What is a camp buddy
THE IMPACT OF CAMP BUDDIES
By Emily Sanderson | M.ED., LPC, NCC
Every summer, many of our counselors get to participate in Camp of Champions, an annual summer camp created for children and families served through Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes. Following is an interview with Pathways counselor, Emily Sanderson, on her experience as a “Buddy” and how this role impacts lives both during and after Camp.
WHAT IS A CAMP BUDDY , and WHO SERVES OUR KIDS AS A CAMP BUDDY?
A Camp Buddy is a trauma informed/trained person that is paired with one (or more) child during Camp of Champions to help that child have a more successfully fun time at Camp.
Our Camp Buddy team is made up of Pathways Therapists, ABCH social workers, and students from the Samford University MSW (Masters of Social Work) program. The students are trained by (Pathways therapists) Kristin Lowrey and Rod Campbell in a 40-hour class. Camp is the practicum, hands on component, for the class.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE CAMP BUDDIES AT CAMP OF CHAMPIONS?
It is important to have Camp Buddies, because camp, while fun and exciting, can be overwhelming to any kid—especially those who come from hard places. These kids often struggle with transitions, being out of their normal routines, and not having their normal caregivers around. And Camp is all of those things! Camp Buddies are there to be advocates for the children. We keep on hand a bag full of tools—things like snacks, water, earplugs, bubbles, and more—to help meet the needs of each child served over the course of Camp.
WHAT’S A TYPICAL DAY AS A CAMP BUDDY LOOK LIKE?
Pretty much nothing is typical about being a Camp Buddy. However, the buddy tries to be at the child’s classroom before the child gets there. This helps ensure the feeling of safety for the child—to see the familiar face ready to make a connection. As mentioned before, these children struggle with leaving their caregivers and with transition. It is important that the Camp Buddy is there to aid in a smooth transition from the parent/foster parent as they go to training and the child goes to class. Also, when classes are over, the Camp Buddy helps to reassure the child that they will be picked up by their parent.
As far as during class, it all depends on what the child needs. As a buddy, I have ridden golf carts for hours. I have played in the sand. I have gone on long walks. I have colored. I have rocked in the rocking chairs at Shocco’s Bagley Center, and rocked countless children to sleep. A Camp Buddy needs to be ready for anything!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY AS A CAMP BUDDY?
My favorite memory as a Camp Buddy was from this past year. I made it a point to help out a little girl who struggled the day before. She was clearly overwhelmed by the classroom experience, and I could see that she was fearful of the new surroundings. She didn’t say much and was leery of me most of the morning. After lunch, I took her from her caregivers and could tell that she was visibly exhausted. We left the classroom, I sat down in a rocking chair, and she fell asleep on my lap after a few minutes. From what I know about fear and the brain, she could only fall asleep once she felt safe. I was so glad to have been able to help her feel safe long enough to rest.