Camp photos provided by Kristine Lorefice
Creating COVID-Safe Experiences: Camps and retreats are a great way to begin new conversations and are rites of passage that many children with social differences miss. And if their parents do send them, with the best of intentions, the children often experience failure. They may feel unsafe, may be bullied. Yes, camp can be a hurtful disaster, further confirming a child’s sense of isolation, inadequacy, and fear.
We started our Camps & Retreats because we saw how important—and how therapeutic—it can be for young people to experience and enjoy nature and social gatherings. Initially, we began with a group of young people who wanted to attend camp, some with social differences and some without, and from the beginning Aspen Network’s outings were a tremendous success.
Aspen Network is co-ed and open to a broader age range than our other programs. We accept young people ages thirteen to late twenties, pending application approval. We carefully organize age-appropriate topics and breakout groups for different ages and maturity levels. We have years of experience addressing the differing interests of our campers and have an excellent, well-trained staff that is sensitive to these interests.
Tiny steps to new successes
Our Camps & Retreats are designed to be a safe, comfortable and appropriately challenging adventure. It is rich with teachings, seminars, and small working groups, always with a problem-solving, solution-oriented approach. Much of the learning happens informally during chats, while hiking, or during any number of other activities. Aspen Network is a highly supportive environment in which bullying or other negative actions or words are simply not tolerated. We focus on building the following practical life skills in a fun, learn-by-doing setting:
• Social skills
• Physical activity and endurance
• Leadership skills
• Friendships and camaraderie
• Meeting challenges
• Making smart decisions
• Meeting personal goals
Year round opportunities
Our Aspen Network Camps & Retreats take place throughout the year. Aspen Network is all about experiencing nature and its beauty along with hiking, swimming, and lots more. All activities are tailored especially for young people with social anxieties who would like to enjoy time with peers and feel a part of something. At our Camps & Retreats they feel included and accepted because they truly are. It is a genuinely warm and welcoming environment in which our people are appreciated for who they are.
Meg and Mike Fields are both seasoned, life-long campers, and their love of the great outdoors is infectious. Our trained staff, college-age and recent college graduates, are specially selected because they have an interest in and a heart for youth who may have been socially isolated for a variety of reasons. We have a staff who are willing to address their own challenges and share their personal stories with attendees.
We have a high ratio of staff to young people. On occasion we may include an overnight experience and teach everything from nutrition to how to put up a tent. And in everything we teach teamwork. You can’t put up a tent by yourself, so campers learn to rely on peers, and their social interactions evolve naturally. The overnight experience, with its inherent stresses and struggles, is a uniquely transformative one that can allow healthy new feelings to emerge and new relationships to become possible. And we’ve seen that those camp/retreat-initiated bonds can be deep and remain long after our Camps & Retreats are over. Our Camps & Retreat reunions are wonderful to witness.
So, when’s the next Aspen Network Retreat or overnight experience?
Camp dates change slightly each year and continue to evolve seasonally, but specifics—as well as all the application materials—are available in the Apply for Camps & Retreats section. Our offerings often follow academic breaks, and are year round.
If you would like to know more or sign up for our next event, please email Meg Fields, Psy.D., RN: [email protected]