Mike Brown has a gift for music. Ashley Brown has an eye for photography. Together, this couple has a heart for Victory Lane Camp. It began with Ashley visiting camp as the photographer three years ago. It continues as their whole family is now fully invested in the VLC community.
Victory Lane Camp staff invited Ashley, who owns Ashley B’s Photography, to serve as camp photographer in 2013. “After doing the photography and seeing what it’s like, I fell in love with the kids, the whole vision of the camp, the whole vision for building community, how they went about bringing unity, and I fell in love with all of the VLC families.”
The second summer, Ashley and the kids stayed during camp while Mike visited to help with entertainment and share music during the campfires. Mike took the time to get to know the campers, writing a song for each Victory kid. Music helps Mike connect with families at camp. Ashley recalled one particular connection, “He loves to sing with Chad. Chad always wanted to sing Lean On Me.”
Mike continued, “He wanted to get up and sing the song with me. That was kind of our song. One of my favorite moments around the campfire was having him sing with me and lead with me, and having him get the attention.”
Another one of Mike’s favorite moments was watching Claire react to the music. “You could tell she was enjoying it and connecting to it even though she couldn’t verbally communicate. You could see it through her eyes and her hands, the music in her. It helps you understand that the power of music can connect with all people no matter how they can communicate.”
This summer, the whole family is excited about serving as a Backyard Missions Trip family. Mike and Ashley have seen the impact that VLC has made on their children. Mike shared, “I’ve enjoyed seeing my kids interact with people in the special needs community and not think anything different about them. They don’t see the disability.”
Ashley echoed that in stating, “It changed the way my kids look at people with disabilities. Isaac will walk up to anyone and make friends.” They went on to say that some of their children’s best friendships were formed at camp. It has opened their minds and hearts. Even their 4 year old, Adalynn, looks forward to camp and often says, “I wish camp was every day!”
Seeing families come together, connections made, and relationships built are highlights for the Browns. “In one week, you make relationships that would take years outside of camp. You don’t realize what parents with kids with special needs do on a daily basis. It’s a support team. We support each other,” Ashley expressed.
Mike and Ashley have also observed growth in themselves since becoming a part of the VLC community.
“We spend more time giving attention and communication to individuals with special needs,” Mike stated. He remembered a time that his family was at McDonald’s when they met two teenagers with disabilities. Mike began by telling one of them that he had a cool shirt. The conversation sparked from there. They spent several minutes talking together, and finally one of the young men said to them, “Hey thanks for talking to us. Nobody talks to us.”
Their heart for the VLC community and individuals with special needs continues to grow, along with their passion for making positive connections. Ashley expressed, “God creates everybody. We’re all different. And we’re all loved by Him.”