“One of the first things you’ll notice about me visually is that I’m in a wheelchair, and have Cerebral Palsy. Then you’ll get to know me as a person, and you’ll see how little CP defines who I am. Over the years, I’ve learned to not only live with my disability, but to thrive, and I want to ensure that others have the same opportunity.”
Complications at birth left Stephen with severe Cerebral Palsy and full use of just one limb – his right arm. Born on August 22, 1968 to Dr. Joseph and Gayle Wampler, he is the oldest of 5 children and graduated from the University of California at Davis with a degree in Environmental Engineering.
Steve met the love of his life, Elizabeth, in Coronado, California. Said Elizabeth: “When I met him, at first I thought, I bet he’s having a really hard life, I bet. He broke my heart. I thought people were probably mean to him, I thought he was sad every day, I thought he was alone every day — and I quickly learned that nothing could be further from the truth.” They were married and are the parents of two children, Charlotte and Joseph.
Love of Wilderness Started at Camp
Wampler’s desire for adventure began when he was a young boy. His parents put him in summer camp when he was nine. “Going to camp as a kid opened so many doors for me, and that’s when I experienced the real adventure of nature.”
He attended the camp for nine summers. He said that he has carried the confidence that the camp gave him all of his life.
In 2002, The Stephen J. Wampler Foundation, was founded by Stephen and Elizabeth. It’s a non-profit providing free outdoor education programs for children with physical limitations. When Wampler found out that his beloved childhood camp had closed, he took action. Elizabeth and Stephen formed Camp WAMP in 2004.
Camp WAMP has been providing life-changing outdoor education opportunities for disabled kids at no cost to their families. The ages range is 10-18 with physical disabilities/limitations. WAMP stands for Wheelchair Adventure Mountain Programs. The children that attend Camp WAMP, enjoy a sleep-away week of camping under the stars. Outdoor activities include fishing, canoeing, singing around the camp fire, hiking, making new friends, participating in “survival challenges”.
The Wampler Foundation’s belief is that nature teaches everyone that challenges can be overcome if we look beyond our own physical limitations in life. Disabled children experience the great outdoors like their able bodied peers. Through foundation funding from grants, private donations and corporations, Camp WAMP provides an experience like every other able bodied child.
“Being part of a team, is part of enjoying the fantastic fun and adventures that the wilderness of the high Sierra’s offer. Nature is our living classroom and the more kids are exposed to it in life the more they appreciate the natural environment.”
The Camp is opening new facility in 2017 where they will welcome groups throughout the world. Kids with disabilities will be able to experience the great outdoors with accessibility to the three acre lake an 96 ares of remote, rugged wilderness. All kids will be able to fish, swim, singing songs, sleep under the stars and learn about their natural surroundings while in a safe, nurturing environment.
This video was produced by Amalgamated Grommets and directed by Michael Brueggemeyer:
Many years ago, Stephen Wampler made the commitment that he would find a way to enable children with disabilities to not only take active advantage of the great outdoors, but to embrace it, to experience and discover how capable they really are. He felt a need to do something to show what he could do as a role model to others with disabilities as well as raise awareness for the foundation efforts. He decided to climb El Capitan Mountain in Yosemite National Park and become the first person with his disability to conquer it. After three years of training, learning how to use a system of ropes to pull himsself up, Wampler climbed El Capitan in an inspiring six days in September of 2010, letting go of physical limitations with his mind and spirit.
With the help of two friends and a uniquely crafted climbing chair, Wampler faced his challenge, pulling himself up the mountain four to six inches at a time, using the only one limb that is fully functioning – his right arm. The mountain is 3600 feet above the valley floor, over twice as high as the Empire State building. Steve did 20,000 pull ups over the 6 day period, sleeping on the sheer face of the mountain and over-coming his fear of heights in order to accomplish this monumental task. With news coverage from all over the world, and while his wife, his 2 children, other family and friends rooted for him, he conquered El Capitan.
“The pure exhaustion of six to eight hours of constant pull-up after pull-up after pull-up and the bright sunshine and the heat,” Wampler said. “The whole adventure was, was just unbelievable.”
His favorite quote: “Failure is not an option.” – US Navy Seals
ABC News David Muir called him halfway through climb
A group of Marines vowed to help him descend the mountain once he conquered it. When the Marines greeted Wampler at the summit of El Capitan, they had a surprise with them: Wampler’s 10-year-old son. “It was just such a wonderful surprise to see his 10-year-old boy trek up with the Marines and jump out and run and greet his dad. “ said Elizabeth Wampler .
The marines rotated shifts carrying Wampler on their backs down the mountain. Their kindness still makes Wampler emotional – “It was absolutely awesome…they showed up at the top and picked me up at eight in the morning and it took us almost eight hours to get down the backside. And they never complained, they were just absolutely amazing people.”
The Wamplers documented the climb with a movie “Wampler’s Ascent” which has received national and international acclaim with 35 laurel leafs and 20 film festival awards to date. Old and new friends in Hollywood lined up to provide video testimonials in support of his goal (including: Ellen DeGeneres, Paul Reiser, Will Forte, Will Ferrell and Jay Leno).
The film is being used to raise funding for Camp Wamp. It is available for purchase/download at their website
In October of 2015, The Stephen J. Wampler Foundation announced the start of the #2gether project, a social media initiative designed to promote greater involvement with the disabled community. At the core of the program is a video with people from all walks of life including celebrities like Mario Lopez, the NFL team the San Diego Chargers and local youth organizations showing support for activities done #2gether. The end of the video challenges viewers to pass it on to two friends by tagging via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, and make a donation through social media using #donate. Money raised from the campaign will be used to build an outdoor adventure camp for kids with physical disabilities.
Watch the video, challenge your friends and #donate http://www.the2getherproject.org/
“We all belong in this world #2gether, and we have to rely on each other to take on the various challenges we all face #2gether,” said Steve Wampler. “Through this video, we want to join people who have challenges, show them how meaningful they are to us a society, and make them feel included and loved by all of us.”
To learn more about Stephen Wampler Camp Wamp and the Wampler Foundation, you can watch his TED talk video:
Stephen Wampler – living and loving life without limits and giving kids with disabilities the ability to experience the same – an inspiration
To learn more about Camp Wamp, the #2gether Project, or to Donate, visit their website: http://www.wamplerfoundation.org/