CAMP SPRING CREEK: Learning, friendship, fun
BAKERSVILLE – Husband-and-wife Steve and Susie van der Vorst met at camp, but years later it is a different camp that is the most significant part of their lives, as well as the lives of many others.
Susie and Steve founded Camp Spring Creek in Bakersville in 2003 on 80 acres next to conservation land to offer students with dyslexia and other language-based learning differences, including ADHD, a chance to learn and grow over the summer. It is one of only three residential summer camps in the United States for children with dyslexia.
“We foster each child’s independence and growth in a fun and challenging setting,” Susie said. “Learning positive social skills such as table manners is another part of our approach. At the end of the summer, campers are more confident not only academically, but socially, too.”
Campers at Spring Creek receive Orton-Gillingham instruction, a teaching approach specifically designed to help struggling readers by explicitly teaching the connections between letters and sounds.
The method also pioneered the “multisensory” approach to teaching reading, which is considered highly effective for teaching students with dyslexia. This means instructors use sight, hearing, touch and movement to help students connect language with letters and words.
The camp can host 35 campers at a time and has a total of 57 campers this year over two sessions, June 17-July 15 and July 15-Aug. 11, for ages 7 to 15. Campers go through a five-period day with eight counselors and 10 tutors while doing their laundry and keeping their cabins clean and neat. Facilities at Camp Spring Creek include the main lodge, dining hall, art barn, woodshop, swimming pool, campers’ cabins, climbing wall and a zip line. There are six campers’ cabins, and children are grouped by gender and age.
Counselors at Camp Spring Creek come from all over the world – some are dyslexic and serve as positive role models for our campers. Counselor Colin Foley, 20, of Spartanburg, South Carolina, is one of the many former campers who come back as a counselor. He came to Camp Spring Creek after his fifth-grade year.
“I did really well in school until fifth grade, and then my grades just dropped off,” Foley said. “I was told medication would help – it didn’t. I came here and was taught an entirely different style of learning. There is just something about this place that makes you want to learn. I think it’s the mountains and these beautiful views.”
Former campers coming back to work as counselors is important, Foley said.
“I was a kid with dyslexia, so I know what they’re going through,” he said. “I can tell when kids don’t want to talk about it and I help them open up about it. I remember I didn’t ever want to talk about it. The campers feel like they can open up here because they are all the same. I convince these kids to use the wonderful resources available to them at this camp, and it helps a lot. Coming here put me on the path to go to other places that put me on the path to college.”
Foley has just finished two years at Spartanburg Methodist College and will begin his junior year at the University of South Carolina-Upstate. He is majoring in history and works as a substitute teacher and as an afterschool care provider at his former middle school.
“The principal at my middle school is the teacher who told me I need medication,” Foley said. “I wonder what she thinks about me teaching there now.”
Jeppe Thanning, of Denmark, is one of the many counselors from overseas who have worked at Camp Spring Creek – there are children from 11 foreign countries attending this year’s camp. Thanning was a counselor in 2014 and 2015 and is taking a trip to the United States this year with his girlfriend, Pernille Bavnsgaard.
“I wanted to come back here and stay for a few days while we are here,” Thanning said. “I wanted to come back and see everyone.”
Camp Spring Creek this summer has campers and counselors from around the world, such as St. Croix, Cayman Islands, Australia, Austria, the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, France, Mexico and Nicaragua.
Visit www.campspringcreek.org or call 828-688-100 for more information.