Read one family’s story here to see what a difference a SOAR program can make
in the life of a child with learning disabilities and/or ADD/ADHD.
Words from Parents:
This was our son's (age 17) third SOAR camp (CA Standard, WY Standard, and the FL Keys). He LOVES these trips. The staff is extremely helpful. The counselors are wonderful in positive feedback for the kids while camping. Our son always comes home more confident, more willing to try new experiences, and more responsible for himself and his belongings. He has snorkeled, rock climbed, kayaked, surfed, canoed, and all other kinds of outdoor activities. The personal attention they receive with the small student ratio is excellent. They encourage his strengths and work on his weakness. We feel the monetary value is well worth it as he comes home more mature and ready to face the new school year with a more positive attitude. Each year he has made friends that he keeps in contact with.
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Our 12 year-old son has participated in 3 different SOAR summer camps over the years and is currently attending the SOAR Academy school year. Not only is he always excited to return to any program given by SOAR, but his progress on all fronts has been amazing (as observed by family, friends and therapists). Most importantly, his own observations about his life skills and social abilities have given him self-esteem and independence that give him a new and unprecedented HOPE FOR THE FUTURE! He has learned to see things from multiple perspectives, not just his own -- which is of course one of the key social skills he needed to learn! Through the physical and psychological challenges of the SOAR program, our son has learned advocate for his needs and work through challenges with people other than his parents. Our son has always been completely safe and we have fully trusted the highly trained staff, who are supportive but do not coddle our kids as parents are sometimes apt to do.
My son has attended 3 SOAR summer camps and fully intends to do another one next year! He has done the NC Standard, WY 18 day horse trekking and the NC horse trekking camps. He has loved every single one. Even though I thought he may be too complex for the staff to deal with, they did a marvelous job. He came home having pushed himself out of his comfort zone and took part in activities we never thought we would see him do. The counselors are so good with the kids and our son came home feeling really good about himself and had a few friends who he keeps in touch with. He is already looking forward to next year!
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Our son has done two SOAR summer scuba adventures and one semester SE Coastal program so far. All three experiences were excellent and he'll be going back again this summer. For kids with low self-esteem and ADHD challenges, SOAR programs give them confidence in themselves and their abilities. Working with others is critical for success in life and SOAR provides the opportunity to learn how to compromise and communicate effectively through their team approach. The staff is incredibly caring and experienced. I can't say enough good things about what SOAR has done for my son and by extension, our family.
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We were pretty nervous putting our 11 year old son on a plane in New York and sending him to camp in the Florida Keys. He called us when he landed in Ft. Lauderdale and we didn't hear from him for 10 excruciating days. We had no idea of how or what he was doing, and we were constantly second guessing our decision. I can only say it was worth it. The son we got back was more confident and self-assured than I could have hoped. We made the decision to send him because he was moving into middle school and we thought it could help with the transition...we made the right decision. He actually likes school, is making new friends, and I feel safe to attribute a lot of his success to attending the Florida SOAR camp. He is excited about going back and we are excited about letting him go.
TOP TEN REASON’S TO ATTEND SOAR:
10. You learn something about yourself.
9. I love SOAR because of the many skills, selections, and activities that you can make (high ropes, rock climbing, rafting down the Nantahala River).
8. Its fun to share your true courage!
7. The wilderness and outdoors are exciting and exhilarating.
6. The counselors are awesome and really talk to you.
5. You grow new interests doing things you never thought you could do.
4. You get to accomplish great goals.
3. I get to be the person I will someday become.
2. I made friends, really great friends, when I didn’t before.
1. I get to be around people I can relate with.
“I really liked the approach of the counselors to problem solving, the structure of the camper activities was tremendous, as well as the focus on organizational skills and life skills in general. I enjoyed the positive attitude I encountered with everyone I spoke with- all positives!”
“Words cannot describe what a wonderful and positive impact Colin's trip to Soar has made on the whole family. Thank you.” WVA
“My child came home with a new outlook on life. She was a different child when she came home. I was impressed with her manners and self-confidence when she came home. P.S. She is so excited to go back next year. Thanks to SOAR and the Staff!” BC
“Daniel has come back both this year and last with a stronger sense of self confidence and pride in his accomplishments. I think his successes at SOAR have helped him become much more successful in Middle School. He loves the camp and wants to come back next summer!” EL
"This program was “god” sent to us to finally find a place where Jonathan was able to “fit in” and to be surrounded by people who understand his needs."
