Quotes & Testimonials

In her Own Words: Melisa Cadell

10922796_10205501423205779_7271365317249866035_n“The biggest thing for Ben at camp was that he was surrounded by other children with dyslexia and so he found kids who look at the world in the same ways that he does. It was an amazing time where there was no stigma attached to him. Instead, the message was that you have to advocate for yourself and remember that the sky is the limit. It was amazing, as a mother, to watch him go through that. He came home and told me, ‘Now I don’t feel like I’m stupid.’ He’s had that thought since first grade, but now he doesn’t. There truly is a stigma with this kind of thing in the schools, but now, Ben knows that he learns differently and he knows he has strengths.” —Melisa Cadell, artist, parent of Camp Spring Creek camper Ben

(Read Ben’s full story in our front page feature right here.)

In His Own Words: Conor Lennon

Today's blog is a guest post from first-time counselor at Camp Spring Creek, Conor. Thanks, Conor, for all your hard work and heartfelt reflections. We're so glad you're here!

DSCF0618So it’s been four weeks since camp officially started and this year’s crop of campers descended on Camp Spring Creek. I’ve now been in North Carolina a little over a month, and can honestly say it has been the quickest five weeks I have ever experienced. At the same time--and I’m aware of how contradictory this sounds--when I think back over everything that has happened since I touched down in Charlotte, it feels like I must have been here for months. Maybe even years. Since I arrived, I have acquired an American Red Cross qualification in lifeguarding and CPR (thanks to our very patient and understanding instructor), attended a genuine sidewalk street dance in Bakersville, experienced 4th of July as the Americans celebrate it and, as well as countless others, met the most amazing group of people (campers, counselors and tutors) I’ve ever encountered.

That’s what really sets this camp above its larger counterparts. Hidden up in the mountains, with no television, Internet or cell phone connection, camp becomes its own little secluded community. As I write this, we consist of approximately fifty-two people; thirty campers, eight counselors, seven tutors, assorted members of staff, and the van der Vorst family.

Before we continue, I would like to apologize for the frequent references to the passing of time in this post--how many weeks camp has been up and running, how long it has been since I arrived, the length of time until camp wraps up, etc. The reason I mention it so often is because I truly cannot believe both how fast time is passing and how much is being achieved in that time. It’s almost as if, in our little dyslexia-orientated enclave in the Blue Ridge Mountains, time is passing differently than in the rest of the world. Having such a small, intimate camp means that during the course of the last four weeks (I did warn you) I’ve really gotten to know all of the campers personally, as well as forging extremely tight bonds with my fellow counselors and colleagues. Though it can be difficult at times, I couldn’t have asked for a better or more diverse group of kids for which to be responsible.

All the children have very different personalities and skill-sets and it’s enthralling to watch as these traits slowly become apparent as camp goes on and the campers grow in confidence. As cliché as it sounds, I have probably learned more from this bunch of 6 to 15 year olds than they have from me. It can be extremely humbling to become engrossed in a debate about education, history, or even philosophy, only to realize part-way through that you are having this very mature discussion with a twelve-year-old (and even more humbling when said twelve-year-old reveals they are at least as knowledgeable, or even more knowledgeable, about the subject than you are!).

Despite only meeting them three weeks ago, the thought that many of these kids will be leaving this [last] week is a source of genuine distress to my fellow counselors and I, which is a testament to both the campers and Camp Spring Creek as a whole. Though we’re not even halfway through our stay at camp, several of the counsellors (including myself) have already decided that we would like to return again next year, provided Susie and Steve will take us back, of course!

Before I arrived in North Carolina I was, quite frankly, at a loss as to what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and where I wanted to go. Already, I can say that choosing to become a counselor at Camp Spring Creek is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I’ve learned an awful lot about myself that I never would have known if I’d stayed at home and it has given me some real direction as to what I want to do after the summer. I remember reading a previous entry on this blog prior to my arrival at camp that described a summer at Camp Spring Creek as "the hardest fun I’ve ever had," pretty much summing up my last few weeks in six words.

And I wouldn’t change a thing.

In Her Own Words: Photographer Anina van der Vorst

Our photographer (and beloved daughter) launches her own business! If you ever wondered what it's like to grow up at a summer camp, I am the perfect person to ask. Being the daughter of Susie and Steve, I have spent practically every summer of my existence tucked away in the mountains of North Carolina at Camp Spring Creek. When Camp Spring Creek was founded, I was only five years old and the campers seemed like giants to me. Since then, I have filled the role as camper, dishwasher, kitchen helper, art assistant, typing teacher, and--as of two summers ago--photographer.

When I am taking photos at camp, it is important for me to capture the moments that will be remembered in the campers' minds forever. I find it important to capture the friendships that are formed, confidence that is built, and learning that is inspired. I look for the secret moments of an older camper helping a younger camper cross the creek, or teammates cheering each other on during a relay race in swimming. These moments, along with composition and lighting, are what make great photos.

