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Siblings team up for special camp
Sibs WEB 1
Ashley Franken, right, hugs brother Joey at the family’s home. The two South Forsyth High students have teamed up to raise money for Camp Southern Ground, set to open in 2013 and cater to students with various special needs. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Want to help?

While their DECA fundraisers have ended, Ashley and Joey Franken ask that anyone interested in helping their cause, go to to make a donation.

While many teenagers may spend a lot of time arguing with their younger siblings, Ashley Franken has more important things to do with her brother.

South Forsyth High students Ashley, a senior, and Joey, a freshman, have spent nearly a year working together on a special project.

The two, along with fellow student Wes Brown, were scheduled to spend this weekend presenting the project at state-level DECA competition in downtown Atlanta.

DECA is a marketing club for students, and South Forsyth High has the largest DECA chapter in the world.

Ashley Franken placed in the top 30 of 100 teams at DECA’s international competition last school year.

Mother Peggy Franken said her daughter was so excited after going that far in the competition, she knew she wanted to compete again this year. But she wanted to do something with more meaning than the advertising campaign she developed last year for a local store.

“She came home and said, ‘Mom, I know I want to do something with Joey,’” Peggy Franken said.

Joey Franken isn’t completely like other students.

He was born with a rare genetic disorder called Klippel-Trenaunay, or K-T. He also has some development delays that place him in special education classes.

K-T causes problems such as excessive growth of soft tissue or bones, vascular malformations and lymphatic system abnormalities.

It’s so rare that Franken is one of just about 1,500 people in the nation to have it.

Due to his condition, Joey Franken hasn’t been able to participate in many of the activities that other kids enjoy.

One of those was going away to summer camp, something he said he’s always wanted to do.

After deciding she wanted to work with her brother on this year’s DECA project, Ashley Franken heard about Camp Southern Ground.

The camp, which is being built in Fayette County, southwest of Atlanta, is the dream of Zac Brown, lead singer of the popular country group Zac Brown Band. Brown, a Georgia native, spent some of his youth in Forsyth County.

Scheduled to open for its first campers in summer 2013, the camp will cater to students with various special needs.

“As a self-admitted overprotective mom, I’ve been afraid to let him go off to camp,” Peggy Franken said. “But with this, I feel safe about it since it’s a special camp that meets the needs of specific conditions like his.”

The siblings have spent the past six months raising money for the camp.

Ashley Franken said some of the fundraisers have included a 5K run, car wash, and a “jeans, jewelry and bag party.”

Several area restaurants have also held nights in which percentages of sales where donated, or set out jars for change at cash registers.

In total, the Frankens raised some $1,500 for the camp. They plan to present the check to camp leaders soon.

Peggy Franken, who with husband Ed also has a 20-year-old daughter, said the experience has been good for both of their younger children, but especially for Joey.

“Ashley’s wanting to do this [DECA project] with him is opening doors that otherwise might never have been opened,” she said, adding that his reading and public speaking skills, as well as his overall self-confidence, have greatly increased as a result.

For Ashley, involving her brother wasn’t a big deal.

“He’s my best friend,” she said. “I really have a love and affection for special needs children. I’d rather hang out with them than most other regular kids anyway.”

She hopes the project will be good for other students like her brother.

“Having him compete this year could open doors for other kids in his [special education] classes to do more, whether I’m still at the school or not,” she said.