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Camp wrangler inspires, pursues passions PDF Print E-mail
Written by Darci Tomky   

“I’m a special person, and no one else has what I have,” said Charlie Dressel, and his unique story is exactly what inspires the people around him.

Dressel has combined his passion for horses and serving the Lord by volunteering as a wrangler at Youth Challenge’s Camp Machasay the past three years. He has a disease called dystonia, but he certainly doesn’t let that hold him back.

“My father told me to work as hard as I can all the time,” said Dressel, and that’s undoubtedly what he does.

One thing that sets Dressel apart, said Craig Tilford who also worked at the camp last summer, is that he is always there right beside everyone else when they are working at camp or riding horses. “Yeah it takes him a few minutes longer to saddle a horse, but he still gets it done.”

Dressel’s disease makes it harder for him to do simple day-to-day tasks or even saddle a horse. Dystonia is a movement disorder which causes involuntary contractions of his muscles. The contractions result in twisting and repetitive movements.

While the effects of this uncommon disease vary with each person, symptoms can include tremors, voice problems or a dragging foot, and the disease can affect just one muscle, a group of muscles or all the muscles.

First diagnosed with dystonia in high school, Dressel said he started seeing effects from the disease when he was 18 years old. For this defensive end football player and Sterling High School homecoming king, this disease turned his world upside down.

On top of the changes to his body, Dressel was dealing with the death of his mother when he was 15 and the death of his father just four years later. He blamed God for what happened and turned to alcohol and women to take away the pain.

Eventually, God “slapped me in the back of the head,” said Dressel.Tyler Barton, a friend from Oklahoma who was at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, impacted Dressel’s life in a big way. Dressel said he saw a change in this friend who had struggled with both alcohol and drugs. Something was different about him now.

When Dressel asked him what changed him, he said he got to know the Lord. Barton helped Dressel, and he started going to church and Bible studies.

“I told myself I wasn’t going to let that (alcohol) happen to me again,” said Dressel. He said the Lord brought him back to the straight and narrow.

Through Crossroads, a Bible study at NJC, he met Bryan Kroeger who brought him to see Camp Machasay. Dressel was instantly attracted to the horses at the camp and eventually became a volunteer during the summer.

His job as a wrangler is to help with the horses by feeding, catching and saddling the horses, cleaning the stalls and helping shoe the horses. His favorite horse to ride is Biscuit. Kroeger said Dressel is a good horseman—it’s like his handicap goes away when he’s on a horse.

Fellow camp staff member Mike Frazier said Dressel took children at the camp on a total of 40 miles worth of trail rides last summer.

“I very rarely ever heard him complain when he was working or riding while out at camp,” said Tilford. “That is very inspiring because if he doesn’t complain then I shouldn’t complain either.”

Kroeger said, “Charlie will put in an eight hour day right next to a man that has no limits.”

He impacts a lot of people without even saying anything, said Frazier. Kroeger added when Dressel isn’t at camp, everyone is always asking, “Where’s Charlie?” because he has become somewhat of a fixture at the camp.

Besides working with the horses, Dressel has the opportunity to initiate some interesting conversations with the campers and is able to share his testimony and the Gospel with them. “Because Charlie’s different, they pay attention to him more and they listen,” said Frazier.

Last summer some of the camp staff volunteered at the Platte Valley Bible Rodeo Camp in Julesburg. A team roper who had won a belt buckle there decided to give it to Dressel because he could tell by his good attitude and hard work that he was much more deserving of it.

“People see him and wonder who he is, and they are really touched by his testimony,” said Frazier.

“They look at Charlie’s handicap and then they think, ‘Wow, maybe I can do more now too,’” said Kroeger. He isn’t bitter toward God, so he inspires people to move on and not worry about whatever “handicap” they might have, he said. “He spurs others on.”

Dressel never knows a stranger, said Kroeger. Even though he might speak a “foreign language,” he’s always introducing himself to people.

“Charlie is always seeking the best in others,” said Kroeger, and he enjoys interacting with the kids and staff members at the camp. He is always coming up with new ideas for the camp and has donated much time and money to the ministry there. “He gives far above and beyond,” said Kroeger.

When he’s not working at the camp, Dressel lives in Sterling with his cat Spice.

Campers don’t have to spend much time with Dressel to find out he is passionate about everything he does and he hasn’t let his struggles or his disease keep him from experiencing the things he loves.

Tilford simply said, “He inspires pretty much everyone who meets him or knows him.”