Camp Helps Young Man Start a New Chapter


2018OpenDoors of Asheville is a remarkable non-profit organization that helps local children reach their potential with individual support and a host of educational and enrichment opportunities.  These opportunities are designed to help the children begin to invest in themselves and ultimately break the cycle of multi-generational poverty.

Since 2012 OpenDoors and Camp Spring Creek have worked as a team, co-funding several summer camp scholarships to help children get the spelling, reading and writing remediation they need. While at camp, the children are immersed in summer activities ranging from kickball to camping with other children and counselors from across the world.

1397Tyion Lucas just finished his 2nd summer at Camp Spring Creek. OpenDoors Board Member and Team Leader Denise Turner remembers hearing about Tyion’s fears concerning his participation in an upcoming spelunking adventure. Initially, he insisted he wasn’t going to repel into a dark cave, let alone jump into an underground lake. After discovering one of the staff members, who was also afraid, was going to participate, he decided to open himself to the possibilities. He believes his courage paid off. In addition to this adventure, Tyion tried other new things like whitewater rafting, Asheville’s Color Run 5K and glass blowing.

“Tyion learned a lot about himself during his eight weeks at camp,” Denise says. “At Camp Spring Creek, Tyion not only made academic gains, but also discovered the extent of his determination and perseverance.  He learned he was strong, confident and good at working with people. This year he was chosen to help younger kids with swimming.  That was a huge confidence boost for him as he was told he would be a good camp counselor someday.

Until recently, Tyion admitted he didn’t enjoy reading, believing it to be difficult. “I was so proud when he told me he read ten books over the course of the summer.  What impressed me most was that in listening to him talk about these books, and listening to him share analogies gleaned from his readings, I knew he drew meaning from the content, too.”

In a letter he wrote at the end of camp, he said, “I’m like the three little pigs, but I’m the one in the brick house. No one is going to blow my house down. I’m strong and confident. I’m going to keep going and do something. I’ll be back next year.  I want to be better.”

Denise and Tyion’s mother Sheila enjoys watching Tyion’s growth. “Tyion2795 continues to make progress and his confidence is growing,” Denise says.  “He’s got a great sense of humor and isn’t afraid to use it. At his school, he was asked to join the football team and is experiencing great success. A page is clearly being turned for Tyion. I can’t wait to see the next chapter.”

Camper Continues to Blossom Beyond Camp

Kelby FreshmanLike many parents, Laurie Clothier wasn’t quite sure what to do. Her daughter Kelby had been diagnosed with dyslexia. Laurie had secured a private tutor, but realized the tutor was only helping her keep up with her current workload; Kelby wasn’t making the progress she imagined.  The bright 7th grader was reading at a first grade level.

“Dyslexia turned our family around,” Laurie says. “I worked full-time, got home, and then spent another three or four hours with Kelby, trying to help her keep up with homework. I literally read her books with her.”

A Google search to find a summer program in Texas, where the family lived, was unsuccessful. Laurie widened her search, looking for programs where other family members lived. Camp Spring Creek, it turned out, was a two-hour drive from her father.

“After speaking with co-founder Susie van der Vorst, we made a leap of faith, and signed her up for the whole summer. It was scary, particularly because Kelby had never been away from home for more than a week.”

They saw huge improvements over the course of that first summer. A month slipped by, and Laurie opened Kelby’s weekly letter home. “I started crying,” she says. “It was the first letter where I could read every word, where every sentence was coherent.”

The transformation overjoys Laurie. “There was a time when Kelby lied about who she was. Camp Spring Creek helped her realize she’s not alone. This year, she has a new set of friends who accept her as she is.  She realizes she’s not stupid, and in fact, has been getting straight A’s. Although she still struggles somewhat with reading, she does most of her homework on her own now. She’s gained so much more confidence.

