Fall Notes from Big John

by Andrea Wackerle

The winds of change blew in like a hurricane disrupting all of our lives in a way none of us had anticipated.  Like most of you, SOAR has been working hard to find a path forward.  I must admit, not having campers here this summer definitely made Balsam Base camp a lonely place.  The outpouring of love and support from you has been humbling, and I want you to know how much we appreciate you.  To that end, I thought I would give some notes and highlights about what is happening here.

  • We have welcomed Cynthia Kelly to SOAR as Admissions Director. We are excited about what she brings to the team and can’t wait for families to get to know her.

  • Thanks to the generosity of Stephen and Jenna Young, SOAR was able to complete our new kitchen and dining hall.  “Buck’s Café” is in full operation and is patiently awaiting campers next summer.


  • The Academy successfully launched their Fall 2020 school year in person, and it is so wonderful to have students on the mountain again.

  • The GAP Year program in Wyoming also launched in person and 9 new “Gappers” are embarking on the journey of a lifetime.

  • The call for support went out and our community is responding. We received pledges of $50,000 to initiate a matching campaign and to date have received $70,000 in support.  This continues to bring us closer to our $3,000,000 goal from the “Give so they can grow” Capital Campaign.  We are in the home stretch and have raised $2.27 Million.   
  • We began weekly webinars last spring and have over 50 Webinars that families can listen to at no cost.  You can tune in bi-weekly and spend about an hour with me discussing strategies, hearing stories, and remembering best practices.  If you want more information about participating email brittney@soarnc.org.


We are already beginning discussions about how to best host summer camp in 2021 and are looking forward to eating trail pizzas, backpacking, rock climbing, rafting, snorkeling, horseback riding and eating s’mores once again.  Thank you for your continued interest and support to SOAR.  We are so glad to be programming again and look forward to finding new and wonderful ways to support you and your family.


-Big John