Camp with a Ramp

The Mogollon Rim Country of Arizona has always held a special place in my heart. It was the first wilderness I backpacked into when I moved here 16 years ago. It was the first time in my life I had seen that many stars while sitting on a cliff 1,200 feet (365 meters) above a deep canyon. I've watched elk graze on the flats and deer run through the woods. I've explored countless miles in this amazing area. In 2022, I found another reason to love this beautiful area: Camp with a Ramp, held at Whispering Hope Ranch (WHR).

Camp with a Ramp is a three-day event designed for people with spinal cord injuries (SCI) featuring activities such as adaptive kayaking, adaptive mountain biking, fishing, adaptive horse riding, and many more camp activities. Sunrise Medical was a proud sponsor of Camp with a Ramp last year and we look forward to contributing to this event for years to come. Recently, I sat down with one of the original founders of Camp with a Ramp, Tina Fisk OTR/L and got to know what her inspirations were when developing this amazing event and where she sees it going in the future.

A woman using a wheelchair fishing by a lake

Kelly Honeycutt: Thank you for taking the time to give this interview. Could you give our readers some information about yourself?

Tina Fisk: I am a wife to a wonderful husband of 20 years and Mom to an amazing 16-year-old son. I'm a huge animal lover and human rights activist. I love the outdoors and traveling the world. I'm passionate about helping individuals recognize the value in their lives by maximizing their health, well-being, independence, and overall quality of life. I'm an Occupational Therapist who has specialized in Neuro for 33 years. I love what I do for a living so much that it honestly has never felt like a "job."

I became active in adaptive sports and the spinal cord injury community in 1995, but when I traveled with the women's wheelchair basketball team and as a buddy for adaptive scuba divers, I truly learned the most as an OT. I experienced traveling both in the US and out of the country, negotiating airports, vehicles & public transportation, self-care, functional mobility, and leisure skills in the "real" world and outside of a medical setting. My friends who are wheelchair users have taught me that an injury or diagnosis can never define you because anything and everything is still possible. You just may do things a little differently than when you were able-bodied.

I started my career in acute care and inpatient rehab, however I transitioned to outpatient and the home and community setting in 2003. I feel the home and community settings are where I should be and what OT is all about: helping individuals in their specific environments to become independent with any life skill they value without the restrictions of a clinic or hospital.

A group of people playing wheelchair tennis together

KH: My first trip to Camp with a Ramp (CWAR) was back in 2022, and it was one of the most memorable and fun events of my career. When did CWAR start and what was the original inspiration for CWAR?

TF: Camp with a Ramp was started in 2006 when I was serving on the board of directors for the spinal cord association. We (six of us) developed an activity committee and organized fun events in the community. We wanted to do something overnight and over multiple days because we felt there weren't a lot of larger events in the Phoenix area that allowed people to try different leisure and recreational activities. We knew there were several kids' camps, but when they turn 18, they "age out." Or if someone is injured after the age of 18, there are no other camp opportunities available. As a therapist, I can bring in peer mentors all day and tell you what I know is possible after an injury, but it's not the same as staying in a hotel or cabin for three nights with others who have already lived it. From traveling with friends who are wheelchair users, I knew that being in a cabin for three nights with others living with spinal cord injuries, plus having access to networking, mentoring, and the top healthcare volunteers would be priceless! We wanted everyone to know that with out assistance and some adaptations, they could participate in any leisure or rec activity. We also wanted people to know they didn't need a caregiver and we would be there to provide any assistance needed if they wanted to get away on their own.

One of the committee members found Whispering Hope Ranch and although they did multiple kids' camps, adults were new to them. They provided accessible cabins, beautiful grounds, special needs animals, horses, and meals while allowing us to create our own weekend. We formed the Arizona spinal cord injury retreat from 2006 to 2011. The activity committee and camp then dissolved. Six years later, Duane Blau, a PT and dedicated volunteer for adaptive sports and recreation started the Neuro and Brain Community Foundation and wanted to bring back a new and improved camp. A friend who is a past camper living with an SCI and member of the former camp planning committee made a joke about camping with a ramp. So, when we brought our volunteer planning committee back together and discussed the name of the camp, what was once a joke had now stuck and Camp with a Ramp was formed.

