Cari Hampton has served as camp director for the Mike Bush Fantasy Baseball Camp since 2007, but her affiliation with and dedication to the camp that serves kids who are deaf or hearing impaired goes back much further. In 2002, Cari saw a late-night public service announcement asking for camp volunteers. She responded in a big way. Cari took personal vacation time from her job so she could fully commit to the camp and the kids.
After a couple of years, management at Cari’s job decided she shouldn’t have to use a week’s worth of vacation as this was clearly a labor of love for her. As her responsibilities grew with the camp, her company’s commitment grew to match the output. Now, she only takes one day of the scheduled five scheduled camp days as a “vacation.” Cari went from volunteer to serving on the camp’s planning committee to camp director in just five years.
The Fantasy Baseball Camp began as a way for deaf and hearing impaired kids to participate in the sport they love – America’s pastime. Camp leadership currently rests with the Disabled Athlete Sports Association (DASA), and its mission aligns perfectly: All of those who live with a physical, visual or hearing disability will be given the opportunity to participate in therapeutic sports and fitness activities designed to improve self-esteem and promote growth and well-being.
Kelly Behlmann, founder and executive director of DASA, said, “Cari is compassionate and dedicated to anything she puts her mind to. If she believes in the cause, she is going to give it 100%. Cari is the type of person who can handle adversity with tolerance and patience. She has demonstrated this again and again in successfully designing and implementing an engaging summer camp for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.”
The camp gives back to Cari as much as she gives it. She said, “I know this camp means so much to the kids who participate and to their parents, but I really believe that I get more out of it than they do. It is truly the very best week out of the entire year for me!”
Cari’s selflessness has started a cycle of giving with the Fantasy Baseball Camp. Many of Cari’s volunteers have followed her lead by taking vacation time from their jobs to help out. The camp’s positive environment also encourages former campers to come back as volunteers. Cari explains, “When our kids ‘graduate’ at 14, they are invited to come back the next year as a volunteer. We have an unbelievable amount of volunteers who are alumni and I continually hear what a difference camp made in their lives.”