Quotes & Testimonials

Call for Camp Registration: Spots Are Filling Up!

We have already confirmed 26 campers for our 2014 Camp Spring Creek season (June 15 to August 9)! It seems an appropriate time to revisit the van der Vorst's own story of taking a leap and letting go. Below, please find Susie's Director's Message from our Fall 2013 Newsletter. We all have to let go as parents. Here's our story: -6

I often help parents who fear that leaving their child for four, six, or even eight weeks could be a heartless act. This fall was very bittersweet for Steve and me as parents. Now, after parting from our own children—Marguerite off to college and Anina to Miss Hall's boarding school, we understand your feelings. Our children are starting their own life experiences without Mom and Dad at the helm. The pang we feel when we drop off our children to an unknown—and even known—environment can indeed be heart-wrenching. But we must remember that we are doing what is best for our children.

It’s easy to think it would be wonderful if we could magically view their lives away from us, but we need to relax and wait for the stories to come. When our children feel homesick, we need to understand, but realize this is a natural process. When they feel elated by an experience, we must share their excitement, instead of resenting that we weren’t there to walk beside them. And when they call us, frustrated with a challenge, we must reassure them that they have the tools to figure out a solution of their own. We cannot fix everything for them. After all, our goal is to raise responsible, resilient children. We need to let them make new friends, experience new adventures, and struggle with their own predicaments in order to grow. Letting go is hard—full of anguish and trepidation; however, it is these very opportunities to face the unknown and its accompanying challenges that are essential in their developing self-confidence and independence.

This year, it was our turn to let go. The girls have been gone for only a little over two months, and Steve and I already see them growing into the strong, unique young women they were meant to be. Every summer, parents like you let go as well, and Camp Spring Creek is privileged to be a place that has the opportunity to nurture your children as they grow and mature. Thank you for being a part of our extended Camp Spring Creek family.

Susie & Marguerite near UNC-Wilmington

In Her Own Words: Shay on Associate Level OG Training

Shay & Charlie #3This fall, Susie led a 10-day Associate Level Training session at Camp in Bakersville. Continuing our series of testimonials, today's post features Shay--a "retired" elementary school teacher who taught for over 30 years in 3 different states. Enjoy this glimpse into her OG experience, which was profound on both personal and professional levels:

Camp Spring Creek: Tell us a little about yourself.

Shay: My joy in life are my two grown sons, a sweet daughter-in-law, and one precious grandson. I'm living in South Florida now, teaching pre-school.

CSC: Tell us about a critical turning point or moment of learning (an "ah-hah") that you experienced during your 10 days of Associate Level Training with Susie:

Shay: The critical turning point for me was at our first session when I realized I was in the company of some brilliant women who had come prepared for an upper-level very intensive study that I felt totally unprepared to handle. However, I've always had to deal with the fact that I felt intellectually inferior, so I just had to work harder and find a way to survive this training and try to be successful. I made a determined effort to absorb all the information, do the homework, and prepare for the quiz each day. However, after learning the characteristics of dyslexia I began to see myself on every page of our book. The red flags were flying and it was overwhelming! I hesitated to diagnose myself or make an excuse for not being able to keep-up but the evidence seemed crystal clear.

CSC: What did you learn or realize that was most surprising to you? Perhaps something you had never considered before...

Shay: I have been living with these painful characteristics for so long I consider them part of my identity. All the shameful patterns of hiding what you don't know or can't seem to understand what everyone else grasps with ease cannot be easily broken and exposing them would be risky plus humiliating. But I felt safe with this group of women and our instructor out at Camp. When I admitted my feelings, Susie wasn't surprised at all  since she had already come to the same conclusion and was waiting on me. Everyone was very supportive and understanding. It was hard but rewarding to finally understand many of the difficulties I've experienced over the years and it gave me even more compassion for my students who struggle with these same problems.

CSC: How will you use your OG training?

Shay: I have been using some of the techniques of OG in my classroom and hope to give my students a head start to success for the future, so they can avoid some of the painful patterns that develop in an effort to cope in our educational system.

In Her Own Words: Valerie on Associate Level OG Training

ValerieMillerThis fall, Susie led a 10-day Associate Level Training session at Camp in Bakersville. Continuing our series of testimonials, today's post features Valerie--a mother, homeschool teacher, and OG tutor! Enjoy! Camp Spring Creek: Tell us a little about yourself.

