First Impressions

by Andrea Wackerle

Now immersed in Soar’s administrative office as the Registrar, join me as I explore my very first immpression of this tremendously special camp and academy. – Chelsea Flynn

Winding up the gravel to the great unknown of the Rosemount Road Mountain, I had no clue what to expect. What would I find at the end of this road? Would I meet any of the students? Would the administrative staff be friendly and inviting? Would I be able to tour the entire property? Join me as I walk through my journey at SOAR’s Balsam Base Camp.

I pull up to what I know now as “the hub” to find students participating in a team development activity outside while waiting for lunch. Laughter is the best sound in the world, in my opinion, and there was so much of it. You never would have known it was a chilly November afternoon from the amount of activity. What better way to take your mind off the cold weather and completely immerse yourself into a lighthearted and meaningful game.

The games and laughter was not the only thing that stood out in my visit, I instantly noticed the instructor’s relationship with the students. He, Dan, had their full attention and cooperation. There is a fine line between maintaining control and developing camaraderie, SOAR’s instructors have found that line. The activity he presented was of so much interest to the group that the students weren’t bothered by Kylie and my discussion directly next to them. This is a proven example of SOAR’s dedication to enhance the lives of their students in a positive way.

As we toured the property, on this beautiful sunny day I was blown away at the facility. With the fall season upon us and leaves have nestled to the ground, it was easy to see the broad view of Balsam Base Camp. I explored the Academy cabins, summer cabins, high ropes course, climbing wall, and so much more. Upon entering the first building, I immediately decided this was the boys’ cabin based on the teenage boy smell lingering between the four walls, I was quickly impressed. I was impressed by the organization of belongings, the individualization of each student’s space, and the hominess of the entire room. As we continued through the rest of the site, I realized this place is a home. A home where the administration AND the students take pride in this mountain camp.

After our tour, we entered “the hub” to find the students who had the honor of being Camp Chef for the day, happily preparing lunch for everyone. Who knew hotdogs and baked beans could be made with such enthusiasm? As I sit here in one of the back offices, I am thoroughly amused by the cleaning song that is coming from the kitchen. A young man is taking his responsibilities to heart as he puts the kitchen back in one piece as it was before while humming a delightful tune.  I can only imagine he is dancing a jig also.

I can say in my brief time at SOAR’s Balsam Base Camp, my non-expectations have been exceeded. I can feel the life of SOAR radiating through the trees, bouncing laughter, personal growth, group confidence, and adventure through this specialized program. There is no doubt in my mind that this program will change your student’s life forever and develop them as a strong leader, confident student, and enhance their life skills.