Everyone Deserves Camp!

by Andrea Wackerle

As summer rapidly approaches I have been pondering the origins of summer camp as well as reflecting on my personal philosophy that every child deserves a fun and positive summer camp experience.

Origins:  In the US summer camp began in 1861 when William Frederick Gunn and his wife Abigail facilitated the original summer camp.  The Gunns were headmasters of the Gunnery School, a private school in Connecticut.  In the summer of 1861, they took a group of kids into the wilderness along Long Island Sound for two weeks.  They over saw summer camp activities that included hiking, boating, fishing, stories, and sailing.

Philosophy:  I strongly believe every child in the world deserves to have a camp experience.  Camp is an important piece in the developmental process.   I have committed my adult life to providing camp experiences for campers.  I have run camps all across the U.S., in Canada, and even in South Africa, because I believe in the power of camp.  Frequently people ask me why I continue to direct summer camp, and, even more importantly, why have I stayed working with SOAR for so long?  My answer has two parts.  When I was in grade school my parents made me go to camp.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t kicking and screaming all the way there, but I was young and scared of leaving home for a strange place.  The first day was rough: I was homesick, sad and cried my fair share.  But then the magic of camp set in: counselors invested in me, I made new friends, laughed, had fun, played games, and was a part of something special.  That week changed me and my perspective on the world.  I couldn’t wait to go back the next year.  In fact, I went back to camp every summer after that.  I still keep in touch with some of the friends I made at camp.  I am still thankful to my parents for helping me overcome the anxiety of leaving home and to experience something new.  That is why I believe in camp.  Why do I keep working with SOAR?  Well, quite simply, I thoroughly enjoy the campers that we serve.  They amaze me with their humor, knowledge, energy, quirkiness, and zest for life.  You never know what each moment might bring, and there is never a dull moment at camp.  The campers we serve deserve camp just like every other child does, and we just happen to be the best in the game at providing a camp for their particular needs.  I also love to see the transformation that happens to so many campers while they are here; watching them grow stronger with each success, and seeing their confidence and self-esteem build to a higher level after each activity is gratifying.  The joy of seeing a camper walk proudly up to their parents and excitedly share all the experiences they just had at camp makes the 10 months of preparations worth every second of the 2 months of camper time during the summer.

Fast-forward to 2014.  There are over 12,000 summer camps across America for families and campers to choose from.  A lot of camps have come and gone in the past century and a half, but you can now find a camp for almost any interest or desire your son or daughter might have.   For instance you can find a camp for youth who are diagnosed with ADHD, Learning Differences, and Asperger’s.  SOAR has grown since it started in 1976, and, fortunately, its desire for providing the highest quality camping experience has grown through the years also.  SOAR is committed to providing fun, positive, and successful camp experiences for those diagnosed with ADHD/LD/Asperger’s.   One of the most frequent feedbacks I hear from our parents is that they wish they had heard about SOAR sooner.  Therefore, I encourage you to spread the word in your school and community about what SOAR is doing for campers across America.  With all the camp options out there, we thank you if you have chosen SOAR already, and we encourage you to give us a try this summer if you haven’t yet.


Remember camp is an important developmental aspect in American culture.  Your child will experience independence and group living at the same time, they will disconnect in this era of electronics, and see the true beauty that abounds in our State/National parks and forests.  They get the gift of living simply for a few weeks with a group of like-minded individuals and staff who are invested in their success at camp.  They come home with new strategies for their frustrations and a new spring in their step.  Camp is a magical place, so be sure to share it this summer with someone you care about in your life.