Expectations of a Camp SOAR Counselor


Camp SOAR is held at Wesley Woods Camp (WWC), Williams Bay, WI.  The overnight camp is open to children and teens (7-19 years) with physical and/or cognitive special needs such as Autism, Down Syndrome, severe Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, cerebral palsy and many other handicapping disorders. A mandatory counselor training is held at WWC for all counselors on the Saturday before the start of the camp season.

All counselors must attend training. Training includes getting camp supplies and dorms ready for the campers and team building activities, along with special needs awareness training. Everyone is needed and expected to participate.

Most volunteers are assigned as a one-on-one counselor to a special needs camper for the length of each camp session. Counselor and camper are together for the entire session of camp, meals, activities, dorms. Campers over the age of 12 are assigned a gender specific counselor and cabin. Although some of our lower functioning campers require assistance in eating, dressing, and personal hygiene, many are capable with some supervision. Campers may be in wheelchairs, walkers, or be fully ambulatory and apt to run. Some campers may have difficulty speaking or do not speak, some may be in diapers, use sanitary napkins, need help showering or cleaning after using the toilet. Counselors need to be physically able and emotionally mature in order to help their camper throughout the day for the entire week of camp. Senior counselors and staff are always available to lend a hand; never hesitate to ask for help.

Other counselors may be designated as cabin assistants and not be assigned an individual camper. These assignments are quite busy and are as integral to the success of Camp SOAR as being a one-on-one counselor. We depend on the cabin assistants to be organized, helpful, and focused on making everything run smoothly; they may also be called upon to help counselor/camper pairs with simple tasks. Counselors may request to be a cabin assistant.

Being a Camp SOAR counselor is not an easy task. It can be difficult, but you will be hard pressed to find anything more rewarding.  Counselors receive no compensation, other than the knowledge that they have contributed to priceless memories for a group of very special campers. Volunteer hours at camp may be applied to school and religious service hours. Neither counselors nor campers leave the WWC grounds during camp.

The wooded, rolling hills of the camp facilities include a private sandy beach, cabins, along with a modern dining facility. Activities may include swimming, a magic show, visit from exotic animals, games and storytelling, songs, camp fires and crafts. Each cabin has shared bathroom/shower facilities. All buildings are air conditioned.

The minimum age for counselors is 15; both male and female counselors are needed. Counselors may volunteer for either or both weeks, but must commit to the full week and attend training. Training takes place on the Saturday before the start of the camp season; some counselors spend the night and are ready for campers to arrive on Sunday. A background check is done on all volunteers over 18 years; if you are over 18, complete the Voluntary Disclosure page. Not all applicants can be accepted; acceptance depends on experience of the counselor, age/gender of campers, as well as when the application is received.

A doctor and nursing staff is on site at all times, in addition to clinical therapists of Children’s Research Triangle. All meals and activities are included. Due to high demand, campers can only attend one session, so counselors volunteering for both weeks would have two different campers assigned to them.

Typically we accommodate over 100 campers with more than 130 volunteer counselors. Many campers return year after year, as do the counselors. While being a Camp SOAR counselor can be physically and emotionally demanding, it is also extremely rewarding, lots of fun, and an awesome experience.

Rules of Camp SOAR Counselors/Volunteers

CAMP IS FOR THE CAMPER 

Treat campers with respect at all time. Talk, play & joke with your camper

STAY WITH YOUR CAMPER AT ALL TIMES

If you need to use the bathroom, ask a cabin leader or assistant to watch your camper

DO NOT TRADE YOUR CAMPER WITH ANOTHER CAMPER/COUNSELOR PAIR ∙ If you are having difficulty with your camper, talk with Dr. Nancy, Nurse Ingrid or your cabin leader If two counselors are assigned to one camper, BOTH counselors share equal responsibility and stay with the camper

BE ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT THE ACTIVITIES

Get your camper to do the activities-don’t do them for him/her

Do not whine or complain about the activities. They are designed for the campers, not the counselors. However, constructive comments and new ideas are always welcome.

REST PERIOD 

Rest period is NOT counselor free time. You must stay in your cabin unless the cabin leader assigns you a job (i.e. get supplies, do laundry etc.) This is a good time to work on the Talent Show, clean the room etc.

IF YOU FEEL ILL 

If you are not feeling well, inform your cabin leader, Dr. Nancy or Nurse Ingrid, so they can assign an assistant counselor to your camper. You will have an early curfew that night, even if you are feeling better.

ELECTRONICS 

No cell phone/texting during the day

No use of headsets during the day

No use of electronic games during the day 

They may be used during free time after all campers are in bed

CONFIDENTILALTIY  

No one has permission to post photos of campers on any form of social media. Even if a parent gives verbal permission, HIPPA regulations prohibit posting.   

NO SWEARING 

NO SMOKING  Wesley Woods is a designated smoke free environment. No smoking anywhere on the grounds.

WHEN YOU HAVE CABIN DUTY 

You are responsible for all campers in your cabin

You must stay in the cabin and be alert to what the campers are doing

No sleeping, listening to headphones, etc. until all counselors are back in the dorm at curfew

CURFEWS AND BOUNDARIES 

Counselors must stay in designated boundaries at all times, this will be covered at training Counselors are not allowed to have visitors without prior approval from Dr. Nancy Curfew is 11:00 pm 

Counselors must be in their cabins by 11:00 pm

Failure to follow rules will result in early curfew or dismissal from the camp

Dismissed counselors are not invited back the next year

NO SEX—NO DRUGS—NO ALCOHOL—NO EXCEPTIONS 

WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO SEARCH, CABINS, BAGGAGE, BACKPACKS, PURSES, VEHICLES ETC,  EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING

CABIN CLEAN UP 

Each cabin will have a clean-up schedule posted with rotating chores

Establish a clean-up routine with your camper on the first day

CABIN ROOM 

Keep clothes (yours and camper’s) in suitcase or laundry bag. Every evening, put away clothes. If clothes are smelly or soiled, rinse (to launder later). Really dirty clothes should be put in a plastic bag and  placed in the laundry box in the common room. Only wash soiled clothes that can’t wait, not the clothes for the  entire week.

In bathrooms, wipe down any messes and disinfect. Keep personal toiletries together and store in bunk area,  not in shower area

DINING HALL 

Help your camper clear their area, bring your trays to service area, remove trash etc.

ARTS AND CRAFTS AREA 

Help camper clean up after each activity. Put away all supplies.

Make sure craft has the camper’s name on it and place in designated spot to dry, etc. 


Interested? Have questions? Email Sari Rieger at srieger@cr-triangle.org or call 312-726-4011