When thinking back to the photos that I have taken this previous summer, one in particular comes to mind as one of my favorites. It is a picture of a fourth-year camper who, for the first time that year, decided she would give wakeboarding a try in Lake James. After getting up on the wakeboard for a few seconds, her confidence soared to the sky and I am so happy that I was able to capture that moment she will remember for the rest of her life. This photo is an example of how photography requires the photographer to be in the right place at the right time. As always, even with thousands of photos from the summer, there are always so many moments that were never captured on camera. That is one of my favorite parts about being the photographer at camp. In a way, I get to choose what parts of camp get displayed to the whole world, and which moments will be locked away in the camper’s minds.

Photography is a medium that is constantly changing, and there are always new things to learn. During my recent trip to the Netherlands, I got to spend some quality time with my aunt, who is also a photographer, learning tips and tricks as well as learning the different effects of using portable reflectors. As well as spending time with my aunt, I was able to learn a few tricks using Photoshop with my uncle, who is a graphic designer. Experimentation has also been a great tool to help me develop my “style.” This past fall, I launched my own photography business as a way for me to practice and gain experience in the photography field. Business has slowed down during the cold winter, but I already have a session scheduled for the spring. I am excited for another summer doing what I love in a place that I love. Camp Spring Creek is where my heart is, and I am so excited to give back to this organization that has filled my summers with adventure and friendships since I was five.


In Her Own Words: Lesley, parent

Susie and Winston during our most recent Camp Show. "My husband and I talked with our son Winston about how being dyslexic doesn’t mean he isn’t smart, simply that he has to find learning strategies that work for him. But I don’t think that really took hold until he was in an environment where all the kids were in the same boat. Camp Spring Creek was an extremely positive experience for him. Winston returned home with a lot more confidence and higher self-esteem, which has translated into being a better self-advocate and improved grades at school. ” (Lesley Toutain, Winston's mom)

In Their Own Words: Lessons Learned by 2014 Campers

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 4.56.03 PMWe'll have more tutorial/training videos very soon. Meantime, here are the last of our camper quotes from this summer's survey, which included the following question: "Describe the most surprising thing you learned about yourself while at Camp Spring Creek." Here are some of our favorite responses: "I never knew that I am good at art. I never knew that I would not be homesick." (Chase)

"How I say 'a' when I read." (Stefan)

"That I like reading." (K.K.)

"I'm better at things when I try them more than once. I also didn't think I would be good at archery but I was." (Caroline)

"I can improve on my butterfly stroke. The first and second years that I came, I did terrible in the butterfly stroke. But now that it is my third year, I have gotten much better." (Emily)

"That I can stay for a month, even though it was hard." (Jesse)

"That I love typing a lot and I like putting photos on my flashdrive." (Tommy)

"I learned about TI-GER words. I learned that I can swim faster. It was also a surprise that I could finish the color run." (Chase)

"I didn't realize that I would like woodshop and that I could make so many things and draw so much and be able to accomplish most of the strokes in swimming and to be competitive about a lot of things and be really good at sports and really like to play." (Michelle)

"That I can wakeboard really well!" (Janusz)

"That when I try my hardest, I can get it right and I can make the A/B honor roll." (Cynia)

"I can do a back dive. I can make a pizza. I can bake cookies." (Jazel)

"I have learned that I like to build things out of wood. I have also made friends and have better manners at the table." (Ana)

"I thought that reading was boring, but it was fun. I thought that writing was boring, but it was fun." (Brooke)

In Her Own Words: Sinem Kaplan, Camp Counselor

We briefly surveyed some of our camp staff at the end of this summer and would like to share some of their inspiring responses. This week's reply comes from Sinem. Here's what she had to say: Camp Spring Creek: Explain some of your impressions as a Counselor for Camp Spring Creek. What proved most challenging? What proved most rewarding?

Sinem Kaplan: The most challenging part for me was language and communication, since English isn't my first language. The most rewarding part was when a kid comes and hugs me. That was the best feeling I have ever had. Campers' loves and trusts motivated me a lot. CSC: As a role model to young campers, what were you most surprised by once you got to know the campers and felt comfortable in your role as Camp Counselor?

SK: The suprising part was some rules that put distance between counselors and the campers, for appropriateness, because they were away from their families for a long time for their young ages. We were their families at the camp. I don't remember any difficulties about being a good role mDSC_0617odel to the campers. Sometimes it was hard to be patient, [smile], but I was able to handle it.

CSC: Where are you now and what are you up to? (Job, school, city, country.)

SK: I am in Istanbul, Turkey. It's my last year at university and I will be an English teacher next year.

CSC: Finally, if you have a fave photo that you took this summer, please share it with us.

SK: Here's my photo. Love to all from Turkey!


In Her Own Words: Marguerite van der Vorst, Camp Counselor (& more)

PastedGraphic-1We briefly surveyed some of our camp staff at the end of this summer and would like to share some of their inspiring responses. This week's reply comes from camp daughter Marguerite, who has also served as lifeguard, counselor, and all-around helper and motivator. Here's what she had to say: Camp Spring Creek: Explain some of your impressions as a Counselor for Camp Spring Creek. What proved most challenging? What proved most rewarding?

