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Your Resource for ACES Prevention and Georgia Resiliency
  • Writer's pictureCallie Roan, Marketing & Communications Specialist, Camp Twin Lakes

Camp Twin Lakes Builds Resilience for All

Photo Caption: Abby, a 14-year-old rising high school freshman, smiles atop an adaptive ropes course at Camp Twin Lakes. July 2023

“The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived."

While the most widely shared version of this quote comes to us from a fantasy novel, its teachings are securely bound in reality. The willow tree is resilient. Although it must adapt itself to bend, it does not break.

The sentiment is a testimony to the necessity of harnessing resiliency, a trait deemed essential to the healthy mental development of children and young adults. With the end of the summer nearing, our youth prepare to head back to school and other responsibilities. So, we must ask ourselves: did their chosen activities this summer set them up for future success? Did they spend much time outside, make new friends, or develop new skills? Positive experiences that occur outside of school and home, during the summer, have shown to increase overall resiliency when transitioning back into these spaces.

At Camp Twin Lakes (CTL; “Camp”), a Georgia-based nonprofit organization celebrating 30 years of providing year-round camp experiences for thousands of children with serious illnesses, disabilities, and adverse childhood experiences annually, teaching campers resilience runs through the backbone of all camp programming. For many kids, summer camp is a rite of passage. Yet for kids living with medical conditions or physical and emotional challenges, summer camp can be out of reach because their needs may not be accommodated at typical camps, or it is not financially accessible. At Camp Twin Lakes' adaptive and accessible campuses, a life-changing camp experience is possible for every child, regardless of their diagnosis.

CTL measures and evaluates the positive mental impacts made on the youth attending their camps by surveying campers, counselors, and staff at the end of each week of camp. Each week or weekend of Camp is staffed by therapists, medical staff, and other adult volunteers who are deeply knowledgeable about the population of children they are caring for, whether it is kids who have tracheostomies, kids diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, or young teens experiencing the loss of a loved one. Camp is the great equalizer, and CTL believes demonstrating resiliency plays a key role in the future success of each and every child who comes through our cabins.

According to Harvard University's Resiliency Scale for Children and Adolescents, childhood resiliency measures optimism about life, self-efficacy (confidence in one’s skills and abilities), trust in others, perceived support from others, and ability to learn from mistakes. Camp Twin Lakes revealed the following outcomes that support and measure related experiences:

Self-efficacy, optimism about life, and ability to learn from mistakes:

· 70% of campers learned more about what they are good at

· 85% of campers tried something new they had never done before

· 84% of campers learned something new

· 82% of campers participated in an activity that was challenging for them

· 75% of campers feel confident about facing new challenges back home

After digesting those statistics, you may be wondering how exactly Camp Twin Lakes makes this kind of impact. The answer is not only comprised of the typical camp activities like arts & crafts, fishing, archery, or making s'mores.

The answer is intentional programming. It is helping kids who do not typically have the opportunity to do and learn something new, gently moving them out of their comfort zone, and helping them identify their unique strengths in a safe and healthy environment.

Abby, a 14 year-old rising high school freshman who attends a camp for children and young adults with tracheotomies, just wrapped up her sixth summer at Camp Twin Lakes. Abby said "Camp is really special. Camp will make the impossible, possible. We get to do things here that we don't get to do at home."

According to the American Camp Association, positive camp experiences "immunize children against adversity by giving them manageable amounts of stress and the supports they need to learn how to cope effectively and in ways that are adaptive rather than maladaptive over time."

In addition to campers, adult volunteers and staff are also positively impacted by their time at Camp Twin Lakes. Instead of returning to school with more resilience, they take that skill back to work. During a time when the healthcare sector has struggled to retain nursing staff, CTL offers restorative experiences for medical professionals. A pediatric oncology nurse volunteering at a camp for children with cancer said “going to camp helps me stay in my job…when you’re at work, you're in the trenches, and you see all the bad stuff. When you go Camp, it re-energizes you and it changes your perspective. It gives you hope and energy that helps you stay in the profession.”

Finding a way for all children and young adults to spend their summer immersed in social and emotional learning activities like those provided at Camp Twin Lakes is essential to building their resilience for when they return to the demands of school and life outside of Camp. If you know of a child or family who could benefit from a scholarship to Camp Twin Lakes, please read more about our camps and the diverse populations of campers we serve, here.



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