camp counselor

Our Camp Counselors are Here!

Here's a group shot of our camp counselors during lifeguard training, which began June 5th and continues with general camp training right up until the last minute, when the campers arrive on June 15th. From near and far, we're overjoyed to have a stellar team this summer and can't wait to kick things off!


Interview: Van Westervelt

Vermont2011047 Camp Spring Creek: Please tell us briefly how you become involved with the Learning Assistance Center at Wake Forest University and what your role is there:

Van Westervelt: Sure. I’m in my 16th year as the Director of the LAC and Disability Services. It has been a great experience here and I am highly engaged in providing academic support services for the undergraduate, graduate and professional school student body as well as disability services for any students who disclose a disability. We serve only Wake Forest students. To understand what we do, our mission statement best represents that. Here’s an excerpt: “…Our purpose is to strike a balance between providing direct assistance for skill building, while facilitating each student’s own discovery process for their individual learning and achievement style in and beyond the classroom…We strive to assist students in receiving accommodations that improve their ability to learn while assisting them to better understand their disability and realize that disability can co-exist with outstanding talents and outcomes.”

CSC: What fueled your interest in psychology and specifically in learning disabilities and dyslexia?

VW: My grandmother, Helene Durbrow, in the mid 1930’s had one son who in the 4th grade was struggling significantly with reading and getting very frustrated despite being quite bright in other areas.  From her educational connections as a kindergarten teacher, she was referred to Samuel Orton MD, a neurologist at Columbia in NYC, who was working on intervention approaches for children with dyslexia, so she took her son to him for a consultation.  Dr. Orton instructed her in a remediation plan for her son that was based on what is now known as the Orton-Gillingham Multisensory approach.  He responded well and she was so good at applying this methodology that Dr. Orton began referring other students to her and that became her educational specialty.  She received extensive training from Anna Gillingham, Mrs. Orton and Bessie Stillman as she started remedial programs at several private schools including  Sidwell Friends in DC and Phillips Academy in Andover, MA.

Spurred on by encouragement from Dr. Orton and Anna, in 1946 she started a camp in Vermont at the foot of Mt. Mansfield and called it Camp Mansfield.  Dr. Orton and his team realized that his students often lost significant ground over the summer and also the summer could provide an opportunity to focus on specific skills in need of remediation.  Along with the educational focus at times in the day for peak attention, the camp had an array of recreation and outdoor challenge activities.  My mother happened to be the Camp nurse, so from infancy my two brothers and I were able to escape the humidity of Baltimore city each summer and be fully involved in the nature and outdoor activities that Vermont had to offer. Helene took a position at Children’s Hospital in Boston training teachers there and continued to run the camp for 16 years.  I remember the large wooden plaque that had the camp motto carved in it “A Strong Mind in a Strong Body.”  I think that life style and philosophy must have really imprinted on me because first I became a physical therapist and then a child-adolescent psychologist!

Helene recruited a faculty of teachers who would reside at camp or commute from local towns for the whole 8-week session.  One British teacher from the DC area, Diana King, was so impressed with the remedial approach that she learned from my grandmother that she would go on to establish her own school, Kildonan, and summer camp, Dunnabeck, both originally in PA, geared for bright students with dyslexia. My brother, Mark, would also go on to establish camp programs in the Baltimore area and become the Assistant Head of the Jemicy School for dyslexic students in Baltimore.

CSC: Your area of expertise is assessment and intervention. What would you say to a parent who does not have extra time, energy, finances, or community resources…but has a hunch that “something’s up” with their child’s learning style? How can this parent get his or her child what is needed within the family’s means?

VW: I think the first step would be to consult with the child’s teacher and see what his/her current school has to offer as far as assessment and intervention.  A next option, if there is not insurance or funding for a private evaluation, would be to see if a local university has an evaluation clinic for learning difficulties.  For example in our area, UNCG has two clinics, one for LD and the other for ADHD (336-334-5662), that offer evaluations on a sliding scale basis as far as costs.  The testing is carried out by a doctoral student under the supervision of a faculty member.  The assessments are quite thorough and the students from Wake Forest who I have referred there have found the results to be very helpful.

