Despite obstacles, Vance DeCamp won’t stop running

He could’ve given up. People certainly would’ve understood.

Former Fowlerville Community Schools teacher Vance DeCamp lost his Williamston home in October 2005 after a tornado ripped through his house, tearing the roof off and leaving a wall crumbled upon the same bed where he’d been sleeping just 10 seconds earlier.

DeCamp, who also coached track and cross country to middle-school students in the district, was assisted to his basement by his wife, Barb. It was a good thing she was there – DeCamp is also blind, having lost his sight after a 2002 accident caused by a drunken driver.

Under these kinds of circumstances, it would be perfectly permissible to simply give up and withdraw into a shell of self-pity and defeatism.

But not DeCamp, who despite his tribulations remains an inspiration to thousands throughout Michigan. He volunteers throughout his community, and even still runs — he’s completed five marathons since the 2002 accident that left him sightless.

“Our philosophy in the middle school was that we wanted the kids to have fun,” DeCamp explained of his coaching style. “We tried to train them so they were prepared to run their best… but we wanted to make it enjoyable, so that when they got to high school, they’d still want to run track and they’d still want to run cross country.”

“We also tried to not only instill a work ethic, but also to have a positive attitude and realize that you don’t always come in first,” DeCamp continued. “Sometimes the race doesn’t go the way you want it to — things in life don’t go the way you want them to, but you’ve got to stay positive.”

For his work as an educator, coach and inspirational figure, DeCamp was recently presented with a “Building Leaders” award from WVFN-AM’s “The Drive with Jack Ebling.” The award recognizes Mid-Michigan school employees who have gone above and beyond to help student athletes and is co-sponsored by MEA and Home Management Company.

“I’m going to be bragging about this to all my friends and family — no question about that,” DeCamp said with a smile.

“Vance DeCamp is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met,” WVFN host Jack Ebling said. “And I know had I been in any of the situations he had been in — from losing the home in the tornado, to being hit by the drunk driver and losing my sight … I would have been bitter.

“Instead, he makes everybody feel a little bit better, just to be around him,” Ebling said.

Click here to listen to the WVFN segment honoring DeCamp.

To nominate a school employee for the “Building Leaders” award, email David Crim at dcrim@mea.org. Make sure to include in your email a description of the nominee’s efforts on behalf of student athletes.