Valerie: I am a former teacher turned homeschool mom. I homeschool my twin 7 year old daughters while my 4th grade son attends public school. My twins both have learning issues that brought me to Susie for training. One twin, Kaitlyn, is dyslexic, while her sister, Brooke, is deaf and uses Cochlear Implants. Both have language difficulties in speech, sentence structure, grammar, and reading.

CSC: Tell us about a critical turning point or moment of learning (an "ah-hah") that you experienced during your 10 days of Associate Level Training with Susie:

Valerie: There were many moments during training that made me think, "That makes so much sense, why have I not been doing it!" One of those moments was when studying the brain and the need for visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning...so easy for a teacher to do--but I just didn't know that I should do it.

CSC: Describe your experience at the Camp in Bakersville, working hours and hours every day, somewhat in seclusion...as you immersed yourself in the world of OG:

Valerie: We worked very hard during the 10 days at Camp. Most days we worked from 8 am until 5 pm, a few nights until 7-8pm, and then the infamous night of 1:30am when most of us had to retake a quiz. Susie worked us hard, but was always supportive and encouraging. She often said that if we were not learning then she was not teaching and would teach it a different way. I really think being at camp, completely submerged in OG, was a true benefit. There was always another trainee to ask questions, study with, or help with homework. I learned so much from my fellow trainees.

CSC: What did you learn or realize that was most surprising to you? Perhaps something you had never considered before...

Valerie: I learned that I can use Orton Gillingham with all kids, not just those with dyslexia. I learned the great reasons behind teaching cursive (which I thought was old-school and something unnecessary to teach in our current technological age). I learned that cursive is quicker, more fluid, and helps students get their ideas onto paper much more easily. At home, I am teaching my 7 year olds cursive and require my 9 year old son to do all his homework in cursive.

CSC: How will you use your OG training?

Valerie: I am currently tutoring my twins 5 days a week with Orton Gillingham. I began tutoring my first student on October 30th. I plan to begin my practicum in January 2014.

In Her Own Words: Jennifer on Associate Level OG Training

JennMerkelThis fall, Susie led a 10-day Associate Level Training session out at the Camp in Bakersville. As always, our participants each came from unique backgrounds. Today's post features a testimonial from Jennifer, an education specialist, impassioned teacher, and advocate. Enjoy! Camp Spring Creek: Tell us a little about yourself.

Jennifer: I am an Exceptional Education teacher with an undergrad in Communication Disorders. I have been working with children with various disabilities and processing disorders for the last 8 years. I consider myself a brain-based teacher with an interest in neuroscience and sensory-motor development. Most of the children I work with have a disability that can’t be “seen.” I teach with their brain in mind while helping them understand how they best learn. My intention is to promote awareness on multi-modal teaching techniques, their efficacy, and the importance of teaching to develop a “unified” brain and honor the whole child.

CSC: Tell us about a critical turning point or moment of learning (an "ah-hah") that you experienced during your 10 days of Associate Level Training with Susie:

Jennifer: Despite, previous exposure and practice with Orton-Gillingham derivatives, it was during this training that I realized how much more efficient and effective my approach could be! My “ah-hah” moment was visualizing how the 9 OG principles were brought to life in the new lesson format. The lesson plan is static but reflects a highly dynamic, multi-dimensional process occurring within the child!

CSC: Describe your experience of the Camp in Bakersville, working hours and hours every day, somewhat in seclusion...as you immersed yourself in the world of OG:

Jennifer: The 10-day training at Camp was challenging. But then, I also believe that anything worth achieving is never simply handed to you. Being away from home, operating on less sleep with exams at 8 am was not easy! I would prepare anyone by telling them that it is truly intense (as advertised). Reflecting on it now, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Being surrounded and immersed in the material amplified the importance of what and why I was studying OG. This hyper-concentration allowed me to focus deeply on the material and internalize it faster than if I had taken days and weeks in between training. Plus, I met some amazing women! It was cozy and authentic—forging meaningful bonds. I will never forget them or my time at Camp!

CSC: What did you learn or realize that was most surprising to you? Perhaps something you had never considered before...

