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A Note from Big John

It was a summer like no other. On June 5th the sounds of children playing, laughing, and learning finally graced our mountain after a break that lasted much too long.  We enjoyed the return of so many alumni staff and campers, along with the opportunity to introduce a whole new group of dynamic young people to the rich experiences that SOAR offers.  Now, as the summer has come to a close we will have to wait 9 months to fully function in the capacity for which it was designed: to bring joy and growth opportunities to the remarkable campers we serve.

As I look back on this summer, there are several accomplishments that stand out to me:

  • Campers returned with a mix of wondrous anticipation and cautious trepidation. The transition back to having in-person experiences was desperately needed. 
  • The new dining hall and kitchen were a wonderful addition to the facility in Balsam.
  • The Wyoming program had its largest enrollment since we opened the facility!
  • We had several former students invested in returning as staff to give back to the program that had meant so much to them.  The sense of commitment and pride these staff had in being able to enrich the lives of campers was profound.

I had the honor of working with our Postgraduate Adventure program as a course instructor this summer. “The Clever Animals” (our team name) were a delightful group that reminded me why our future is in such good hands.  The level of caring and understanding these participants gave to one another was such an inspiration.  

I want to thank all of the staff that worked so hard this summer to provide unique and special experiences for our campers. This summer our locations included Florida, North Carolina, Costa Rica, and Wyoming. We backpacked, canoed, caved, climbed, fished, rafted, rappelled, SCUBA dived, sea kayaked, snorkeled, and spent a fair amount of time with horses! Goals were met, friends were made, and we all learned just a little bit more about ourselves.

As we launch into autumn, both the Academy and GAP programs are full and providing a rich set of experiences to help nurture the growth of their participants.  We look forward to returning to the Florida Keys on December 27th for our Christmas in the Keys Adventure. Finally, we will continue to provide thoughtful webinars on a monthly basis. We hope to provide information we believe you will find helpful. I encourage all of you to look for things to celebrate, learn from the things that challenge us, and find new adventures that nurture your soul and reinvigorate the spirit.


-Big John

5 Personal Finance Tips for Young People with ADHD

By Ann Lloyd of StudentSavingsGuide.com  

If you know someone with ADHD, you are probably familiar with the struggles of making good financial decisions while managing ADHD-driven impulses. This is especially true for young people. Navigating new and heavy information like finances can be intimidating.

Fortunately, with a bit of help, and a lot of planning, teens and young adults can learn practical financial habits for the future and set themselves up for success later in life. Here are five ways to do just that. 

Ask for Help

The most important thing to remember when tackling new challenges is that you are not alone. There is always someone to turn to for help with any aspect of your ADHD. SOAR is an excellent resource for finding dedicated ADHD coaches who can advise young people on life management skills, including finance and independence, as they transition into adults.

In addition to ADHD coaches, you can also turn to your parents or another trusted adult, and even therapists. Any of these people can set a positive example, share tips and habits that work for them, and help you figure out how to implement them in ways that work for you. Working with a therapist can help you address any financial trauma or hesitancy and combat the negative impulses associated with ADHD.   

Name Your Financial Goals

Once you’ve got a good team of support and financial educators, it’s time to start identifying what you want to do with money. What are your short-term and long-term goals? These can include saving up for a new phone, buying your first car, or attending one of the SOAR Summer Camps. Naming your financial goals will help create a solid connection between your wishes and your finances.

If you’re 18 or older, it’s time to start building your credit so that you can eventually take out a mortgage or apply for a business loan. A secured credit card is a smart way to start. Though it requires an upfront deposit to guarantee the card, properly using it and paying it off is a safe and guided way to establish credit. And, with lower spending limits, the risk of impulse buying is already reduced. If you’re younger than 18, ask your parents if they’d be willing to add you as an authorized user to a card. This will start building your credit while your parents remain responsible for all of the purchases. 

Identify Where You Struggle

ADHD affects everyone differently. So it’s important to know how your specific symptoms may impact your personal finances. For many people, impulsivity can become impulse spending. For others, a lack of organization can turn into a mountain of receipts and make tracking spending almost impossible.

Your existing control methods can be modified to work with your finances as well. Organize your financial tasks, like balancing your bank account or paying bills, into daily, weekly, and monthly checklists. If you have a debit card, put a special sticker on the card to remind you of your daily budget. Keep a picture of your money goal in your wallet or phone.

Research, Research, Research

The unfortunate truth about being responsible with your finances is this: It requires a lot of research. Don’t worry, though. Turn to your support group, and seek out ADHD-specific resources and advisors at high school and college. 

You should also look for tools designed to address your specific concerns. There are actually financial education resources dedicated to people with ADHD. Though it can be challenging, acting mature with your finances is a huge first step in financial freedom and security.  