Dear Big John,
I’ve been searching for the words to express our family’s deepest gratitude for the life-impacting experience you offered Henry this summer. He was truly a different child when we picked him up after his 12-day session. Most remarkable were the leaps and bounds of growth in his confidence and self-esteem. Since returning form SOAR, Henry is more comfortable in his own skin, and he seems to have a host of strategies in his arsenal for dealing with frustration, disappointment, and anxiety.
These quotes are from Henry’s goodbye card from his SOAR camp-mates and the staff. Imagine our shock and surprise to see Henry described like this!
“Can hold his own”
“Easy to relate to”
“Delightful to be around”
“Pulls people out of their bad moods”
“Upbeat and nice to everyone”
“He thrives here”
At the risk of sounding overly-dramatic, I must tell you that Henry’s SOAR experience affected our entire family, on many levels. SOAR offered Henry the chance to feel normal, instead of like a misfit. For us, SOAR is like a great equalizer, where all children are on an even playing field, and labels and stigmas are left at the door.
For parents of children with no learning differences or neurological conditions, a 12-day span of 12 “good” days may be taken for granted and considered the norm. But for parents of children with difficult issues, a 12-day span of good days is priceless, if not almost unheard of. This is an experience Henry will never forget. When the long and lonely days of winter beat him down, and the social and academic storms begin to brew, he can call up these memories and know that he has value as a person, that he can function as a respected member of a team, and that he is capable of doing things beyond his comfort zone. These experiences, and their memories will keep his tank full throughout the year, and we know that can mean the difference between success and failure for him.
Since returning form SOAR and reflecting on his many successes and fun times, he seems less bothered by life’s little nuisances. He copes more easily when things don’t go his way. He manages his frustration in a more appropriate manner. Most importantly, be believes in himself. After trying, and succeeding, in new (sometimes “scary”) adventures, he realizes he is capable. He has also earned the bragging rights of doing some pretty cool stuff that many of his friends and school mates have not done. He now considers himself and outdoorsman, and is expressing a great interest in more wilderness adventure. Prior to his trip, he was a child who seemed at a loss when asked about hobbies and pastimes. Now he has a passion!
One of the most remarkable changes we’ve seen is Henry’s ability to be comfortable alone. Rather than acting desperate and needy, he is now learning to fill his time with activities he enjoys. He asked to join a fall baseball team and is playing with a group of complete strangers (big milestone for Henry). He also showed great excitement and readiness about returning to school, and has made an easy adjustment. His teachers report that he is a delight to have in class, he is pleasant and cooperative, and he is making friends easily. His anxiety has been at an all-time low, and no longer seems to define him.
Henry is already looking ahead to next summer, and wonders what adventures await him at SOAR…
Again, thank you for what you’ve done for us.
Calla and Reed
I just got home from Wyoming with my son, Mike, and after he attended camp at Eagle View Ranch over the past two weeks, and I have just two words to say to you folks:
I have been looking forward to Mike going to camp for months, but at the same time I have been so worried about how he was going to do. Even though Mike is extremely intelligent and has a very sweet, kind nature, he has NEVER had any success when he has been involved with a group of kids.
SOAR has changed all of that. Mike loved camp, and he did quite well. He tried new things, made friends, and was able to participate in AND enjoy the entire time at camp! The counselors helped him blossom in so many ways. I can’t thank them enough. He has so much more confidence already, plus he has a much better understanding of the things he needs to change to help him improve socially, along with some tools to help him make the changes.
To be honest, I would have been happy if he had just made it through all 12 days of camp without any real problems. Last year he went to camp. They told me that they broke the kids up into small groups, had lots of counselors and kept the kids busy. Not true. Mike was in a dorm with 20+ other boys and one counselor, they did most of the activities in large groups (12 or more with one counselor) and they seemed to have a lot of “down time.” Mike tried too hard and ended up alienating the other kids. They boys harassed him, lied about him, stole his money, poured honey on his pillow, and left him with a host of other “fond” memories of that camp. He only lasted 4 of the 5 nights there…
At SOAR there was none of this! Mike had FUN and made FRIENDS!!! I know this is due to the skill and attitude of your staff, and I am more grateful than you can ever know. Fitting in (or not) has been a lifelong struggle for Mike. It has been such a positive experience for him to feel like he was truly accepted as part of the group.
When it was time to pick Mike up, I was more than a little apprehensive.
Time spent with those in charge of whatever activity Mike has been involved in invariably results in a litany of Mike’s faults. The “Good Kid” that I see just never comes out when he is around others for any length of time and I HATE it because I know if they could just see what is going on inside his head they would realized he is not trying to be a pain, he is just trying to find a way to relate to the other kids, and the ways he finds don’t work very well, but he doesn’t know what else to do. For some reason not ONE of the “trained professionals” he has encountered at school or at youth events has ever been able to work with him successfully. So I was dreading sitting down with Mary for the debriefing.