Campers adaptive mountain biking

KH: Compared to when CWAR started, how has it grown into the amazing event that it is now?

TF: If I remember correctly, there were approximately 20 campers and 15 volunteers at our first camp, with four to five activities going on every hour. We have now grown to 70 campers and 35 healthcare volunteers in addition to seven to nine activities per hour. The only reason more people can't attend is because there are only 10 accessible cabins with 10 people in each. Due to the interest but lack of beds, we usually close registration early.

We've also seen tremendous growth by generous nonprofits and community partners coming together to assist us to create the weekend. The last two years, Ability360, High Country Adaptive Sports, and Southern AZ Adaptive Sports have sent coaches with disabilities who are experts in their sports. They are leaders, motivators, and mentors. They bring their expertise and sporting equipment to spend the weekend with us to create an amazing opportunity to explore almost any leisure and recreational activity desired. We even have lunch lectures to discuss sports that we can't physically do during the weekend such as Saguaro Scuba and adaptive diving or sled hockey with the Coyotes.

We have wheelchair vendors from National Seating & Mobility and Rider Mobility and a wheelchair manufacturer, Sunrise Medical, donating their time and finances the entire weekend to help us with any wheelchair modifications or repairs that are needed during the weekend. I've had several professionals donate their time to provide education regarding bowel and bladder management, sexual function, and adjustment to changing body images. Most recently we have an RN with Coloplast that has flown in from out of state to volunteer the entire weekend and discuss continence care and sexual function.

We have at least 12 generous sponsors and 13 volunteer planning committee members that allow our event to happen. We purchased a special needs saddle for the horses and donated it to WHR so anyone can ride. We were able to purchase lots of adaptive equipment for every leisure and recreational activity so that all levels of injuries can participate. We have a website and thousands of social media followers.

Campers riding horses

KH: Can anyone come to CWAR?

TF: We initially started as a camp for individuals living with spinal cord injuries and diseases, but now have opened our registration so that 10% of our campers are brain injury survivors. You must be 13 to 17 years of age with supervision, and 18 and older can come alone. We have men's, women's, and couples' cabins. We prefer our volunteers to be healthcare providers so that caregiver assistance can be provided as needed.

A man using a power wheelchair and hitting a ball with a bat

KH: I have a hard time choosing one favorite event that I am able to help with. But what is your favorite event at CWAR?

TF: The evening activities are my favorite, when everybody comes together as a large group. If I chose one night activity, I would have to say the dance night with a DJ or live band. I love that it eliminates all barriers and it's fun to see able-bodied people and wheelchair users showing off their wheelchair skills. The entire camp is laughing, dancing, and coming together for at least three hours. I've heard people say it's the first time they felt completely comfortable on the dance floor without feeling like all eyes were on them.

KH: Where do you see CWAR in the future?

TF: I'm hoping that we can see more cabins built so that we continue to grow. We would also like to discuss the capability of letting individuals camp in tents versus cabins if they want. We have a few campers from out of state and I would like to see even more. The future camp could be more days or more than once a year. It would be a proud moment to see us become a model camp or event that others strive to replicate.

KH: If people are interested, where can they find more information for CWAR?

TF:, Facebook, and Instagram. Any questions can be answered via our website or Facebook Messenger.

Group photo from Camp with a Ramp

About the author

Kelly Honeycutt

Kelly Honeycutt has worked in the Durable Medical Equipment and Complex Rehab Technology industries for 12 years. His background includes experience as a Senior DME Technician for multiple vendors in the greater Phoenix area, a Logistics Lead Technician for the largest hospital system in Arizona, and a Senior Field Technician for a national rehab technology vendor. Kelly's career has spanned a multitude of different DME/CRT products and manufacturers, and places a strong emphasis on customer service and quality of knowledge in the field technician space. Kelly brings years of real world field repair and service experience to Sunrise Medical to help develop the best, most durable equipment available on the market. He is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys exploring remote locations with his dog, as well as having fun with anything with a motor that goes fast.

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Date: 6/17/2024 12:00:00 AM

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