In late April, the SOAR Team at the Balsam Base in North Carolina had our annual Base Maintenance Day. Our Executive Director, as well as other leaders of the SOAR program, work from this location, and participate fully in maintaining and keeping our site beautiful. The natural resources are there: mature trees, mountainside declines and inclines, waterfalls, rock formations, creeks, indigenous plants galore, including of course the wildflowers. Our structures, planned settings such as fire pits with benches, dining shelter, high and low rope courses, outposts for our campers’ time here, and paths, all enhance our SOAR setting in western NC. Our shared caring for our special property is an underlying piece and base of our philosophy here at SOAR: operating as a team, cooperating in respectful ways, focusing on strengths, building confidence and self-esteem, perseverance, and meeting challenges. The team camaraderie is strong with encouraging remarks and affirmations as the work progresses, and, at the end of the day, everyone leaves feeling proud of themselves and our work at SOAR.
This year was my first time being a part of the Spring Maintenance Day and, while I knew that one of my team members would be chopping wood to clear trees that had been cut for safety reasons, and to stock our campfire woodpiles, I was curious about my assignment. It turned out to be perfect for me, and addressed one of my strengths of having a green thumb and a passion for gardening. Our Logistics Director had thoughtfully purchased healthy, ready to plant, flowers and vegetables for me and pointed out the places I could garden. Not only was I part of the team, but did something I am pretty good at doing. I felt enormously satisfied with myself. So you could say my self-esteem and confidence was bolstered that day!
One of our team has a particular interest in the aesthetics and character of our SOAR sites. She has the ability to complete projects that add to our setting’s ambiance of outdoor adventure. She contributed by making and applying some stencil work additions to our structures. Now we have an eagle on our landing for the high ropes course as well as a poignant quote by John Muir that reflects our sentiment about our location on our rock climbing wall. Her work was tedious and took plenty of perseverance to finish, but added to the team’s feelings of pride and satisfaction.
There were many more assignments and work projects going on all day. Some members of our team were going from one job to another, and in some cases, making sure all supplies and equipment were available for all projects. They were often making encouraging comments, observations, providing advice, and yes, moving us forward, or motivating us to work even harder.
It occurred to me at the end of the day, as I was leaving feeling tired and happy that all of our being at SOAR is made up of much of the same philosophy we pass on to our campers. We provide structured days of activity with plenty of fun and adventure, focus on strengths, talents, and interest, keep a team-based approach with a purpose of inclusion of all, and hold each other accountable and valued. Our goal here at SOAR is to help each and every camper leave with a positive and light-filled reflection of themselves.
Admissions Director, SOAR