By Nanci Dixon
I met fellow RVers Mark Swanson and his son, Shane, at the campground earlier this week. Both Dad and Shane are wheelchair-bound, but that is not stopping them from being avid RVers. Shane was born with spina bifida and has no use of his legs. Mark grew up camping and wanted to share that with his son. Their family has been camping together since Shane was a baby. They started in a tent and then moved to an ice house trailer. The ice house worked well because it could be lowered directly to the ground, so it allowed easier access for Shane’s wheelchair.
Shane is a paraplegic swimmer and by age twelve had broken five national records. In addition to being a champion swimmer, Shane plays a mean game of sled hockey. He is now 19 and continues to compete across the state and nation. He recently added another seven gold medals in the Junior Nationals. Getting to that level has been a journey. Shane was once hospitalized for 65 days, has had too many surgeries to even count, and continues to work through health problems that would stop most people.
When COVID-19 hit earlier this year, all meets and events were called off. Mark and Shane found themselves stuck inside with nothing to do. Shane was bored, Mark was bored, and they both were getting a bit depressed. The campgrounds were still closed so even their normal camping season was out of whack.
Then Mark found a handicap accessible 40 ft. Newmar motorhome online. It has a handicap lift and the interior is designed to be wheelchair accessible. It has wide aisles, the cabinets are lower, has hand controls and a handicap accessible bathroom. It was perfect. What does Shane like most? “The lift, absolutely.”
They bought the motorhome in June and have already been camping for almost two months. I asked Shane what he likes best about camping and he said “Everything!” They camp close to home so that Wendy, Mark’s wife and Shane’s mother, can join them when she isn’t working. Their dream is to be able to full-time someday.
When not sitting around the campfire, Mark and Shane can be seen biking around the campground on their handcycles (above), stopping to talk and making friends with everyone. Shane is a true champion, in the pool and out.
If you or someone you know is an RVer with a disability, please join, or have them join, our Facebook group, RVing with a disability.