Life-Changing Experiences and A Place to be a Kid: Single Moms Share Their Camp Journeys

Story featuring moms and kids

For moms Crystal Ingram and Janel Brown, camp was the experience of a lifetime, leading them to new connections and forever friendships.

Crystal Ingram is a medical assistant and single mother to Ruby, a happy, loving, and outgoing 5-year-old with Lobar Holoprosencephaly. Crystal described, “she loves to be outside and to go swimming. She loves music and especially singing ‘Happy Birthday.’”

Crystal and Ruby connected with Victory Lane Camp through therapy at 321Go Kids Rehab. They experienced their first summer camp session at Cornerstone Campground last summer. “My family and I loved the relationships we formed with other families,” Crystal shared. They especially loved the relationships formed with the Teens in Mission, students who serve at camp sessions and beyond, who were paired with Ruby.

Crystal appreciates all that she has been able to take away from their time at camp, including the lessons learned about family and community. She noted, “whether it is dealing with my daily frustrations or worries as a mother of a child with special needs or any other struggle Ruby or I have, I know I can reach out to anyone I met through VLC and I know they would be there to help.”

Crystal and Ruby found their experience at camp to be life-altering. She expressed, “it’s emotional and beautiful and raw. This ministry is changing lives.”

Cracker Barrel server and single mom, Janel Brown, echoed the sentiments of Chrystal’s story. She and her 10 year-old-son Carmine found camp to be an experience of connection and inclusion.

Three years ago, Carmine became ill with a rare bacterial infection that set into his spine. While doctors were finally able to clear the bacteria, some of the effects remain with him, requiring him to be in a wheelchair. This fact, Janel says, does not keep him from living a normal life, neither does it cause him to complain. She described, “he’s the happiest and strongest person I’ve ever known. Carmine is so very sweet. Anyone that meets him can see that he has a heart of gold.”

The biggest highlight for Janel during their first summer camp session at Cornerstone Campground was seeing her son be free to be a kid. “People at camp didn’t look at him for his disability. There, he’s a kid. He’s made friends for life with people that don’t see his wheelchair but see him,” Janel noted.

In addition to seeing her son’s freedom and friendships, Janel enjoyed connecting with families who know what it’s like to care for children with special needs. She expressed, “It meant a lot to have people to relate to and love on Carmine. We felt very at home. We have made friends to last a lifetime.”

Janel and Carmine are already signed up for camp again this summer. She shared, “It was an amazing experience. We look forward to continue being involved.”