Tuesday, July 05, 2022
Each summer, as the mosquitoes and herons settle in at Black Pond for another season, a new group of campers arrive in Windsor, New Hampshire, to spend the next six weeks on Camp Wediko’s beautiful lakeside campus.
Campers travel from across the country, many of them leaving home for the very first time, to work on their personal goals and address social, emotional or behavioral challenges with Wediko’s residential and clinical staff.
Alongside their packed bags and bottles of bug spray, many campers arrive with severe anxiety and self-doubt in tow; they worry about meeting new friends and being far away from family. These reservations are understandable, as these children and teens have often experienced significant struggles at home when attempting to build friendships, fit in at school or be accepted by their peers. The majority of campers step into camp wondering:
“Will anybody care about me here?”
“What if I want to go home?”
“Is there a principal’s office? Will they send me there?”
“Whenever I get in trouble at school, I’m not allowed to participate in fun activities. What if they don’t let me be a part of the group while I’m here too?”
Program Director Jessica Luddy-Fernandez, LICSW, says the best part of her job is watching these fears and hesitancies wash away, as campers begin to feel safe and understood at Camp Wediko.
“Our kiddos have been given many labels throughout their lives, and they’ve carried those labels for a long time,” says Jessica. “Once they get to camp, they’re not that “bad kid” anymore, because they have peers who are like them, who get it. They get to emerge and develop true friendships. Back home, many of our campers don’t have friends. At Wediko, they do.”
Camp Wediko prides itself in marrying the very best of summer camp with the best of therapy. Where treatment facilities and hospitals fall short, Wediko excels, providing a secluded paradise for kids whose complex needs have gone unmet in traditional therapy settings in the past. Through individualized therapy plans, confidence-building activities, social exercises and more, campers who were once frozen in fear and defined by their past begin to bloom and discover their unique potential together. In the woods of Wediko, many campers learn to ride a bike or swim for the first time, have a chance to showcase talents and make memories that will last a lifetime.
“We have a party-planning committee that plans parties, complete with invitations and themes,” says Jessica. “A lot of kids have birthday parties here because their birthdays fall over the summer, and sometimes, it is the first time that they have friends to celebrate with.”
With each passing day, the positive transformation within individual campers becomes more apparent. These social and emotional gains can sometimes be so significant that this positive shift can be jarring to those who know the kids best.
“On Visitor’s Day, halfway through the camp session, families and caregivers come to see their loved one at the camp,” says Jessica. “This visit can often be uncomfortable for the caregivers because they are witnessing a new version of their kiddo for the very first time. Three weeks into Camp Wediko, you can already see and feel the difference.”
When it comes time to prepare campers for life back home, staff supports youth as they reflect on the progress they have made while at camp. “When they leave, they are really a shifted puzzle piece that sometimes no longer fits where it used to,” says Jessica. “They’ve changed, they’ve grown; it is important to think about going back to family and your community as this new version of yourself.”
This transformative cycle has been in action for over 80 years now at Camp Wediko. Eight decades after the camp’s grand opening, children and teens continue to find powerful connections and self-confidence among the cabins and canoes of Wediko. On July 6, our 2022 campers arrived to become a part of this legacy and begin their own personal journeys. The Home wishes all staff and campers a wonderful summer season!