CSC: If you could help dispel one myth or stereotype about children with dyslexia, what would it be and how would you address it?

VW: Some of the early descriptions of difficulties experienced by children with dyslexia focused mainly on letter reversals and writing backwards.  Through multiple research studies we now know the primary core deficit is in “phonemic awareness,” which for children without dyslexia is the rather automatic process involved in learning that words are comprised of particular component sounds that can be related to letters.  Visual process difficulties that may show up as letter reversals can be associated with dyslexia but that is not the primary problem to focus on in remedial efforts.

Parents are sometimes told by well-meaning physicians or teachers  “Oh he’ll grow out of it” but, as my grandmother used to advise, “You will either pay now or pay later!” This I took to mean that it was important to rally your resources early on to address the problem because addressing it later in a student’s life can be more complicated and require greater resources.


Job Openings at Camp Spring Creek

We're in need of several Certified and Associate Level Orton-Gillingham tutors for the Camp Spring Creek 2014 season. We only have a few openings left, but if qualified applicants are interested in working at camp from June 10 to August 10, please send your resume to our general email inbox: Applicants may also contact us at the office by calling 828-766-5032. OG Training with us in advance of employment is sometimes an option, so don't hesitate to inquire. We also have a few tutor positions for half the summer. Applicants to these positions that are not returning staff will need to attend staff training at the start of the summer. In general, we prefer individuals that have already been through training via the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Pracitioners & Educators, but we can provide practicum observations. For example, if an applicant is hired and works the entire 8 weeks, he or she can use up to 5 observations for their practicum. Please be in touch!

Camp Spring Creek Featured in WNC Magazine

We're so proud to be featured in last month's print and online issue of WNC Magazine. Please take a moment to enjoy this brief feature by clicking HERE and scrolling down to Steve and Susie's photo.


Steve Goes to Poland!

camp_america_logoThis week, Co-founder and Co-director Steve van der Vorst is in Krakow, Poland for the Camp America Camp Director's Fair, where he will get to hand-pick some of our counselors for this summer! "Our counselors have to be able to show initiative," says Steve. "That’s one reason we conduct many interviews...I can usually get an idea for how energetic someone is, and also, how enthusiastic. A lot of young people want to work at a camp, but most camps in America are large and hire counselors that focus on one specialty. We look for people with skills across the board and we're a small camp, so we want someone comfortable with our family-style dynamic."

In addition to hard skills such as a background in art our outdoor activities, Steve also looks for a sense of humor, experience traveling and being away from home, and a willingness to work hard. Safe travels, Steve, and come back with lots of top picks!

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."

Mitchell-Buncombe Nonprofits Partner for WNC Children

jumping This article was originally published in local papers.

Spruce Pine, North Carolina – Camp Spring Creek of Mitchell County and OpenDoors of Asheville join forces to make a difference in the lives of four Western North Carolina children.

This summer, four Buncombe County children connected through OpenDoors of Asheville were awarded full scholarships to attend Camp Spring Creek, an academic and recreational camp focusing on literacy, language, and math skills. Located in Bakersville, the camp has served children from WNC and around the world for 11 years and is one of only three residential camps in the United States accredited by the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators. OpenDoors connects local children living in multi-generational poverty with enrichment and education opportunities to help break the cycle of poverty. The organizations teamed up to provide jointly-funded scholarships made possible through private donations, enabling four children from Buncombe County to attend Camp Spring Creek for four weeks at a total value of $29,920.

According to Jennifer Ramming, Executive Director of OpenDoors, the nonprofit currently partners with 13 Asheville city schools for 48 students, more than 2/3 of whom have some type of language-based learning difference and suffer greatly from “summer slide.” The Orton Gillingham methodology offered at Camp Spring Creek provides daily, one-on-one, multisensory tutoring sessions for each camper that is both diagnostic and prescriptive. “The students were assessed and progressed in areas such as phonemic awareness, decoding, encoding, writing mechanics and study habits,” says Ramming. “There was also a wonderful section on the report [from Camp Spring Creek] for each child called ‘Recommendations’ that gives us a road map for how to continue our student’s success in partnership with the teachers and specialists during the upcoming school year.”