Jennifer: My surprise was realizing how poorly I had learned cursive and, worse, how poorly I was prepared to teach it!

CSC: How will you use your OG training?

Jennifer: In all my years of schooling, I had never heard of Orton-Gillingham. Moving to NC was a blessing for my career as I was exposed and awakened to this researched-based philosophy. I feel that OG has literally changed the way my brain functions and improved areas that were underdeveloped. I have seen the majority of my students blossom and become empowered, confident learners as a result of it. Susie’s teaching and mentoring is providing me with an opportunity to further develop myself as an educator. As teachers/specialists we assume an important oath. We should demand excellence from ourselves because our responsibility to our students demands it. I am grateful that Susie demands excellence from herself and her trainees. I will continue my Orton-Gillingham training as I believe it provides a superior approach to helping our kids learn how to master language and become confident, lifelong learners.

In Her Own Words: Scholarshop Sponsor Thank You

Dear Sponsor, I have learned a lot at camp, such as the butterfly stroke in swimming and how to divide words easily, so I can read better. I am learning to make a xylophone in woodshop. I have enjoyed doing swimming and art everyday and the zipline.

I could not have done a lot of stuff if I had not come to camp. I could not have gone rock climbing or done pottery or archery or met new people from all over the world and country.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love camp and camp is so much fun. Thank you.

[4-week female camper, 11 years old]


In Her Own Words: Scholarship Sponsor Thank You

Dear Sponsor, I have learned a lot this summer. I learned how to hold my pencil correctly, new words, b/d's, how to read better, and cursive! I have enjoyed art. I liked working with clay. I have enjoyed woodshop where I have made my name, a book, a box, a birdhouse, yo-yo and a candy dispenser. I love playing fun games in tutoring! I made a lot of new friends. I would not have the chance to do woodshop at home or meet new people from all over the world! Thank you so, so much!


[female camper, 8 years old]


In Their Own Words: Adeline's Family

AdelineThis summer, camper Adeline participated in our Orton-Gillingham/Camp Counselor pilot program designed to benefit Mitchell County children. For four weeks, Adeline spent 2 hours at camp each day: one hour with her OG tutor and another hour participating in camp activities. "One day Adeline came home and for entertainment she actually enjoyed making the flashcards," said her mother Tonya. "She made me a whole set and then she asked me, 'Mom, would you buy me some more 3x5 cards?' She'd never done anything like that before. We really appreciate what Steve and Susie and Camp Spring Creek did for us."

Adeline is now in 7th grade at a local school. Her parents have lived here for over twenty years and love the Western North Carolina community. "It's refreshing here. I cannot imagine raising our girls anywhere else in the world," said Tonya. "We appreciate having a yard and such a beautiful view and land for animals and a garden. We have fruit trees, fresh asparagus, fresh flowers...We love it here."

In Their Own Words: Scholarship Sponsor Thank You's

This summer, Camp Spring Creek and OpenDoors of Asheville provided 4 jointly-funded full scholarships for 4 Buncombe County children to attend camp for a month. Learn more about OpenDoors by reviewing our inspiring interview with Executive Director Jennifer Ramming here. Meantime, enjoy these camper thank you letters: Dear Sponsor,

Thank you for helping me to go to camp. I love to go camping now. I learned how to read better. Also, tapping helps with my spelling. I did not know that you could make so many things out of wood. Thank you so much.


[Female camper, 11 years old]

Dear Sponsor,

Thank you for my time at camp. I have made lots of friends and some of them are from different places. My tutor is cool and she taught me cursive. We learn new things everyday. My reading is improving and my tutor is making reading a lot easier and all this happened because of OpenDoors and Camp Spring Creek.


[Female camper, 10 years old]

Dear Sponsor,

Thank you for helping me come here. I am having so much fun at this camp. I'm really glad. I came to do whitewater rafting at this camp. I am a better reader now and I met new people. Thank you.