Beyond learning to read and write in a manner that corresponds to how she sees things, Laurie has seen other gifts emerge from Kelby’s time at camp. “Kelby was so excited to learn in a traditional summer camp setting where she got to play hard, too. Thanks to some of the camp’s program’s she becoming a budding photographer.”nikon 023

There are those who have wondered why Laurie has invested so much in a summer camp. Laurie is clear. “The way I look at it, I’m paying her college tuition now because without Camp Spring Creek, there’d be no way Kelby could be going to college. I was clear we needed to get her to read now. I’d pay it all again without the slightest hesitation. In fact, she’s going back to camp for one more season. She’s a completely different girl. Camp Spring Creek opened a whole new world for Kelby.  I’m eternally grateful.”

“Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child” Author Shares Her Dyslexia Experiences

Ah, the joy of serendipity!  A few weeks back, we posted an image on Facebook of one our campers reading,maria lennon something we often do. Here’s where the gift of serendipity comes in. The book Olivia was reading, Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child, was written by Maria Lennon, a friend of Tutor Susan Rutter Santaniello. Long story short, Susan shared the post with Maria, who just so happens to be dyslexic. Maria was happy to share her experiences as a child who struggled with dyslexia and as a mother of a dyslexic child.

Cover[1]Camp: Did you go to a private school or work with someone who helped you, or did you just struggle it out?

Maria: At first, I struggled. This was the 70s and not too many people were really aware of what dyslexia was. I went to a private K-12 school outside of Los Angeles called Chadwick and they were not prepared for someone like me or my two brothers. We all had learning difficulties and we were all bright and well aware of what the kids were saying about us. I heard “stupid” a lot. When I grew so frustrated I broke my pencil or tore my essay into shreds, I heard, “freak.” My brothers heard worse because they acted out more. Like most girls, I went inward and hated myself while my brothers tended to blast out the world.

Camp: What was the greatest challenge you faced as a child with dyslexia?

Maria: Shame. Thinking something was wrong with me. Stupid. Here’s the thing. Before people know you have learning differences, and REALLY can’t spell CAT, they think you’re being lazy or can’t be bothered to study or you don’t think it’s important. I know I felt that way about my son when he was in kindergarten and first grade. After an hour of going over the word group of CAT, HAT and MAT, I literally cried because he would spell HAT, HOT or HIT. Once I understood he REALLY couldn’t spell it because he couldn’t hear it, I was fine. I stopped being mad. I got help for him.

Camp Spring Creek: Did other kids make fun of you?

Maria:  Oh, yeah. By the time I was in third grade, things were really bad. I knew with certainty that I was the dumbest kid in my entire class. It’s funny, my son who is dyslexic and diagnosed with ADD also had the roughest time in third grade. I still remember the terror that spread through me when the teacher made eye contact. I would look away as fast as I could, close my eyes, and plead, “Oh God, no, please let her not call on me.”

It’s amazing the collateral damage of these so-called language-based learning difficulties. You don’t get picked on for sports teams for some reason. You don’t have tons of friends. You don’t have a lot of confidence. You, in many ways, learn to stand back and become an observer of life rather than a participant.

But then something amazing happened. My teacher, my amazing teacher SAW ME. Her name was Jean Wehrmeister and she was the first person who said to me, “JUST BECAUSE YOU SEE THE WORLD DIFFERENTLY DOESN’T MEAN YOU ARE STUPID.”

When the kids persisted in their calls of stupid and retard, she did an exercise in class and had everyone hold up a mirror on their paper and write what they saw. She told them this was the way dyslexics saw words and asked them to imagine how frustrating it must be. She was so ahead of her time.

Camp: What were some of the tricks you learned to help yourself?

Maria: I was extremely fortunate because my mother understood what was going on and took me and my brothers to educational therapists after school. I learned a number of tricks at the center I went to. My big area was dysgraphia so writing things from the board and onto my paper caused me great anxiety. My tutor, Jeanette Kowell, would teach me little tricks to double check my copying, like using my voice, saying things out loud so I could hear the words and remember that way as well. Looking back now, I realize that many of the so-called tricks she was teaching me really revolved around two basic concepts:

  • be patient with yourself
  • be kind to yourself

I believe these two very basic concepts helped me most.

Camp: Do you think you’ve discovered any benefits of being dyslexic?

