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.

Interested? Have questions? Email: CampSoar@cr-triangle.org or call: 312-726-4011