What started as a lofty dream for Zac Brown is getting closer to becoming a reality. Camp Southern Ground, an all-encompassing camp for children ages 7-17 from various backgrounds, with a "special emphasis on children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), learning and attention issues, social or emotional challenges and those with family members serving in the military," according to the camp's website, continues to move toward completion.

"We’re [a few weeks] out from the dining hall being finished, and it is absolutely incredible," the Zac Brown Band leader recently told The Boot and other reporters. "It really sets the bar, shows people the level that we’re trying to achieve out there."

Camp Southern Ground will focus on children with various special needs during its summer programs, but for the remainder of the year, the grounds will be available for other uses as well.

"The place is really elastic, to a lot of different things," shares Brown. "We’re [also] a research facility for developmental disorders, like autism, Asperger’s, ADD, dyslexia."

A well-known foodie, Brown and his band host the Southern Ground Music & Food Festival in Charleston, S.C., each year and offer fan club members special food- and drink-related meet and greet-style experiences while on tour, so it's only natural that food -- especially wholesome, healthy food -- is a big part of Camp Southern Ground.

"We’re farm to table. We have a huge organic farm there that’s up and running, and the kids don’t have an option to eat anything bad while they’re there," Brown reveals. "We have metrics; we’re using so much university research. We can assess the kids where they are when they get there, and then assess them again seven weeks later with the right food and the right nutrition and nature and exercise. We can truly help to show data from their stay there on how much the kids can improve with care, home life changes, and educate them and educate their parents."

Most importantly, Camp Southern Ground will offer children from from various socioeconomic backgrounds the chance to befriend those they might otherwise never meet.

"It helps them be on a level playing field with everyone," explains Brown. "They have to help each other through their week of activities and goals, and that changes their life; it opens them up."

Camp Southern Ground has been Brown's vision since he was a camp counselor, long before the Zac Brown Band found success, and creating the camp has been a goal more important than musical awards and accolades -- but one that couldn't have come to fruition without that musical success.

"This is an incredible, incredible place, and it’s all happening. And it wouldn't happen without the success of our music," Brown says. "Getting this camp started was the impossible thing … There’s no way that we would have been able to rely on someone else to donate, and for us to be able to do it, our music’s been an incredible gift to help us really make a difference.

"There will be a lot of lives who are changed out of there, and not just the ones who stay for a week at a time, but the actual research," he adds. "The world needs some help; the amount of ignorance that’s out there is unbelievable. We all see that every day. This is our way to go from shining some light locally, and hopefully that light will spread over time ... The music was the vehicle to get it where it is."

An official opening date for Camp Southern Ground has yet to be announced. More information is available on the camp's website.

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