Maria Lennon: Oh, God, yes. Everything I am most proud of about myself stems from being dyslexic. I am so determined. I am such a hard worker. I am used to putting in double the amount of time my friends put in to achieve the same results. And that’s okay. I am compassionate because I know what it feels like to struggle.  I am resourceful because I had to be all my life. I am an observer. I stand back and see things about people maybe others don’t see. All of these qualities have made me a better person, better mother and better writer.

Camp Spring Creek: You became a writer, something that’s so difficult for children with dyslexia – do you have any advice for them?

Maria Lennon:  One of my favorite things is to talk to kids about how hard writing is. It’s really hard. BUT, it seems like most kids with learning differences lean toward the creative. They have great ideas. They have compassion, which gives them insight into human nature. They are curious about others. That’s about 90% of being a writer. The rest is getting it onto paper and that can be taught. It just may take them longer than most. But who cares when what they see is so much brighter?

Camp: Any thoughts as a parent of a child with dyslexia?

Maria: My third child has dyslexia and ADD. He repeated kindergarten. In first grade, he couldn’t spell CAT and in second grade, he pretty much pulled his hoodie over his head and gave up. He was aware that he did not know the answer to anything. In his mind, he was the stupidest kid in the class and thought it was a secret he could hold onto if he could just hide in his sweatshirt. By third grade, he was hitting his head on the walls, hiding under his desk, in closets, running out of school. That’s when we did the first IEP with his school. When they couldn’t test for dyslexia or ADD, I called UCLA and we did outside testing.

He is now in fifth grade and this had been his best year so far. He says that doing the testing and being identified was the best that that happened to him. He learned he was not stupid and was, in fact, very smart, but saw things differently. Now he sees an educational therapist and is using the iPad for typing, which is great. The information he gets is broken down into smaller chunks. He is learning to ask for help. Kids might call him stupid, but he comes right back at them with ‘I’m not stupid; I have dyslexia.’ That shuts them up pretty quickly. I am so proud of him it makes me cry.

Camp: Most of us look back with nostalgia on our childhoods.  Any thoughts you’d like to share?

Maria:  When I published my first book in the Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child series, I got a message on Facebook. It started with ‘you probably don’t remember me, but I was your third grade teacher Mrs. Wehrmeister. I always knew you would do something special. I almost died. I wrote her back immediately and told her that not only did I remember her, I talked about her all the time. Every time I went to a school and talked to kids, I mentioned her name. It is the power of one person, my teacher, believing in me that made all the difference in my life.

Jean told me that she thought my next project should be for kids who struggle with reading. And guess what? That’s what we’re doing – an entire series of short, fun, adventure books for the kids who really have a hard time making the leap from graphic novels (think Wimpy Kid) to straight novels (think Harry Potter).  Never more than 180 pages, a single plot line and lightly illustrated. I am also building an interactive reading APP to help them read it on their tablets.

Don’t Miss Out on Dyslexia Awareness Month Activities with Diana Hanbury King

unnamed[1] (4)Next week is rapidly approaching and we’re looking forward to our weeklong visit with Diana Hanbury King. If you look at the attached flyer, you’ll see we’ve got some amazing options for teachers who are becoming O-G certified, teachers who want to learn more about what O-G looks like in the classroom, community members who want to learn more about dyslexia and its impact, and homeschool parents who want to be able to better assist their children who struggle with reading and writing.

A few spaces remain for the Certified Level Training on October 5th and 6th at Camp Spring Creek. This will be a rare opportunity to work with the renowned Ms. King who has transformed the lives of countless young people with dyslexia.

Please contact the office with any questions or for more information at or 828-766-5032.

We look forward to seeing you next week!

Camp Spring Creek Expands: Sue Wasserman Joins Team as Communications/PR Director

DSCF0049In case you’re wondering who this Sue Wasserman is whose name has begun appearing on Facebook and in the blog, I’m Camp Spring Creek’s new Communications/Public Relations Director. While we’re sad to see Katey leave, we’re excited that her writing career has reached new heights and is demanding more and more of her time. We’re grateful, too, that she’s helped Camp Spring Creek reach new heights.

I’ve actually known Susie and Steve since being a volunteer for their first camp painting party some 13 years ago, and have been in love with Camp Spring Creek’s mission since before they opened the doors. I have a diverse background in advertising, public relations, corporation communications and freelance writing. I’ve written for publications such as The New York Times, Southern Living, Atlanta Journal Constitution, American Style, etc.  Most recently, I self-published my first book, which combines my photography with a little inspiration courtesy of Mother Nature.

