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Camp Brian Interview

Friday April 01, 2016

Brian Camp 

It’s towards the end of 2015. The sound and the sky are a contended gray. They poke out from over the hedges, and over the warehouse of the carpet store next-door. My dad and I are in our usual places: blue recliner and blue sofa (respectively). The sofa is velvet; it’s also my brother’s favorite resting place, when he visits from school.  

But, presently, I’ve got the sofa. My dad has just informed me that he and his organization, Camp Brian, received a wonderful, unexpected guest earlier that day. And that it was not my brother.

BC: So, let’s start from the beginning. What year did the Camp Brian Parkinson’s Association send the Michael J. Fox Foundation a check?

D: I think it was about two and a half years ago. We sent them a check [for research]. Two of the representatives – both were wonderful – they were [recently] in the area. I’m sure they spent a day or two with Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation. And they reached out to us; they were both overwhelmed with what our group’s accomplished.

BC: Really? What’d they say?

D: They were impressed. They were very moved that I had had [DBS] surgery, and that Camp Brian had been able to pay for it, and still have money left over to support me and families like ours.

(Pauses; smiles).

D: We asked the one gal if she could come out to our [annual] golf tournament next year, and she thought she could, so.

BC: So that’s in the works, then? That’s great, dad.

D: Yeah. And I thought of you, today, because both of these women had started out in mainstream corporations. One had attended a couple of programs, or fundraisers, initiated by Michael J. Fox. And they were so organized, so strong, that she decided to figure out how she could work for them.

BC: That’s fantastic. Did they say how this came up – the contact with Camp Brian? After two and a half years?

D: I think they were just in the area. And they had sent us a ‘thank you’, at the time we sent [the check]. So now they wanted to give thanks in-person.

BC: Can we talk about [your group] Camp Brian?

D: Sure.

BC: What year did they ban together?

D: 2004.

BC: [And that] was the year before your first surgery?

D: Yes.

BC: Can you say a bit about ‘why’, and ‘how’, and ‘who’? In terms of The Origins?

D: Yeah. Well. I was sick, and struggling. And I think Michelle in particular recognized that I was having trouble.

BC: Michelle is one of your high school friends.

D: Yeah. I have a very strong group of friends – about eight or ten of ‘em – from high school. And they all got together and put on a golf tournament, and called it Camp Brian.

BC: Which is the reversal of your first and last name.

D: (Laughs) That’s right. That was done just to help me get started, and they helped me sell my business.

BC: Your business was Rocko’s Fireside…Tavern?

D: Rocko’s Fireside Alehouse.

BC: Why ‘alehouse’?

D: Because I just preferred the name. (Laughs). And I had lots of ales, and ales weren’t common back then.

So, in ’04, they put that together, and then they helped me receive disability. And they began to help me research DBS. Which had just started back then.

(Pauses; reminisces).

They didn’t have any more fundraisers until 2010, when they realized they wanted to help me some more. They started more fundraising: the golf tournament, and then six months later, they had the dinner and auction. This year [2015], they decided just to do the golf tournament because the dinner and auction was getting so big and so demanding. They felt that they could focus their efforts on the tournament and do just as well. So they raised a gross of $45,000, at this past event, which is…amazing.

BC: That is amazing.

D: Yeah. (Humbly ponders).

BC: So they’re no longer doing a dinner and auction?

D: No. But [my friends] Rick Yonke and Mitch Davis want to put together a lunch and/or dinner. Half of Camp Brian may be involved, half may not. I think [we’re] beginning to understand that not everyone can keep dedicating their time and energy into Camp Brian.

BC: Yeah. Can you say more about the board members, and the founders, of Camp Brian?

D: Um, they’re amazing. They’re all friends. Some go back as far as second grade, elementary school, junior high, high school.

BC: Can you imagine what it’s like to sit at a board meeting with you guys? Or – maybe not even a board meeting

D: It’s pretty crazy. And a lot of fun. A lot of laughter, a lot of…sharing, and growth.

BC: What do you hope for, for Camp Brian?

D: I hope that they stay in it because they want to, and not because they feel obligated, and somewhat pressured. That if they’re not comfortable continuing, that they can bow out. They’re all in their late 50s. They’re going to be retiring soon.

BC: What do you think the odds are…if we take this to a level of general humanity? That there’s this one guy with a chronic illness, and kids, and all sorts of modern-day responsibilities, whose group of friends collaborate to support him? I mean, I’m sure there are many people out there that have similar situations.

D: See, one thing that really motivated them, was the fact that my kids had been pulled out of my community. I was going to fight for my kids and they really helped me financially with that. My kids were still young – Maggie in grade school, Jamie in middle, and you just beginning high school. And I know I expressed [my concern to them] and they supported me 100%.

BC: But I guess I mean…what does it take for a group of people to create a foundation? Nonprofit?

D: Well, they have to be determined. And this group is very determined. One woman is a CEO of a big company, and she has an accounting background, and she was a big help. And others are doing well in their careers, with strong connections to producing revenue.

BC: So it is a…blessing. In their love, and in their social access, in a lot of ways. Social status, even.

D: Yeah.

BC: It’s just so fortunate that we [live where we do], and have the networks we have. What contributes to their capacity to be that determined…there are so many factors. Just for [Camp Brian] to even be a thing.

D: It’s very cool.

BC: Yeah, it is. It’s a story, really. And it’s not over, which is even better.

D: That’s true, sis.

Bette Jane Camp
NWPF Blogger

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