Marguerite van der Vorst: As a camp counselor there were both rewards and challenges. It might sound cliche, but the most challenging part of camp was watching all the children who I had grown so close to, leave. There were other challenging parts of course, but nothing as challenging as their departure. The most rewarding part was watching the kids improve not only in their academics, but also in their self-confidence and, for me, their swimming and water skiing abilities. Seeing that sparkle in their eyes when they achieved something they didn’t think they could just melted my heart.
CSC: As a role model to young campers, what were you most surprised by once you got to know the campers and felt comfortable in your role as Camp Counselor?
MV: I was most surprised by the connections I built with the campers so quickly. I knew I would grow close to them over time, but never realized that in four weeks they would feel like family. On a humorous note, I was surprised at how well I could deal with vomit and sick children.:)
CSC: Where are you now and what are you up to? (Job, school, city, country.)
MV: Right now I am currently in school at UNC Wilmington. I just started my sophomore year and couldn’t be busier. I just got accepted into the Honors College which added to my workload. I also have gotten quite involved with my sorority and plan to run for Scholarship Chair in December.
CSC: Finally, if you have a fave photo that you took this summer, please share it with us.
MV: I couldn’t choose between the two, so enjoy both!

In Their Own Words: Advice from 2014 Campers

DSC03473In a short survey conducted at Camp Spring Creek this summer, we asked campers to write down what advice they would give new, incoming campers. Their responses were a delight. Here are a few of our favorites: "Eat your salad early!" (Jack)

"Stay behind the barrels in paintball." (Milton)

"Do you laundry when you still have clean clothes left." (Bruce)

"Four weeks is not that much, so don't think about your mom and dad a lot." (Chase E.)

"Double-check what the counselors say." (Stefan)

"Be prepared to work." (Ethan)

"Always have a positive attitude and never let the bad times get to you. Be yourself. Don't think that your learning disability is a punishment. It's an amazing gift." (Emily)

"Don't be afraid, because everyone's your friend here." (Michelle)

"Make lots of friends!" (Cynia)

"Don't think about home." (Jazel)

"Eat your salad!" (Chase O.)

"Bring a swim cap and drawers for your clothes!" (Caroline)

"Try your best." (Morgan)

"Be kind to everyone and work hard so you can keep the stuff you have learned. Also, you'll have very good memories and listen to the counselors." (Ana)

In His Own Words: Jeppe Thanning, Camp Counselor

Today’s post is a message from much-loved Camp Spring Creek counselor Jeppe Thanning. After camp, Jeppe traveled for 3 weeks and then returned to his home country of Denmark. He just moved to a city called Aalborg to study Social Science at the university. His (American) football team, Triangle Razorback, just qualified for its 10th straight semifinal. Here’s Jeppe, in his own words: Camp spring Creek is a place with a lot of passion and pride for the things it does. I was really happy when Susie and Steve gave me the opportunity to come to camp and experience that firsthand. I don’t think many people realize how hard the van der Vorsts work; it is incredible. I can’t talk about this summer without mentioning the great staff we had. We had so much fun as a group and I think that was part of our success! It was wonderful to meet a lot people from all over the world. I remember that after one week of camp I thought: This is going to be a lot of hard work, but it’s going to be worth it!

A typical day for a counselor started 15 minutes before we woke up the kids and we were on duty from that moment forward. We helped the kids get ready for the day and assisted those who needed extra help. Then came all the fun!

I personally loved reading hour. I loved listening to the kids read and hear how they improved over the summer. Reading hour was also a good way to get closer with the kids. Counselors also helped in the woodshop, art room or by being lifeguards at the pool until the late afternoon, during “Outdoors” period, which involved new activities every day. Every counselor had a couple of periods off every day, but mine were often spent walking around watching swim classes or hanging in the woodshop. I was really impressed with the level of creativity the kids had in the woodshop. Later, when the kids had study hall, counselors often spent the time with lifeguard practice or meetings. Then we all tried a new activity every single night after dinner. My favorite activity was going to Bakersville to play Capture the Flag (and I think a lot of campers loved that, too). After the evening activity, the kids had a little cabin time before bedtime.

There’s no doubt that working at CSC as a counselor is hard work, but it is totally worth it! It was so rewarding to help the kids and see them improve in so many ways. Some off the kids needed a “big brother” at camp—someone they could trust and rely on—and I can’t think of a bigger compliment than when a kid picks you! I got so close to those campers in particular that they felt like my actual younger brothers and sisters.

One thing that sometimes felt a little tricky about being a counselor and a role model was the age difference between the campers. Some campers needed teenage advice, while others needed a little help with practical stuff. Some needed a firm counselor. Every camper is unique and should therefore be treated a little differently. I used a lot of the experience I have from my former job at a school for ADHD kids, so it felt kind of natural for me to try and see the strength in every child as well as help them with their weaknesses. I hope the campers learned something from me, because I learned a lot from them.

To all the campers: Thank you for making my summer a great one! You guys are always welcome to send me an email or a letter and I promise to write you back!