Volunteer of the Week: Claire Armstrong, Camp Venture Counselor in Stony Point

BY BARRY WARNER

Camp Venture is a summer day camp for special kids and for kids who like to feel special. Created in 1969 by a group of parents as ‘a place in the sun’ for Rockland’s children and young adults with developmental disabilities, the camp has since evolved into an integrated summer recreational experience. It’s a warm, fun, nurturing place, where doing your best is more important than being the best. A traditional camp in most ways, activities include swimming, arts and crafts, non-competitive sports, horseback riding and music, according to its brochure.

“Camp Venture focuses on inclusion, with a free camp experience that’s offered to children and young adults with developmental disabilities, while other children are invited to attend for a modest weekly fee. Campers are paired up, so that the campers without disabilities can help explain directions and assist with activities for kids who may have difficulties doing them on their own,” long-time Camp Director Ray Kondracki told the Rockland County Times. “The staff is a mix of teachers, coaches, high school and college students. A full-time nurse is also on staff to meet the needs of all campers. Prior to the start of camp, all staff participated in a two-day orientation. Claire Armstrong is one of our finest counselors and does an outstanding job.”

“I was a camper here years ago, however, now I’m a high school student and I have volunteered as a counselor at Camp Venture for five years,” Armstrong said. “I focus on campers having fun, making friendships and building self-esteem through challenging activities. The campgrounds include a swimming pool, playground, a small farm with sheep and goats, plus a large Equestrian Center. The activities during the summer include the following themes: hot dog days, dress-up days, ice pop days, red-white-and-blue days, the RockAcademy band visit, Aloha Day, Magic Day, the Boulder Bird Visit Day, Halloween Day, Talent Show Day, Camp Dance Day and Spirit Day.”

It’s important that summer camp counselors have excellent interpersonal and leadership skill, since they put on special events, enforce camp rules and deal with issues that arise between campers. Some important skills summer counseling offers are:

. Responsibility- The counselor is responsible for setting a good example and being consistent, approachable and a role model to the campers.

. Time management- Staying on task to complete a lesson, while also managing many different personalities takes diligence.

. Nurturing- At camp, this is about putting your own needs aside for the needs of the campers.

. Initiative- Creative ideas in everything from safety to cleanliness and new approaches are welcomed.

. Conflict resolution- Being able to use effective communication tools and mediation to help work through problems and solves issues quickly.

There was a consistent flooding problem of the camp grounds due to storm water that would cascade down from the Patriot Hills Golf Course. “Marty Wortendyke of the Cal-Mart Construction Company contributed all of the material and heavy machinery for the construction and installation of underground drainage for the remediation of the storm water flooding caused by the building of the Patriot Hills Golf Course on top of the hill overlooking the camp,” Venture President John Murphy said. “Marty also advocated for Venture with Tilcon to contribute the ‘blacktop’ needed to cover the subsurface drainage construction. At least $25,000-$35,000 was saved and we got a perfect job, way ahead of the opening of our 2017 camp season. The Wortendykes have always been very community-minded and faithful benefactors of Venture.”

Summer day camp is a short but intense six-week time period that includes training sessions. For camp counselors, learning interpersonal and leadership skills are important to future successes. Developing these competencies will prove beneficial in later situations, such as completing school projects or formulating career paths.

For additional information, visit Camp Venture at www.campventure.org or call 845-624-3860.