Camp photos provided by Kristine Lorefice
Summer camp is one of those 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 Team Camp because we saw how important—and how therapeutic—it can be for young people to experience and enjoy nature up close. 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 Team Camp was a tremendous success.
Team Camp is co-ed and open to a broader age range than our other programs. We accept young people ages 13 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 camp is 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 at campsite chats, while hiking, or during any number of other outdoor activities. Team Camp 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
Summer in the Sierras
Our Aspen Network Summer Camp takes place for two weeks each July in the scenic Sierra Nevada Mountains near Lake Tahoe. Camp is all about experiencing the natural wilderness and its beauty along with boating, hiking, rafting, backpacking, swimming, singing around the campfire, and lots more. All activities are tailored especially for young people with social differences who would like to enjoy time with peers and feel a part of something. At our camp they feel included and accepted because they truly are. It is a genuinely warm and welcoming environment in which our campers 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 campers.
Each year, staff and campers venture away from the camp’s lodge a couple of times for a two-night backpacking experience. During this time, our enthusiastic staff increases so we have a high ratio of staff to young people. While in the wilderness, we 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 wilderness 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-initiated bonds can be deep and remain long after camp is over. Our camp reunions are wonderful to witness.
What does an typical day at camp look like?
8:00 – Wake-up call
8:30 – Breakfast
9:15 – Preparation for the day: a close-up look at the daily plan
9:30 – Morning stretch and mindful beginnings
10:00 – Morning teaching/learning
11:00 – Activity of the day
12:00 to 5:00 – Lunch and finishing activity of the day
5:30 – Dinner prep
6:00 – Dinner
7:00-8:00 – Breakout groups for teaching/learning
8:00-8:45 – Board games/music/pool/electronics
9:00 – Quiet time
10:00 – Lights low or out
Meg and Michael Fields are both registered nurses who can anticipate, monitor, and attend to campers’ needs regarding medications and foods. As parents of a son with Asperger’s syndrome, the Fields understand a parent’s concern. In case of any medical emergency, Tahoe Forest Hospital is close by in Truckee, California.
So, when’s the next Team Camp?
Camp dates change slightly each year, but specifics—as well as all the application materials—are available in the Apply for Camp section.