, elevate morale, and expedite social (re)integration.

 

AN: Why did you start AmpuCamp?

BJ: Studies show the rate of recovery and positive adaptation to a life-altering circumstance such as limb loss can be greatly expedited and enhanced when access to information regarding personal care options and resources such as peer counseling are readily available. More importantly, those personally impacted by limb loss/difference who pursue independent and social activities, including therapeutic and recreational programs, are more successfully/thoroughly rehabilitated and resume active, healthy and productive lives sooner than those without the benefit of such information and support.

As we worked through our own personal experience and frustrations, I was amazed by how far the impact of limb loss/difference could reach beyond the personally affected individual. Whether it’s congenital, an illness, or an accident, the experience of limb loss/difference forever changes the lives of everyone involved, and “routine” tasks often become multi-person, multi-step, multi-emotional events.

While researching existing adaptive opportunities for kids and families, along with sharing our story/video through individual and corporate channels, it became increasingly evident that many people “just like us” considered some type of family support system or program an essential and long-overdue necessity.

Ultimately, it was a conversation during my son’s first prosthetic fitting that initially sparked the idea for AmpuCamp, after we discovered the age barrier that prevents or excludes kids younger than 8 years of age from participating in certain adaptive programs and activities.

 

AN: What differentiates AmpuCamp from other adaptive organizations/events?

BJ: The philosophy and focus of AmpuCamp is simply to give others the support I wish we had – and desperately needed – especially at a vital time when our family was struggling to cope with our young son’s “accident” and effectively navigate the uncertainty of things to come. Based on the reality that “stuff happens” all the time (illness, accident, etc.), where immediate and ongoing support should be readily available, the following table outlines several key components that significantly differentiate AmpuCamp from other organizations/events:

Key Other Orgs AmpuCamp.org
Who? Events are for limb loss/difference individuals only 

Everyone is affected

Events are for limb loss/difference individuals AND their familiesand caregivers
When? 1x year Existing programs are only available once a year, usually during the summer

 

What if an accident happens or support is needed before/after summer?

4x year (1 per quarter) We offer multiple opportunities throughout the year to provide immediate support and

ongoing connectivity

Where? Away from home/family 

What if the location is too far away?

Our goal is to host a distinctly different event each quarter at unique venues (locally) and offer a variety of activitiesto attract/accommodate different interests and participants from surrounding areas
How Long? Usually a weeklong camp 

What if a week is too long or my child isn’t comfortable being away?

Usually held on a Saturday or Sundayand will last for several hours (based

on venue availability/activity schedule)

Allows “local” participants to come and enjoy a unique experience without incurring additional travel/lodging expenses.

 

Usually some type of food, fun

and fellowship included!

Of the adaptive opportunities and programs we researched, none of them were specifically designed or equipped to address the equally-important family, caregiver or sibling needs and/or issues.

Basically, we looked at what everyone else was NOT doing and created AmpuCamp to fill in those vitally important service and support gaps.

 

AN: How much does it cost to participate in AmpuCamp?

BJ: Our goal is to provide cost-effective (free) experiences and events for limb loss/difference participants and their families/caregivers to enjoy. From time to time, there may be a nominal fee associated with highly specialized events, venues and activities. We will do our best to provide “scholarships” (contingent on resources) for those who may need financial assistance in order to participate.

 

AN: What is your long-term vision for AmpuCamp?

BJ: From the beginning, I’ve had the vision to “AmpuCamp the globe” by creating a business-in-a-box support system with training modules and mentoring networks that educate, encourage and equip potential leaders (locally/globally) to successfully launch the AmpuCamp opportunity in their respective areas.

Additional pursuits of interest in my long-term vision for AmpuCamp include:

 Become the leading “First/Next Step” post-operative/rehabilitative resource for various  healthcare providers (hospitals, clinics, O&P providers) and other complementary organizations to further extend rehabilitative efforts and expedite social (re)integration and participation opportunities

 Develop an extensive website/portal/social network (AmpuCamp.org) – a place where limb loss/difference members, various product/service providers, and other industry    professionals can interface, discover new technologies and personal care options, share  professional expertise and personal experiences, and find/offer solutions to challenges  associated with limb loss/difference

 Open a first-of-its-kind adaptive training and event facility locally to augment the  immediate rehabilitative needs and long-term fitness/recreational pursuits of limb loss/difference participants.

 

AN: How would more donations specifically benefit AmpuCamp?

BJ: There are three primary (immediate) objectives that could be achieved with additional funding:

 Solidify our annual events planning/calendar and the potential associated costs with various events (deposits, staffing, equipment rentals, insurance, “scholarships”, etc.)

 Implement various website enhancements to provide more comprehensive and useful online connectivity for the limb loss/difference community

 Purchase a highly-specialized “jungle gym” piece of adaptive training equipment for individual and group rehabilitation/training.

 

AN: How can others help fulfill the mission of AmpuCamp?

BJ: ATTENTION: Volunteers, interns, nonprofit professionals, retired executives, sales and marketing professionals, web/tech wizards, PR and media professionals, stay-at-home moms, corporations, colleges, churches, coaches and kids – and anyone else interested in making a positive impact …

Have you been searching for an opportunity in which to invest a little personal time, talent and treasure?

We welcome potential collaborative opportunities with individuals and organizations that complement our existing message and mission, can enhance our level of service and operations, or have the desire and expertise to successfully grow the AmpuCamp brand/opportunity into a global force for a greater good!

Please visit ampucamp.org/volunteers and submit your information regarding your area(s) of interest and/or expertise. Your time and consideration is greatly appreciated – Thank You!

 

Riding a horseAN: What’s the best thing a participant ever told you?

BJ: I received this e-mail after our very first AmpuCamp event:

Mr. Johnston,

Thank You for sharing your son’s story and video. A friend forwarded the link to your website – as I guess it was their way of hopefully getting me to start moving in a different (and better) direction.

You see, when I left the hospital after my accident/amputation (I’m now an “AKA” above-knee amputee), I became severely reclusive over the last year and a half. Struggling with depression and feeling extremely self-conscious, I didn’t care about, nor did I want to deal with, anybody/anything on any level …

Truth be told, I was suffering from a severe case of “over-analysis paralysis” as the anxiety and fear of leaving the “security” of home and subjecting myself to others who I feared might stare, make comments, or judge me and my leg.

Reading the story you wrote (My Child, My Hero) and then seeing your personal experience come to life in the video was incredibly humbling to say the least! Watching your son overcome the tragic experience and “get back in the game” provided the perfect kick in the pants I desperately needed to snap out of my ongoing mental, physical, social, spiritual downward spiral.

Suffice it to say, words cannot adequately express how grateful I am that you shared your experience – the good, the bad AND the ugly – and turned it into something absolutely wonderful for everyone “just like me.”

It’s difficult to see through the tears right now, for I know had it not been for my friend forwarding the “gift” you’ve created for others that I would still be locked up in my self-imposed prison at home, stuck in a bad mental/emotional rut …

I never realized there were so many people in the same situation, with the same struggles as me!?! And, while I didn’t actively participate at the event, the opportunity to simply watch, speak to and hang out with others “just like me” was totally worth the price of admission (oh yeah, there wasn’t one!)

After the AmpuCamp event, I returned home and began researching various “pay-it-forward” opportunities in my area as you suggested. Who knows, perhaps I can play an active role in future AmpuCamp events? J

Again, THANK YOU for sharing your experience, energy and enthusiasm to make a difference. See you at the next event!

Sincerely,

(Name withheld for privacy)

 

AN: How can someone get more information about AmpuCamp?

BJ: Visit AmpuCamp.org

 

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