This article was written by Kyle Neil who was a past summer Camp Counselor on our program.
There comes a time, once you’ve been through all the interviews, visa forms and staff training where you get your little folder at the start of the week that lets you know what campers you are going to have. There’s always that camper that nobody wants, you see their information sheet and you wince inside, look at your co-counselor and wonder why you got this camper. The possibilities are endless, maybe they have anger management issues or mental health problems or are from a troubled background. These campers are the most important, and speaking from experience I can let you know that they are the most rewarding.
I had a camper, who I’m not going to name and he had his fair share of complications that came with him. The most important thing you do when you see this however is that you don’t let it show that you know this, you let the parent know and ask if there is anything special you can do to work with them. I did this, which is how I learned that letting this camper interact with his brother wouldn’t help and instead would make things worse. I went through a lot this week, and with hope nobody reading this will need to go through what I had to. He resisted me, and he pushed me when I needed him to do things. He was my main priority in the cabin, he needed help finding clothes and sorting through clean and dirty clothes. Getting to and from activity areas he had been to ten times, I spoke to activity chiefs and made sure they knew about his needs and where I was if they needed me. I spoke to kids he shouted and yelled at to make sure they knew he didn’t mean what he was saying and that he didn’t know any better. At the end of the week people had noticed all the effort I had put into working with this boy that they offered to take him off my hands to give me a break, which I am sorry to say (especially with a kid with needs) it doesn’t work like that.
He listened to me, and it took me a lot of time to get him to listen to me. He listened to very few others, and part of the reason is these kids are used to being pawned off on others. People don’t want them to be their problem, but I’m going to say why despite all this these are the campers that make a summer special.
I saw a kid who could barely swim, hop in a corcl (round canoe) and go in a straight line faster than anyone else I saw at camp for the entire summer. He told me stories and jokes that made me laugh. He started as an angry boy who didn’t understand what he did wrong and turned into a boy who knew he was angry and wanted to change. He couldn’t tolerate others to someone who wanted to go out and make friends. Never say that a kid with needs is one you don’t want, for they are absolutely the one you want. I guarantee, after one week working with a kid like that and you’ll feel a level of pride you never knew existed.