5th Grader Fundraises for Camp Spring Creek

We made the front page!

This feature article was originally published on the front page of the Mitchell County News. We’ve omitted the camper’s last name and for this online version, but are delighted to share Ben’s exciting news and support him in his selfless donation campaign to help send a friend to Camp Spring Creek. Please read this touching story, and spread the word if you feel inspired. Our campers never cease to amaze us and Ben’s hard work might just pay off!

Spruce Pine, North Carolina – January 30, 2015 – Ben, a 5th grade student at Bowman Middle School, launches a county-wide campaign to raise $3,350 to send a fellow student with dyslexia to Camp Spring Creek in Bakersville, NC.

At the end of Ben’s 4th grade school year, his tutor and co-founder of Camp Spring Creek, Susie van der Vorst rewarded him with the opportunity of a lifetime: In recognition of Ben’s hard work as a dyslexic student struggling with reading, the Camp Spring Creek Board of Directors agreed to send Ben to camp for 4 weeks as a day student, completely free of cost. The gift was valued at a little over $6,700—a financial impossibility for Ben’s family. He graciously accepted the gift.

Recently, Ben decided to pay that gift forward by raising funds to help a fellow student with dyslexia attend camp. “I’m dyslexic and there are other kids like me at school. I went from the C list to the A/B honor roll this year,” says Ben. “At camp, I learned that I could achieve things. I didn’t even think I could start typing. I could barely read. I thought that I was stupid. I want to help raise money for kids at my school or other schools around Mitchell County to help them so they can go to camp and experience what I experienced.”

Susie and Steve van der Vorst, co-directors of the camp, have agreed that the camp will supply matching funds to cover half the tuition for up to two local children. If Ben’s fundraising efforts raise $3,350, one child can attend Camp Spring Creek as a day student for 4 weeks. Double that, and two Mitchell County children with dyslexia could receive guidance, tutoring, confidence-building, and outdoor experiences specifically catered to meet the unique needs of children with dyslexia—a learning difference that affects 1 in 5 children worldwide. Although the cost of day camp did not increase this year, it remains high because of the level of training the staff and tutors attain, in addition to one-on-one programming.

This school year, Ben is excelling, in no small part because of his team of 5th grade teachers at Bowman and the tangible gains he made at camp. Camp Spring Creek is one of only three certified camps in the United States that offers Orton-Gillingham tutoring, a specialized approach that teaches the structure of language using multi-sensory learning experiences. Ben’s reading abilities leapt two grade levels in just 4 weeks of camp, and now he enjoys books at the 5th and 6th grade mark. “What blows me away is that now I’m reading these sports books about people who didn’t believe in themselves but ended up growing up to be All Stars. Also, one of my favorite books is Summer of the Monkeys.” In addition to an academic and outdoor curriculum, the camp emphasizes community, social skills, and building self-confidence by teaching children to advocate for themselves. “It felt really good to see that there were other kids like me at camp,” says Ben. “I got to meet people from all over the world—Janusz was from South Africa and one person was Danish and there was a girl there from Turkey…”

To date, Mike Brown Subaru Dealership has donated $200 to the cause and also posted a video on Facebook that went viral—yielding thousands of hits. Arts Centered of Bakersville has joined the pledge, with several other promises for support coming in via email. Melisa Cadell, Ben’s mother, has been helping Ben learn about how to approach businesses. “Ben told me he thought he could write a letter talking about some of his struggles,” says Cadell. “We worked on the letter and I wrote one as well. I wanted the experience to be powerful for Ben, but I also wanted it to be powerful for people who received the letters. We knew that meant the letters should be hand-delivered.”

Together, Ben and his mother have been driving around town. Ben enters the business and presents his best introduction, then share his letter. The accompanying letter from Cadell emphasizes that Ben is not only asking for funds, but also offering to present to local business or organizations, such as the Rotary Club, so that more people become informed about dyslexia. “The stigma that my son and other dyslexic students are finding the most difficult to maneuver is that they are often categorized as unable to learn at the normal classroom pace,” says Cadell. “Reading is such an important component in testing and because of this, dyslexic students are often retained and or placed in classes that do not expect much from them. The students are aware that the classes are leveled and they know when they are being moved around because of something ‘different.’ We are fortunate that Ben has amazing an amazing team of teachers that have really gone out of their way.”