Co-founder of Camp Spring Creek Susie van der Vorst is overjoyed about the partnership. “The kids from OpenDoors had the most integrity and the best manners of any campers I’ve ever seen,” she says. ”All the OpenDoors children were an asset to our program and taught us as much as we taught them. Everyone fit right in and it was great to see the OpenDoors kids getting to know the other campers and branching out to form friendships of their own.”

As a part of their study hall sessions at Camp Spring Creek, campers write letters home. The OpenDoors campers also wrote thank you letters to “sponsors” whose donations made the scholarships possible. “I am a better reader now and I met new people,” wrote one 7th grade child, “Thank you for helping me come here.” Another camper, age 10, wrote: “My reading is improving. My tutor is cool and she taught me cursive. I have made lots of friends here and some of them are from different places.” Their letters also included positive responses to new experiences they had at camp, such as whitewater rafting, paintball, swimming lessons, and woodshop.

For more information about services from OpenDoors, residents of Buncombe County can call 828-777-1135 or visit For information on teacher training, camp, or tutoring opportunities through Camp Spring Creek, call 828-766-5032 or visit

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."

Harlem Shake Meets Camp Spring Creek

Ladies and Gentlemen....drums, please... The Harlem Shake video has finally been accessed from our "archives" and is ready for public viewing. Help us celebrate the conclusion of another successful summer season at Camp Spring Creek by getting your groove on:


We're taking a week off (the blog). But posts will resume with a twice weekly schedule (occasional exceptions) next week. Thanks, as always, for following along!

Week 8 Reflections

The end of summer is always such a bittersweet time of year for us at Camp Spring Creek. We've saiStonesd our goodbyes and promised to keep in touch. We've cleaned and swept and cleaned some more. We've taken our last group photos and squeezed Mimi one last time (well, you guys did--we get to live with her all year!). But before all that, we did stick to business and wrap a few things up during Week 8 with:

  • Final testing
  • Making paste paper journals
  • Finishing up all our clay and woodshop projects
  • Selecting a Room Inspection winner daily (instead of at the end of the week) and rewarding them with freezy pops at lunchtime.

By now, our campers have headed down new paths...back home, readying for a new school year, dreaming of next summer. Our hearts are with you and please call or email us at any time!


Week 7 Reflections

CIT Greg at "Nerd Dance" We're in the home stretch of summer here at Camp Spring Creek and so much has happened, at times it feels like a blur. We said goodbye to campers Miles and Matthew last week and miss them both. Meanwhile, CIT Gregg (who came at the midpoint of summer), has been enjoying his new role and is thrilled that he got to overlap a little bit with Marco, who was our CIT for the first half of summer. These two first met a Camp Spring Creek as campers and have known each other for years! Greg has been helping out in the boy's cabins, assisting with lifeguarding, kitchen prep, and sometimes even woodshop and art. "I’ve been taking a lot of kids down to breakfast in the morning or helping them get ready for bed at night," Greg said. "I also make sure they brush their teeth and make their beds right."

Here's the run down of last week's news:

  • Rain, rain, and more rain. But still, we swim! We hike! We laugh!
  • Campers have been making ceramic mugs and vases in Art class and finishing up bird houses, doll houses, and bird feeders in the Woodshop.
  • We changed our Outdoors Class around a bit. Rather than having this class peppered throughout the day with small groups of campers, we now enjoy Outdoor Class together. For the final period of classes, everyone in camp gathers and chooses from several outdoor options, giving them exposure to more fun activities over a longer span of time. Lately, we've been offering rock climbing, paintballing, water polo, hiking, and basic lifeguarding skills. After Outdoor Class, everyone piles inside for Study Hall to wind down our day before dinnertime.
  • Epic games of Capture the Flag still continue...
  • And our "Announcements" song has gotten a makeover. We still have 7 verses going (one for every week of camp), but we've changed them up a bit and moved things around to keep it interesting. Phew! Just singing the song is a workout in and of itself!
  • This weekend we camped at the McDowell Nature Preserve, went wild with whitewater rafting, and even experimented with ziplining and mega jumping. Who knew there we so many different ways to have a roarin' good time--and with good friends, too!
  • Sunday, everyone went on the infamous hike to the top of the property, which involves 2-3 hours of brave bushwhacking through nettles and brambles (it's fun, we swear!). Up top, we took a break, then took the easy way home down an old logging road. Great job, everyone! Time to hit the showers!
  • Sunday night concluded with an impromptu game of poker between the boys' cabins. In the end, the winning camper earned his prize by deciding that the boys in the losing cabin would make his bed every morning for an entire week!
  • Another bonus has been Chef Kevin and Nurse Kelly's sweet, lab puppy named Oliver ("Ollie" for short). Mimi's a giant compared to this lil' pup but we have a feeling that by next summer, these two will be unstoppable giants. It's been delightful to watch them "growing up" together at camp this summer and we'll try to post a photo soon.

Week 6 Reflections

We're a day late getting last week's "reflections" to you, but hopefully camp photographer Anina van der Vorst's slide show kept you going while we were busy having fun. Here's the skinny on last week's adventures:

  • Our Trail of Pages is epic! During Week 6 of camp we read a total of 3,307 pages and 52 books!
  • Cabin Inspection continues to be a healthy rivalry. Week 6 went to the Senior Boys cabin and they haven't decided yet what they want their "treat" to be, but they're considering paintball.
  • We said our tearful goodbyes to tutor Chris, C.I.T. Marco, and campers Ana, Olivia, and Tyler last week. Safe travels home and keep us close to your hearts. We miss you already!
  • Buddy Beads have been effusive lately! For those who don't know, each day after lunch we take a moment to offer "Buddy Beads" to someone special. If someone made your day, or impressed you, or went out of their way to do extra work, or even just made you smile and gave you a hug at the right time, you can celebrate that person (camper, staff, tutor, counselor - even Mimi!) by offering them a "Buddy Bead" after lunch. You raise your hand and tell everyone in camp about the special act that someone did, and they get a bead and a round of applause.
  • It's also book mania particular, camper Miles and his tutor are totally hooked on Warrior's Apprentice, a novel. Camper Janusz can't keep his nose out of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Of course, both stopped long enough to partake in last weekend's adventures...
  • On Friday, we had an all-camp dance with a "Black & White" theme.
  • Saturday, we hiked to Wilson's Creek with high hopes of the great, natural swimming holes there. However, a last minute downpour saw the already high waters rise up and over the ledge we like to sit on (that's 4 feet higher than normal!), so we were rained out of the swimming hole. We made the best of it on the natural rock slides down into a lower, deep pool, however, and then hiked our wet selves back to the vans.
  • Sunday, we went to Tom's Creek and everyone washed their hair in the waterfall! We concluded our weekend with bowling at Lightning Lanes and our weekly ice cream sundaes, before ending with study hall.
  • Everyone continues to get different, private tutoring sessions with Orton-Gillingham methods--so it's difficult to explain who is doing what. Suffice it to say that everyone is still tapping for sounds and chunking for syllables, an exercise they'll take home with them and hopefully practice throughout the school year.
  • Last but not least: LETTERS! Some of the kids have started writing letters to the parents of their counselors and sending them all over the world. A few have even been at camp long enough to receive letters in reply. There's just barely enough time left to get real mail to us at camp, so send away! (If for some reason a camper misses your mail, we'll gladly forward it.)

