“Do you have a hug for your ol’ man?” – Only at Camp SOAR

Hi I’m Scott, Amy’s husband and partner on  I mainly focus on the technology.  I’ve been considering writing posts myself, so here goes. This evening I came across a post from a person that I hold in high regard. His name is Darren Hardy and he’s put out some great content including his book which I have found very helpful, The Compound Effect. Darren’s style resonated with me because it was a more in your face high school football coach style vs. psych me up and motivate me. You can learn more about Darren and his work at  In his latest blog post – “I Was Cut!“, Darren covers some powerful and painful childhood memories that actually helped to motivate him in his career.

Everyone has motivations, some positive some negative, but they have one thing in common — they move a person to action.  My motivation for this blog entry is to share a personal and powerful experience I had this summer during a weekend at Camp SOAR.  Camp SOAR is a an experience for kids with learning disabilities.  My oldest daughter has some of these challenges and we wanted to find some summer time activities which she could enjoy and grow with.  We opted for SOAR’s Family Weekend program, which calls for kids “camping” the weekend while adults stay near by and attend daily group sessions.  As I recall lunch and dinners were with the entire group and there were other group activities planned that were a big hit, e.g. rafting the Nantahala River in the Mountains of North Carolina.  Camp for the kids was as you’d expect in a camp setting:

  • Small bunk shelters
  • Bring your own sleeping bag
  • And although I didn’t see them, I assume camp fires, stories, smores, etc.
  • Meals were typically buffet style at the main camp building

The entire family including my youngest daughter (non LD) attended and we all had an incredible weekend and learned a ton about:

  1. Learning disabilities and how they effect and impact our children
  2. Ourselves and how we work with and best assist our kids
  3. Other families that are dealing with the same types of family challenges that we do

So at this point you’re probably wondering what does Darren Hardy’s blog post, Camp SOAR and planning cool trips all have in common. I’ll get there I promise.  First a story.  Like I mentioned, the Camp SOAR Family Weekend Program is not a camping experience for the parents.  Parents meet daily to workshop with experts in the LD field and have fun later in the group activities.  Meeting with other like parents and families outside a school setting is incredible, and the Camp Directors and Staff are phenomenal.  “Big John” , John Willson is the executive director and lead our workshops.  He relayed the following story in one of the workshops.

It was a scheduled two week camp session, and a young camper named Ricky (not real name) was feeling out his boundaries within the first few days.  This is not out of the ordinary for any kid in a new setting.  Ricky, though, had been through several programs and his mother had brought him to camp SOAR, explaining their situation at length to the camp directors.  She was out of options.  The camp counselors knew they had to be on the lookout for some challenging behaviors.  As camp went on Ricky continued to act out and one thing that is paramount at SOAR is the safety of the campers.  There are strict protocols, roles, and organization that help the kids participate to the fullest in a safe environment.  If a child heads in the wrong direction behaviorally these protocols ensure that things are addressed quickly.  Well in Ricky’s case he continued to act out with other campers, camp counselors and ultimately with “Big John”.  Big John, ‘gets’ kids with LDs.  He has his own struggles with LDs that provide him with a very personal perspective and a manner of relating to these kids.  Regarding Ricky, John explained that he’d had several very heartfelt, and tough discussions with Ricky, but in the end decided that Ricky’s parents would have to pick him up early from camp.  Big John, called Ricky’s Father and explained the situation.

His father was not happy.  He had to leave work as a truck driver and drive 4+ hours, through the NC mountains, to retrieve his son from yet another failed program.  My throat clenched  up thinking about the consequences that awaited poor Ricky when his father arrived.  Big John explained that Ricky had never internalized the consequences of his behavior until he realized that his father was on his way.  He now fully understood the gravity of the situation.  The hours counted down and Ricky withdrew.  I can only imagine what he thought about during those four hours.  When Ricky’s Father arrived, Big John greeted him thanked him for coming and for his understanding.  Big John described him as a BIG man, 6’4″, 240+ lbs.  I was jumping out of my skin.  Ricky’s father asked where Ricky was and Big John escorted him to where Ricky was waiting, bags packed, and very worried.  When Ricky’s Father entered the room his eyes caught Ricky’s looking down in shame.  Can you guess at Ricky’s Fathers words?

Do you have a hug for your ol’ man?

I was immediately floored and reduced to tears along with every other parent attendee.  Big John explained that this one encounter changed Ricky.  He came back to SOAR and camped several seasons.  He later became a SOAR counselor and ultimately a successful person in life.

I take the following from these two stories:

  1. We all have motivations some positive, some negative, some from others’ experiences.  The key is that these motivations call us to action.  Let that action be to develop our talents to their fullest potential and to use those talents to serve others.  And,
  2. Planning cool trips isn’t always about resorts, or fancy cruise ships.  But it is always about understanding the needs of those traveling and putting some serious thought and consideration into what will make it a peak experience for those involved.  For that I pass on a heartfelt thank you to my wife Amy for researching SOAR and convincing me it was trip worthy of our family’s time.

PS – My youngest daughter is going back to school this week.  If you don’t remember those days, one of the first assignments kids typically receive is the “What I Did This Summer” report.  My wife shared that she had a list of things, but one disappointment she had was not being able to get back to Camp SOAR for a full camp week!  Which also reminded me that she was the only one in our family that didn’t fall into the Nantahala River during our white water rafting adventure.  It was a very “cool trip”.

Resources mentioned:

  • Ahaa, its fastidious dialogue on the topic of this piece of writing here at this blog, I have read all that, so now me also commenting here.

    • Jannette, thanks for visiting and commenting. We appreciate it!

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    • Thanks for stopping by Cheryl! If you enjoyed the post please sign up for our newsletter and share it your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or Googe+. -Scott

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