Additionally, knowing how much things cost will help you properly budget. It will also teach you to take care of your belongings. When you get a car, research maintenance and repair costs. While budgeting up to $100 every few months for an oil change may seem costly, it can prevent engine damage that will cost much more. When you move into your first home, do the same. Knowing that even something as minor as a window replacement costs as much as $1,800 will likely encourage you to toss that baseball outdoors. 

Technology Is Your Best Financial Friend

If you’re old enough to have a banking account, look for one with an intuitive website to help you track your monthly purchases and payments. Once you start paying bills — like your monthly Spotify subscription — you will have real-time insight into your monthly money habits. Using online banking also comes with the benefit of setting up automatic transfers to savings accounts and making automatic payments.

There are also apps that can help you track spending and saving by creating visual representations of where your money is going. These are fantastic tools to ensure you know how much you’ll need to save per day to reach your savings goals. 

While people with ADHD may face unique challenges when it comes to money management, it’s nothing that can’t be overcome. And getting a head start on being responsible with money will be a huge boon when it comes time for you to become independent. Your future self will thank you!


About the Author

Ann Lloyd is a newly enrolled MBA grad student. Currently, she is getting her degree online and working as a marketing intern on the side. In her spare time, she’s hard at work on the Student Savings Guide, her blog about living a budget-conscious life. The guide caters to students and recent grads, but anyone can use these tips to get by!

SOARing Through the Decades: 1990s

by: Anna LoPinto

“We could have never loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it.”

– Mary Ann Evans


The 90s were a time of expansive growth for SOAR. Programs were offered throughout the country, as well as internationally. Summer programs saw record numbers and reached capacity.

90s Program Locations: Alaska, Appalachian Trail, Arizona, Belize, Colorado, Costa Rica, Florida, Florida Keys, Idaho, Jamaica, New Mexico, North Carolina, Utah, Wyoming


Internet became more widely accessible, and SOAR’s first website was created in 1998. Our current Executive Director, John Willson, joined the SOAR team in 1991, returned in 1992 as a Course Director, and fall of 1993 to launch the Appalachain Trail Semester course program. He has been with the organization ever since! In 1999 SOAR year-round staff jumped from 13 employees to 21. In the 80s SOAR was on the trajectory to be the forefront of outdoor programs for ADHD/LD populations, by the 90s it was.

Major Moments

  • A huge expansion of national and international programs (see above)
  • Consistently fill courses to capacity
  • Rapid growth completed 9 shelters at Balsam Base
  • Expand services to 7th graders
  • SOAR is licensed as a summer camp (a new requirement by the state of North Carolina)
  • Expand high ropes course
  • Create activity staff positions for summer sessions
  • Complete SOAR Field Staff
  • SOAR fleet of vans increases to 5 vehicles
  • Conduct reconnaissance of Wyoming for possible SOAR Western Base (eventually leads to the creation of Eagle View Ranch!)

“Signs of the Time”

  • 1997 celebrate 20th year
  • 1998 internet site is established
  • 1998 SOAR video completed
  • 1999 complete networking of Administrative Team computers
  • 1999 SOAR is a Microsoft Word Office
  • 1999 SOAR brochure printed in color
  • 1999-2000 move into Y2K with no significant glitches

To celebrate this decade, we wanted to share captions of a few 90s photos from two of the leaders that lived it, SOAR’s Jonathan Jones and John Willson:

“The llama trek pic was taken in 1990 during the first summer of SOAR’s Llama Trek program. The young man’s first name is Danny and at the time he lived in Franklin, NC. This is, perhaps, the first-ever SOAR LT photo and one of many hundreds that have one thing in common – the students always have their arm touching the llama’s neck or placed fully around the neck. His mother (Susan) taught me how important it is to use an individual’s natural organization style/ideas to personalize organization strategies.” (Jonathan Jones)


“This is from the original Appalachian Trail Semester course I staffed back in 1993. This program was the first fall Academic Semester that followed the Original Spring Semesters the previous 2 years. The boy with the backpack was named Nathan.” (John Willson)


“This was taken in 1993 during the first Appalachian Trail semester course program”. (John Willson, pictured)


“One of SOAR’s early Outdoor Classroom groups. (a school from Augusta), GA) receiving their safety briefing before rafting the French Broad River. The water was running high on this particular spring day. The looks on some of their faces reflect the seriousness of the rafting to come.” (Jonathan Jones)


“SOAR had a Challenge Course element that included – gaining a platform, swinging to a cargo net, and climbing up and over the 20′ net. This pic shows students embracing the challenge of that element.” (Jonathan Jones)


Would you like to be an integral part of our mission? Please consider donating $45 for our 45 years of stewardship. As a 501©(3) nonprofit, your donations will be used for our Scholarship Endowment Fund. We envision a day when any child with learning or attention challenges will have an opportunity to experience SOAR’s life-changing adventures. We thank you for your continued support and interest in SOAR.

Next month – a new century – the 2000s!