Week 5 Reflections

Rain, rain, and more rain! Even if you don't live in this part of the United States, there's a good chance you've been hearing weather news broadcasts about the record-breaking precipitation we've experienced. Last week, we had one evening that wasn't pouring down...thankfully, our spirits aren't down at all. The "new" group of campers who arrived at the mid-point of summer have fit right into the routine and are cruising along without missing a beat. Here's a recap of some of last week's highlights:

  • The great thing about the rain is that we're getting really creative with ways to spend our time indoors. We've had Bingo night and board game night already! The skies did part once this week, and we snuck in a rousing outdoor game of Capture the Flag.
  • It's been a bit too wet to mow and weed whack, so Olson has been keeping busy moving things around with the tractor and doing trash runs to town.
  • The Harlem Shake found its way to...the Camp Spring Creek pool. There's rumor of a video, but with no Internet access at the camp and closed roads in town, getting to a wi-fi connection strong enough for video is a bit tricky this summer, so you'll have to use your imagination on this one...
  • Lilja is seeing great progress in the pool with daily swimming lessons. There has even been an early morning swim crew that meets from 6-6:30am for a little exercise. Way to go, campers!
  • Those who aren't swimming first thing in the morning have been going on runs along one of the wooded trails...and a few even race down the gravel road on the mountain (and back up) to get their hearts going as the sun rises. Wow!
  • We started telling a joke a day at breakfast and the campers have been cracking up at their own, cleverly created dyslexia jokes. Here's one from a few days ago: "Somebody just heard that ten out of two people have numerical dyslexia..."
  • On Friday, we headed to Parkway Playhouse for some live theatre and received four compliments on the campers' polite behavior.
  • We spent Saturday at Lake James, hosted by camper Emily's family (they are so gracious!). We played and splashed all day long, doing every kind of water sport you can imagine: paddle boarding, paddle boating, wake boarding, you name it! We had lunch and dinner together on the lake, and came home delightfully exhausted.
  • On Sunday, we faced another huge downpour, so we drove to town to catch up on laundry (no use using the clotheslines!). Some campers decided to stay at camp and bake cookies with Chef Kevin. The evening ended with movie night and a slide show by camp photographer, Nina van der Vorst.
  • Last but not least, Mimi the camp dog looked like a tie-dye t-shirt all week because, as we were painting the walls of the new dance area, she kept rubbing up against the wet paint.

Week 4 Reflections

Week Four was full of fun and a healthy balance of looking our finest (the Formal Dinner) and getting completely muddy (going spelunking). Here's a list of highlights:

  • We're coming off of 10 consecutive days of rain! But all the roads are open now and though the creeks are still high, we were able to get out and about this weekend for our much-anticipated adventures.
  • Awards were handed out this week to campers who were leaving, and included recognition for: Best Typist, Mr. Odipherous Feet, Mr. Gentleman, Mrs. Huggable, Mrs. Slow-Mo-Jo, and Mrs. Best Big Sister.
  • The camp fave dessert this week was, hands down, CHEESECAKE!
  • After our formal dinner, which included candle-lit tables and sparkling apple cider, we changed back into our everyday clothes and hosted a Skit Night filled with laughter.
  • And speaking of sweets, with a new crew arriving for the second half of summer, the illustrious candy bar treat awaits the first camper who can name everyone (including counselors) at lunch without a mistake.
  • Pics of this would have been impossible, so we'll just tell you that our spelunking adventure included getting to go across an in-cave lake on inflatable tubes!
  • Our famous "Announcements" song, which we sing everyday at lunch, just keeps getting longer and longer. We've added a verse for every week of camp, so you can long it's starting to take. Keep your fingers crossed for a forthcoming recording of our amazing vocal projections. :-)
  • This weekend was also changeover and the first time we tried "The Big Switch" on the same day. This involved many 4-week campers leaving at the same time that many more new campers arrived, for a grand total of 42 Camp Spring Creek kids all at one meal!
  • We welcomed 17 new 4-week campers including our youngest, at age 7. This includes a camper from Italy (English is his third language!), another from Tanzania, and 3 campers from our new partnership with Open Doors in Asheville. Of course, we have 2 campers here for all 8 weeks, and several others here for 6 weeks. It's a lively bunch!
  • We're also very excited to have a full Senior Boys Cabin going into the rest of the summer!