Still, Ben will likely spend much, if not all, of his education years working many times harder than children without learning differences simply to “keep up” in an education system that lacks proper funding to access to the best learning models. Although equal education for children with dyslexia has been federally mandated since 1975, in poorer districts of the country, progress is slow. “There are limited opportunities for the public schools in our area to assist these students due to the lack of public funding and properly trained tutors,” says Cadell. “Dyslexia is neurologically based and creates difficulties in processing of information. I’ve been on both sides, as a parent and as a former teacher, and I know that when each child requires a different method of learning, things in the classroom can get really complicated, really quickly.”

With a little more luck, effort, and compassionate giving, Ben might just reach his goal to send a fellow dyslexic child to Camp Spring Creek for one month. When asked if the second scholarship might be given to him, both Ben and his mother fervently declined. While they can’t afford to send Ben back to camp, their motivation remains focused on helping others. For information about the camp, to invite Ben to your business for a free dyslexia awareness presentation, or to make a donation toward the local scholarship, please call 766-5032 or visit this page.

 

In Her Own Words: Photographer Anina van der Vorst

Our photographer (and beloved daughter) launches her own business!

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.

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OG Associate Level Training in May

Come visit us this spring, and enjoy beautiful Roan Mountain, with alpine meadows in bloom.

Come visit us this spring, and enjoy beautiful Roan Mountain, with alpine meadows in bloom.

Interested in Associate Level Orton-Gillingham training? We currently have a training scheduled for May 15th through the 25th. The Associate Level Course is an intensive week-long course for individuals holding a bachelor‘s degree. It is the basic course in the Orton-Gillingham approach, enabling instruction with better understanding of the structure of language and multisensory teaching. The course comprises an in-depth introduction to phonology, structure of English, characteristics of dyslexia, multisensory teaching, assessment tools, grammar and written expression. It includes interactive demonstrations and activities using the OG method. A practicum is available upon request (additional cost), which includes observations and mentoring.

If you or someone you know is interested in receiving training, contact us today to begin the registration process or you can download the program details and registration form right here.

Curious about how it all plays out? Check out some of our training videos on our YouTube Channel.

Talk Radio Just for Us: “Dyslexia Talk”

Dyslexia Training Institute is now offering a free, great resource easily accessible through your phone, computer, or iPod. Their Blog Talk Radio show, “Dyslexia Talk,” is accessible here, with in-depth shows including everything from interviews to teacher spotlights. The have 14 episodes posted so far and we wanted to give them a “shout out” while there’s still time to catch up on anything you’ve missed, and subscribe so you don’t miss any more. According to their website, DTI’s “mission is to provide education about dyslexia, interventions for dyslexia (Orton-Gillingham) as well as how to navigate the educational system by understanding Special Education Law.” They offer online courses for parents, teachers, administrators, and more, and believe in bringing our broader LD and dyslexia communities together using all the advantages technology has to offer.

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Different Learners by Jane M. Healy

timthumb.phpPart reference book, part testimonial, camp co-director Susie recommends the book Different Learners as a go-to guide for parents navigating the waters of a child’s struggles in school. Whether social, classroom, or emotional differences arise, chances are good that author Jane M. Healy addresses them in her book.

From the Amazon book page: “Today’s fast-paced, stressed-out culture is hazardous to growing minds, says Healy, and a growing ‘epidemic’ of children’s disorders is the result. Different Learners offers a complete program not only for treating the child, but also for making more beneficial lifestyle choices at home and improving teaching techniques at school. It shows parents and caregivers how to prevent some learning difficulties from ever happening in the first place. It explains how to have your child evaluated if necessary, and, if a problem is found, how to evaluate various treatments. Different Learners explains how medications for attention and learning work in the brain and why they should not be the first step in most treatment programs. It shows how schools can actually worsen a child’s learning difficulties and how to make sure this doesn’t happen to your child. It even offers a program for ‘brain-cleaning’ that will help any child perform better in school.”

Video: Detached Syllable (part 2)

Here’s part 2 of our detached syllable drill video!

Watch as OG Fellow Susie van der Vorst works with a tutee to practice spelling detached syllables.

The video presents several teachable moments–a great guide for aspiring tutors

to consider as they work on best practices for teaching children on the spot.

 

Video: Detached Syllables (part 1)

Here’s the final installment of our Homeschool Retreat video series from last fall–a two-part video clip

demonstrating the auditory portion of spelling practice with detached syllables.

Every lesson provides a chance for a teachable moment,

and today’s video, as well as part 2 (forthcoming), are no exception:

 

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