[Male camper, 10 years old]

In Their Own Words: Tyler & his Mom

TylerThis summer, Tyler attended camp full time for six weeks on a scholarship funded by Rotary Club and Camp Spring Creek, among other sources. Tyler is now in 7th grade. His mother, Rebecca, had this to say about her son's experience: "I feel very blessed that Tyler got to go to camp. It really changed not just his reading ability, but also his confidence and attitude about learning. Now he’s more motivated and eager to learn because he has the tools he needs. He wants to go back to Camp Spring Creek every year. It was a wonderful, wonderful experience for him...As far as Tyler’s opinion: he loved camp. When he got home, he told me wanted to go back to camp. He said he hopes to go again next year and eventually help out at Camp Spring Creek and be able to help other kids once he learns enough. He was really happy that he got the help that he needed to assist him with school."

In His Own Words: Zachary

ZacharyThis summer, camper Zachary participated in our Orton-Gillingham/Camp Counselor pilot program designed to benefit Mitchell County children. For four weeks, Zachary came to camp for 2 hours each day: one hour spent with his OG tutor and another hour spent participating in camp activities. "This was Zachary's first time attending a camp like this," said his mother Meredith, "and before it started he was already looking forward to it. He finished and said he hopes to return. We are so grateful and appreciative of the opportunity he was given.” Zachary, who is in 4th grade, worked with Lilja, who was a trained OG tutor and our camp lifeguard. “I had a great time," he said. "I learned a lot of stuff. I even learned how to swim.” Zachary also came home raving about his experiences in Woodshop and trying out the zip-line.

When asked about the kinds of changes Meredith noticed in her son, she had this to say: “I was very impressed with the progress that he made in such a short period of time. I was very excited when I saw the final report that Lilja wrote up and printed out. Self-confidence was an issue with our son and I was concerned about his ability to read fluently. I definitely noticed a difference in his confidence as a reader since attending camp.”

Part of Camp Spring Creek's mission is to make the tutoring and camp experience accessible to even more children from Western North Carolina, whether through grant or donor funding. This pilot program marks a big step in the right direction and we are so excited to be expanding our "local family" in this way. To spotlight what makes life so great here, we're also asking each of our local families what it is they love about living in WNC. Meredith says, "Number one, I love the beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachian Mountains. Also, the kindness that is displayed among the people that live here is just remarkable. Sometimes, when you go to a bigger city, there’s not necessarily a colder feel, but people just don’t know each other like they do when they live in a smaller town. This is home to us.”

Words of Wisdom

"We'll go as fast as we can, but as slow as we must."

In their work as tutors, trainers, and education advocates, this wise mantra guided Shirley Kokesh (former head of elementary at Kildonan), Elizabeth Hall (academic language therapist and former VP of the South Carolina International Dyslexia Association branch), and Camp Spring Creek's very own, Susie van der Vorst. To all our parents, teachers, tutors, campers, and students out there--you can do it!

In Her Own Words: Kay Oliver

First year-ChaseThis testimonial came our way from Kay Oliver, parent of 4-week camper, Chase. Chase came to us as a reluctant camper, and had a complete turnaround. He loved his time at Camp Spring Creek! In fact, when he got home, he decided that he was ready to move on from homeschool and apply to...[read on!]... I want to thank you for making this one of the best summers ever for Chase. Your camp and counselors and tutors, especially Lissa Jo, have restored our hope for Chase’s education. Chase’s progress exceeded all of our expectations. We are thrilled that he has a new desire to learn. His confidence continues to amaze us.

We have decided to apply for admission to The Kildonan School. Chase has told us he really wants to attend. We are so thankful for all of you.

~Kay Oliver

Returning Campers Speak

We took a moment to talk to returning campers Ana and Emily. Here's what they had to say about Camp Spring Creek: What makes you want to come back to Camp Spring Creek and why?

Ana: I want to come back because it helps me learn and it is so much fun.

Emily: It's so much fun at camp and I learn so much.

What is something that you worried about before you came to camp, that you no longer have to worry about?

Ana: That I would not be good at school work and that I would not make friends.

Emily: I had a lot of stress related to school and camp helped me. I don’t have that as much now.

When you're back at home and you think about all your fun memories from camp, what comes to mind most often? Describe that memory:

Ana: My favorite memory is when we went to the waterfalls, played capture the flag, and other activities.

Emily: I love making new friends and having great experiences.

In Their Own Words: Moving Memories

If you're like us, you get a little teary-eyed when you think of some of the many moving moments that happen every summer at Camp Spring Creek. But so many of these moments are only seen by one or two people, though the impact is long lasting. We asked some of folks to share meaningful memories of the little things at camp, and here's what a few of them shared with us: Lilja (OG trained counselor): "One of my stand out moments was witnessing how much progress the campers made in reading and writing. To be able to follow the campers from day one till their last at camp and see how much improvement they had made, was a great experience."

