" The Wilderness Element was a transformative experience for my son and I would strongly encourage any parent that is looking for a long-term and proven way to help their ADHD or anxious child to consider it. As a result of the experience last summer, my son’s ability to manage his emotions, slow his thinking and make better decisions increased significantly, which has had a remarkably positive effect on our entire family. I attribute the success to three things.
First, being outside in nature everyday brought a calm and focus that when coupled with physical challenges built into the program, increased my son’s confidence and sense of achievement. Next, the amazing team of professionals, led by Donovan Martin, supported and encouraged the kids every step of the way, holding them accountable for achieving and then celebrating their successes. Lastly and maybe most significant, were the relationships formed within the group.
Connecting and sharing with other kids that face similar challenges created a whole new self-awareness for my son, showing him that by wanting to help others achieve, he could do the same for himself. From strangers the first day to the deep bonds they formed over six weeks, these kids learned they weren’t alone with their challenges, but by focusing on the right strategies and skills they could accomplish things they never imagined possible. From kayaking and ropes challenges, to hiking and camping through a national forest, my son’s confidence and ability to achieve has grown, preparing him for future success in ways I could not have done on my own. "
I am honored to be asked to discuss our experience in the Wilderness Elements Program. Our son attended the camp for two summers, 2016-17 & 2017-18. The camp was suggested to us by Fort Wayne Psychiatry. Up to the first day of camp, Donovan and my son had never met. My son came to camp with little self-confidence, few self-regulation skills or the ability to push through any type of adversity (big or little) which was extremely crippling for a teenage boy with ADHD and anxiety.
I knew when I read the information packet about the camp, I had to send him. I knew that a once a week counseling session (with our previous counselor) and our resource help at school was not going to address the issues we had going on. My son needed an opportunity that pushed him to go beyond anything that had ever been asked of him.
It is amazing to look back at the HUNDREDS OF HOURS spent by Donovan and his highly trained and experienced staff developing, encouraging, and strengthening my son's confidence & self-regulation skills. Can you think of anyone else who has spent that much time developing skills in your child? Although my son was completely wiped every day, he walked out of camp with a sense of accomplishment, a YOU GOT THIS” mentality and a desire to push forward to improve himself. Donovan specifically put my son in situations which challenged him to be a leader, self-advocate and help my son realize he can accomplish anything he puts his mind too. Remember this is also the same child who was paralyzed with anxiety, yet he was asked to climb across a suspended and unmounted rock wall horizontally. Just as important, my son was with peers who also struggled with the same kinds of issues. Camp is a place where you can be yourself. You are supported & held accountable and gain friendships in the process. Helping others overcome their issues is as rewarding as overcoming your own.
Like any parent, I was protective my son. If you are considering this camp, your family has been on a journey. I am so grateful for the Wilderness Elements Camp. I can’t even begin to thank all the people (Donovan, Joe, the nurse, the wilderness cooks, the wilderness guides and the staff back at the office and countless others) who helped develop the my son I have today. One with more confidence, ability to face daily adversity, and a teenage boy who is striving for excellence in himself.