Charity Tuesday: Interview with Zac Brown’s Camp Southern Ground and Blackberry Smoke

by Mariana on April 9, 2013

This is the second blog post from the bi-weekly series highlighting the Music For Good charities and their spotlight artists (read blog about Fender Music Foundation here). Subscribe to our blog (enter your email on the right) to get a new blog post every other week!

SEE ALSO: What is Music For Good and how do I get involved?

We got to speak with Rob Parker (upper right), CEO of Zac Brown’s Camp Southern Ground, and Blackberry Smoke (bottom), a Southern rock band that supports them through Music For Good.

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When Zac Brown was a teenager, he worked as a counselor in a camp that mixed kids with special needs with typically developed children in a way that helped both. He had a vision that eventually he would be able to open his own camp where children with special needs could play, learn and grow alongside children with typical needs.

Fast forward to today, three Grammy awards later and multiple shows under his belt, Zac is about to realize his lifetime dream. He recently invested on 500 acres of land in Fayetteville, just 40 minutes south of Atlanta, for the establishment of his charity Camp Southern Ground, now in development phase.

SUPPORT CAMP SOUTHERN GROUND: Click here to sell or buy music.

Zac Brown with Camp Southern Ground’s children

We talked to Rob Parker, the camp’s President and CEO, about Zac’s vision and how the charity will help children with behavioral disabilities and also those with typical needs.

Rob told us the camp has many of the traditional things that kids experience at camp — there’s swimming, horseback riding, ropes courses, and more. But there are also some things unique to Zac’s vision. “Music will be a big part of what we do,” Rob said. “There will be big focus on dramatic and creative arts. Technology will also be significant. We want to create an environment where research can be done on autism and the wide spectrum of behaviors related to autism like Asperger’s and ADD/ADHD.” This is an especially personal topic for Rob who has a grandson with autism.

“Raising awareness about autism is one of my passions. I think there’s been huge progress in the past couple of years but there is still a long way to go.”

- Rob Parker, President and CEO of Camp Southern Ground

Camp Southern Ground partners with groups such as Autism Speaks to help them design experiences that stretch and grow autistic children.

Because of their proximity to Atlanta’s airport, Rob believes Camp Southern Ground will be able to convene experts wanting to use the first class research facility they will build as part of the camp. “We hope that these experts will have the opportunity to see how the camp can positively affect these children.” One of the positive effects he mentioned is that, for many of these kids, it’s their first time in an overnight setting away from their parents where they can gain a sense of independence and self-confidence in a safe environment.

“The cool thing is that they get the chance to be a kid; meanwhile, there’s a whole research team behind the scenes working hard to make progress to discover new insights of autism and behavioral disabilities all along the spectrum.”

Charlie Starr of Blackberry Smoke

We later talked to Charlie Starr, lead singer of the southern rock band Blackberry Smoke and friends with Zac Brown. Blackberry Smoke, along with six other bands under Zac Brown’s Southern Ground Artists label, fully supports Camp Southern Ground through the Music For Good program.

“Zac has been so passionate about this from the beginning,” Charlie told us. “His belief and enthusiasm have rubbed off on everyone involved. I’m no doctor, of course, but it seems to make sense that children with special needs could benefit from the environment at Camp Southern Ground.”

Rob agrees and says that Zac is in this for real. He told us that Zac often talks about his dream for the camp and where he hopes it can go.

“Driving up to the camp’s entrance, hearing all of the kids laughing, and seeing all of the kids running through the grounds is what he’s looking forward to most. He loves the energy associated with camp and wants to bring this opportunity to children of all abilities.”

WANT TO SUPPORT CAMP SOUTHERN GROUND? Click here to get involved!

To learn more about Camp Southern Ground, please visit their website

To buy music from artists from Zac Brown’s label, Southern Ground Artists, and help support Camp Southern Ground, please visit their ReverbNation profile.

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