BUFFALO, N.Y. — When we last reported on Andrew Mangan in March of 2017, he was a 16-year-old Canisius High School student in the midst of a miraculous recovery.
He had been paralyzed in a freak accident, but after months of grueling rehab, he had regained many of the functions he had lost after injuring his spinal cord when he dove into a snowbank and hit a solid object buried beneath it.
"I'm definitely still on the on the road to recovery,” Mangan said during an interview at his home on Wednesday. “I think every spinal cord injury is for life, really."
Today at age 19, his gait, in particular, is an outward sign of his injuries.
But as always, he's not letting that keep him down.
"Two weeks ago I actually did a triathlon for the first time," Mangan said.
But he's also been busy this summer, as he has for nearly half his life, with "Camp Mangan."
"Camp Mangan is basically where we have three weeks in the summer where we have neighborhood kids over to our house from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.," Mangan explained from the backyard of his family’s home in Derby.
It's a day camp with lawn games, arts and crafts, and what he describes as “old fashioned fun” for children ages 4-11, who are also served a daily lunch and healthy snacks at the camp held in the spacious yard of the Mangan home along Lake Erie.
It was founded by his older siblings, including U.S. Olympic skier Tricia Mangan, in the summer of 2011.
“A lot of us played sports in the summer, so we didn't really have time to do a traditional three-month-long summer job," Andrew recalled.
The Mangan children, taking a tip from some cousins who also founded a day camp at their home, came up with the idea of running their own camp as a means of not only making a bit of money for themselves, but also to fill what they saw as a void — especially for other kids in the neighborhood who did not have brothers and sisters to play with.
“There’s a huge need, I think, for a lot of neighborhood kids who are looking for something to do in the summer," Mangan said.
However, as their older siblings have moved on with their lives, it had fallen to Andrew and his sister Mary (the youngest of the six Mangan children) to carry on.
Knowing that someday they too will leave the family home, they believe the tradition of Camp Mangan should live on, if not at their home, then in back yards elsewhere.
The family has now hit upon something that they believe will allow that to happen.
“We’re working to put together a guide, a sort of step-by-step from all that we’ve learned over the years,” Mangan said. “It’s called Summer Camp in My Back Yard, or SCIMBY.”
Mangan said the guide will have all the information a teenage entrepreneur would need to start and operate a successful summer camp.
“It’ll have everything like a list of all the games we play and a list of the crafts we do, all the meals, shopping lists, registration forms they need … everything you’d need to know about when you’re thinking, ‘how can I run a summer camp?’” he said.
The guide will be designed to make it relatively easy for anyone to understand how to operate a summer camp for kids.
“We're lucky enough to have a pool and a lake but you really don't need that if you have a hose and a sprinkler and a really big yard,” Mangan said, explaining further that in his experience, children don’t need fancy playthings or screens to enjoy themselves.
Much of the activity at Camp Mangan is focused on outdoor play, with simple games of yore such as Duck-Duck-Goose and other old-time favorites.
“It’s a tradition which we inherited, which we hope to provide others across the country with the information to begin their own,” Mangan said.
Next Big Step
After taking a “gap” year to live in Berlin to study German language, Andrew’s next step will be to start college this fall at Stanford University in California, where he will study computer science and behavioral economics.
Once a member of the Canisius High School rowing team, he also hopes that if he continues to recover and gain enough strength, that he might someday be part of the university crew.