By the time it was over, I was in SHOCK!!! She really seemed to understand what was going on with him and she LIKED him! The debriefing was a list of how great he did and how much they liked him and how they wanted to have him back next year! A couple of brief mentions of his main problem area, but mention was also made of the fact that he was aware when he “crossed the line” and he was able to stop himself! His ratings by his counselors were all 3s and 4s, and his time in the “Hot Seat” at the end brought him lots of nice comments from almost everyone. (When he about this he did his best Sally Field voice and said “They liked me, they really liked me!”)
After searching anywhere and everywhere for most of Mike’s life for answers and solutions, I am thrilled to know that I have finally found something that works. My son cam home from your camp happy and successful. I couldn’t ask for more – unless it was for your folks to teach school personnel how to get the best out of kids like Mike instead of them always resorting to punishment, separation, sham and other negative techniques.
You can bet he will come back to SOAR as much as I can afford to send him.
Yet again this morning I thought about how SOAR has rescued our daughter in a way we never could, living here in New York City. I wish Jon and especially her counselors could see her, after 3 months at home, full of optimism for her future and sensibility about her self. Just this evening we had a good talk about drinking and clubs, and how to be sensible as you get older (after watching a report on the local news). People comment about her; you can see that her head is screwed on right now, and she’s facing in the right direction.
If only she would keep most of her laundry in the closet rather than the hamper and her magazine in a pile rather than a jumble. But as my husband would say: High-class problem.
You were instrumental in making room for my daughter, Arielle, in the next to last session this past summer. I am writing you to make sure I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I want to believe that my expression of gratitude is a duplication, because I can’t imagine how I could have failed to say thank you before, what with Arielle’s experience having been profoundly beneficial for her.
She returned, only to ask to go right back for the next ten days. She had my full support to do so and she would have, if the session hadn’t already been filled.
She couldn’t have been more adamant about not getting out of the car the first day. But, with the marvelous help of her female leader, it happened. Some few days into the experience, Ari came to like it. Some days later, she came to dig it. And, when we picked her up, it was clear that she had loved it.
It gave her a good feeling about herself. The big goal, her self-esteem had obviously been raised. “It felt good being around people more like me.” Another goal…is for her to be able to find comfort in being with people, without being mocked by others and becoming isolated. In a way it breaks my heart. But in an important way it was a critical step toward seeing that she had what it takes to succeed in a group, to feel “normal”. I see it as a foundation from which to be able to encourage herself to chance the cruelty of peers, and not give up on being a part of mainstream life. Hope that we did, still, we didn’t dare expect the very healthy experience you gave her.
Thank you, Sir.Bob
NC Base Camp (828) 456-3435
P.O. Box 388, Balsam, NC 28707
Philosophy: SOAR believes all individuals identified with learning disabilities (LD) and attention deficit disorder (AD/HD) possess inherent talents and gifts. These abilities can mean incredible success in adulthood once these students negotiate the challenging obstacles of childhood, adolescence, and a traditional education system, usually unable to respond to individual learning styles.
Therefore, the SOAR model is based on two fundamental principles. First, youth with LD and AD/HD flourish when they are encouraged to focus on their strengths in an experiential setting. The second principle acknowledges that success can be generalized by encouraging our students to develop and utilize strategies, enabling them to compensate for those challenging characteristics of LD and AD/HD. To this end, SOAR staff strive to ensure success for each student across a wide range of experiences. Such success, in turn, builds essential self-esteem and self-confidence.
Based on these two foundations, SOAR participants develop problem solving skills, effective communication strategies, increased self-awareness, and social skills. Program activities include a broad base of wilderness adventure experiences that empower students to make healthy choices, learn more about themselves, overcome challenges, and establish relevance from these experiences to other aspects of their life.
SOAR's Specialty Courses are open to SOAR alumni and students with the maturity and experience level to be successful on the course. Acceptance is conditional on the approval of the course director. Most specialty courses are led by one of SOAR's year-round staff including Richard Peters, John Willson and Joe Geier.
SOAR’s programs are designed to allow students the opportunity to increase their independence while away from home. Independence is gained through self-motivation and life skills instruction. With this in mind, we involve our students in many decision making processes, such as setting individual goals, developing group guidelines, as well as trip and meal planning. This also comes into consideration when developing SOAR’s communication policy, detailed in our Parent Handbook.
SOAR is dedicated to serving the needs of individuals with learning disabilities (LD) and attention deficit disorder (AD/HD) and is proud to be the finest: