FUN AT MDA CAMP: Local man serves as counselor at muscular dystrophy camp

Published 3:00 am Saturday, July 29, 2017

William Dillard Taylor spends his one-week vacation each year as a counselor at MDA (Muscular Dystrophy Association) Summer Camp at Camp ASCCA.

But Taylor said that sounds nobler than it is.

“Serving as a counselor at MDA Camp is too much fun, too rewarding, for it to be noble,” Taylor said with a smile. “Some people like to go to the beach. Some like to go to the mountains. I like to go to Camp ASCCA.”

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The camp at Jackson Gap is Alabama’s Special Camp for Children and Adults with camps for those with different special needs. Taylor has been a counselor at the MDA Summer Camp for five years.

“That is the best week of my year,” Taylor said. “The campers say going the MDA Camp is better than going to Disney World and even better than Christmas. It’s the same for me.”

Taylor has a brother who has autism and he has always had a soft spot in his heart for those who have physical and mental limitations.

“And, too, I’m a kid a heart,” he said, again with a smile. “Being a counselor at MDA Camp is a chance for me to go back to camp each summer.”

Muscular Dystrophy is a group of diseases that cause progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass.

“Muscular dystrophy is a blanket term for those diseases,” Taylor said. “Some campers are at MDA Camp that you wouldn’t know have MD and then there are those who are wheelchair bound and need help doing everything.”

At his first year at MDA Camp, Taylor was assigned a young man who was completely ambulatory.

“They kind of babied me that year,” Taylor said. “I didn’t have to do anything much for him. After that, I’ve had kids that are in wheelchairs and I’ve had the responsibility of doing everything for them – dressing them, feeding them, bathing them. When you care for a kid like that and also help him participate in and enjoy activities that are not a normal part of his life, you develop a special closeness and it’s very rewarding.”

The MDA campers are ages six to 17 and Taylor said, wise beyond their years. Their insight into their disease, “lifts me up,” he said.

“One of the counselors has MD but it is slow progressing. I asked him if he ever questions why. He said he has, but then realizes that someone is going to have MD and  ‘Why not me? This is my life and I have to live with it. I’m grateful just to be here.’ And, I’m grateful to know him.”

Taylor said the kids at MDA Summer Camp are some of the best in the world. Being with them is a joy. The knowledge that their disease is progressive cannot be allowed to diminish that joy.

Taylor said one young counselor came to camp thinking he was “too cool” to be there.

The counselor and a camper shared an interest in art.

“The camper worked really hard all week on a drawing but he would not let the counselor see what he was drawing,” Taylor said. “On the last day, he gave the counselor the drawing. It was of the two of them.

“When the counselor drove away from camp, he had to pull off to the side and stop. He sat there sobbing, knowing that was probably the last time the two of them would be together.”

Taylor said the counselor framed the drawing and keeps it hanging in his home as a reminder of those “special” kids whose inner joy is contagious.

“As a counselor, knowing the direction that MD takes could be depressing but not with those kids around,” he said. “They make a difference in my life that I never could have imagined. For me, going to MDA Camp is the best time of my year. It is better than Disney World and it’s what Christmas is all about.”