Sara (OG tutor): "Last summer I had a particularly stubborn student but by the end of camp he realized that we were there to help him and were not going to give up trying to help him.  He is coming back this summer and I can’t wait to see how much progress he is going to make this summer."

Tracy (OG tutor): "I had wonderful experiences with all of my students last summer. Knowing that I helped them become better readers and gain confidence in themselves is what makes me want to come back."

In Their Own Words: New Counselors

Screen shot 2013-05-07 at 5.41.14 PMWe have a number of new counselors on board this year and while they've never been to Camp Spring Creek until now, they certainly come with their own skills and experiences. We asked a few of them what made them want to come to camp and join our team: Rob Watts (aka Watto): "I have never been to a summer camp as such in England, but I did have a similar experience where I spent the week doing activities but left at the end of each day. That is where I first got a taste for archery. I hope I can share that first experience at Camp Spring Creek, leading the archery program."

Zohn Fleming: "I wanted to have a chance to surround myself with a location that I've never been to, and push myself a little out of my comfort zone. I love the places I've been and have gotten to know well...but I'm always open to trying something new. I have been to a different camp in the Northeast and a few in France, and they all have a very different feel. Some seemed like a perfect fit, while others...I hope that the campers remember me as the fun one--not to say that everyone else won't be equally as fun for the campers!"

In Their Own Words: Why Our Counselors Keep Coming Back

Screen shot 2013-05-07 at 5.29.38 PMWe took some time to catch up with our counselors, who are gearing up for their journey to Camp Spring Creek very soon, and asked a returnee what keeps her coming back for another summer: Sigurbjorg Lilja: "Camp Spring is an amazing place that feels like home. It was wonderful to see how the kids got the opportunity to shine in their own special ways. They got the opportunity to teach each other and build long lasting friendships. To be able to see all this happen is what makes me want to be around and come back to camp. I certainly experienced a lot and discovered so many things as a counselor there. I also made a lasting friendship."

Lilja is returning to us from Iceland for her second summer. She has been a competitive swimmer for over 12 years but now just swims for enjoyment. After completing her degree, she is now a teacher and works as a substitute in primary school. She is also a swimming coach for her local swim team. She enjoys outdoor activities and is looking forward to spelunking again this summer.

In Her Own Words: Tiffany Stroud

???????? Last month we posted about 5 teachers who took our Associate Level Training at the Outreach Center. One of those teachers, Tiffany Stroud, is also the mother of a Camp Spring Creek camper: Trey. Here is what Tiffany says about the impact of Camp Spring Creek on her son's life:

"Trey had a very life-changing experience. He learned the structure of language in a way that he had not seen before and it really changed his life forever. At camp, he especially liked the woodworking shop and the things that he got to create and the fact that he was trusted with machinery in a very responsible way. He was able to use his gifts to be able to make what he would call 'a masterpiece.' Before Trey went to Camp Spring Creek, written expression was quite difficult and he spent years trying to remember how to form written print letters. After just six weeks of camp, he could write beautifully in cursive."

Orton-Gillingham Training Testimonials

DSC01804These five teachers completed the 70-hour Associate Level Training at our Outreach Center last week. (View video here.) Here are a few things they had to say about signing up for our training: Kimberly: "I have two children who are dyslexic and I wanted to be able to help them more at home. The Orton-Gillingham method is diagnostic and prescriptive and I'm able to pinpoint exactly their weak areas. It's been surprising to learn just how much I take for granted myself. Susie gives us 'nonsense words' that make us feel like we're dyslexic and it really puts me in my son's position."

Pinkney: "There are so many reasons why I'm here. I'm raising three boys with dyslexia and I've learned that they need another path to get information--to be able to read, to be able to write, to be able to spell better. I wanted to be able to learn what that path was to be able to help them. I found out about Susie and Camp Spring Creek through a friend who has been here and done the training. She shared with me her 'Book of Knowledge' one day, and just being able to see the different spelling patterns that I take for granted and to learn those rules is actually quite exciting. It's exercising muscles I've not used, so I was thrilled to be here."