Community service is important to me – I took it upon myself in my latest corporate position to create an outreach program that involved 26 offices and more than 700 volunteers around the country.

Susie and Steve and I reconnected this past summer when they asked if I’d be interested in teaching writing for two weeks at camp. Having spent my high school and college summers as a camp counselor, I thought it would be right up my alley. I combined writing with photography, something I’m passionate about, thinking the images might help inspire the children.

Let’s just say I was hooked that first morning after breakfast as I watched the counselors, tutors and campers reading together. It didn’t take long for Susie to ask me to lend a hand. I knew I was where I was meant to be.

In addition to writing and editing all that needs to be written and edited, I’ll be promoting our work to the community, doing research to find new grants and working to build new relationships locally and regionally to generate new funds for camper scholarships, teacher training programs, and one-on-one training with children. I’m grateful for any ideas or suggestions you may have that can help me do my part in enabling children with dyslexia to become confident adults. Simply forward your thoughts my way at

Here’s to the possibilities.

Celebrating Dyslexia Awareness Month With Diana King

While our Camp Spring Creek schedules traditionally cool down in October, this year they’re heating up 11836790_10152903791125448_4283862420779050674_n[1]thanks to what’s certain to be a memorable trip from Diana King, internationally renowned for her work with dyslexic children. For those of you who may not be aware, Diana founded Camp Dunnabeck for children with dyslexia in 1955 and the Kildonan School in 1969.  She has published numerous articles and books. Her newest book, a guide to homeschooling, may be available while she’s here. Diana had so much fun during her stay with us this past summer, she asked if she could come back to offer more training.

If you’re pursuing Certified Level training and are currently at the Associate Level, you need to head to Camp Spring Creek on October 5 (9 a.m. – 5 p.m.) and October 6 (9 a.m. – noon). Cost for the day and half-long session, which includes a tour of our summer camp facilities, is $150. You pack your lunch and we’ll provide light refreshments.  Let us know if you need accommodations. We can offer several area options.

The Yancey Library is the place to be on October 6, from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. when we screen a movie about dyslexia that is both humorous and touching. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to understand dyslexia and all its implications. We’ll offer light refreshments before starting the movie at 7 p.m.

Parents who homeschool their children with dyslexia will want to join us in our Spruce Pine office from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on October 7. Diana will share strategies to use with struggling readers and help parents develop a greater understanding of multi-sensory learning modalities.

An after-school outing from 3:30 p.m – 5 p.m. on October 8 in the library at Greenlee Primary is ideal for curious teachers who have heard of O-G training but want to know what it looks like in the classroom.  Teachers who have used O-G in the classroom will also be on hand to share their experiences.

Diana has set aside October 9 from 3:30 p.m. – 5 p.m. in our Spruce Pine Outreach Center for anyone who has taken the classroom educator or Associate Level course and has questions on how to better individualize their efforts. This session will be followed by a meet and greet with Diana at Spoon, which is located just around the corner on Upper Street.

If you can, please RSVP by October 1 for the October 5, 6 and 7 training at We look forward to seeing you.

For the Children by Rob Langston

$_35Today’s book rec comes from Susie, who suggests that the beginning of the school year is always a great time to review your goals to work as a team with you child’s teachers, school administrators, or IEP team members. There can be many barriers, but there can also be many successes. Clear communication, goals, and expectataions along with a positive outlook are keys to success. After all, everyone has the same goal: to get your child the best educational opportunities possible.

To that end Rob Langston’s For the Children: Redefining Success in School and Success in Life is worth taking a look at. With so many messages from schools, from home, from media, and from research, and from society in general, sometimes it’s hard to know “how to be.” The author’s Amazon page notes, “In this book I tell you about my struggles and accomplishments as a child and an adult with Dyslexia, with the hope that it will give you the strength and encouragement to help yourself or a loved one. I strongly urge you to read this book and apply it to your life. Don’t ever give up on your dreams and always believe in yourself.” Read more here.


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