Joanne: "I'm a homeschool mom and I have an 11-year-old son who is quite dyslexic and I want to give him the best I can. I can't do it without the kind of Orton-Gillingham instruction I'm getting here. I think the most beneficial thing for me has been when we've had exercises that have put me in the shoes of my son and made me actually feel dyslexic. It's affirmed my decision to be here and learn and teach him appropriately."

Tiffany and Chris have not only taken the Associate Level Training, they have also each brought their children to Camp Spring Creek. Stay tuned for their testimonials in the future!

In Her Own Words: Maeve, Teacher

Screen shot 2013-03-28 at 11.41.02 AMThis testimonial was originally published in the Camp Spring Creek newsletter. To view or download any newsletters for free, click here. My name is Maeve, and I am a Kindergarten teacher in Raleigh, NC. I was able to attend a training class in the Orton-Gillingham method of teaching reading. Susie van der Vorst, director of Camp Spring Creek, ran the training at the Outreach Center in Spruce Pine. During thsi training, Susie brought a young boy to our class to be a practice student. His name was Caleb. Caleb touched my heart from the moment he entered our classroom. He had a wonderful smile, and you could tell that he was full of fun.

As Susie began to work with Caleb, it became apparent that he really struggled with written language. Decoding words was a real challenge for him. It was hard to watch this young boy struggle, but he never gave up. He kept trying even when the work was very difficult. My heart went out to him as I thought about students in my own classroom who struggle in the same way. Watching Caleb made me more determined than ever to help children who have this special need.

After the lesson, Susie walked Caleb out to the car. When she returned, she told me how upset his mom was that he would not be attending Camp Spring Creek. She knew it would really help Caleb, but they just did not have the money to fund his time there. I immediately knew that I could help. I was so grateful to Caleb for his willingness to come help us with our training, and I had found a way to show my appreciation. I thought of the friends and family members back home who I knew would be touched by Caleb's story. I told Susie that I wanted to help Caleb, and as soon as I got home I created Caleb's Fund as a means to raise the money Caleb needed so badly to attend camp.

As I had expected, the wonderful people I know were very touched by his story, and within about 8 weeks we had raised all the money for Caleb's tuition.

Unfortunately, I was not able to make the trip to Camp Spring Creek that summer, so I did not see Caleb there. However, Susie kept me informed of his progress over the summer. I know that the time Caleb spent at Camp Spring Creek greatly impacted his learning, and I hope that we can continue to send children to the camp through our future fund raising efforts. The happy ending is that Caleb was tested at his school once he returned and they noted that his reading levels progressed by three levels!

Screen shot 2013-03-28 at 11.41.15 AM

In His Own Words: Carl, Camper

Screen shot 2013-03-28 at 11.25.45 AMThis testimonial was originally published in the Camp Spring Creek newsletter. To view or download any newsletters for free, click here. My first year at Camp Spring Creek I was a shy, little eight-year-old. I was scared out of my wits, but that suddenly changed by the third day. I had so much fun and made so many friends and I knew most, if not all, the campers and the staff. I learned more than I could in a school year at the public school in my home town. That first year, my mother and father said that I showed a huge improvement in my reading and writing skills.

After the winter and the spring passed, another six hour drive to Camp Spring Creek was ahead of me. But this summer was different because I was not looking forward to working on my reading and writing skills all summer. But my parents pushed me to com to camp. I was expecting camp to be like it was the year before. But this year, it was different because there was an international staff and it was harder to communicate with them. After a few weeks, it was a bit easier. I learned just as much as the year before. They boys had a new cabin and a new activity--woodshop. Steve was the teacher and we had loads of fun sawing away.

Then I won with my parents and for a summer I got to go to Camp Seagull for a month. I then returned to Camp Spring Creek for my third summer with the same non-willing and poor attitude, but that was a HUGE mistake. Everything changed and in a good way. I had the most fun in my life because I had Miss Amy for my tutor, the food was great, and we had two of the craziest counselors ever.

I think now that I have matured a bit, I have found that I want to come back for a final year as a camper at Camp Spring Creek. I've gained more knowledge, especially from working with Steve and gaining more advanced skills in tutoring with Susie. At some point, I would love to come back as a Counselor-in-Training and then a Counselor.