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All About The Adventure Programs

Evan Coulson- Camping Services Director Camp OndessonkWe recently sat down with Evan Coulson former Camping Services Director at Camp Ondessonk to talk about the importance of adventure programming for youth.  Evan is now serving as an Instructor for the Outdoor Recreation Leadership Department of Health Education and Recreation at Southern Illinois University while completing his PHD in Recreation Ecology Forest Recreation and Park Management.

What skills are necessary to participate in adventure activities?

The beauty of Camp Ondessonk’s summer adventure programming is that participants need no prior experience or specialized skill set.  The well trained and caring staff provide supportive instruction suitable for beginners and informative for more experienced outdoor enthusiasts alike.  The skills that will likely lead to the most success in an Ondessonk adventure program?  A mind that is open to new challenging and exciting experiences and a heart that finds joy in experiencing the out-of-doors with others.

What has been your favorite adventure activity and why?

I think that of all of Ondessonk’s spectacular adventure programs, the rock climbing adventures are my favorite.  While I love traveling to the scenic rivers that canoeing and white water adventure utilizes, and I am forever impressed by the caliber and quality of Ondessonk’s equestrian program, the sandstone bluffs of the Shawnee Hills Natural Division provide some of the finest opportunities for rock climbing in the Midwest and Camp Ondessonk is well situated to provide unparalleled access to these fantastic resources.  The professional instruction and careful mentorship that the Ondessonk rock climbing adventure campers receive is comparable to other exceptionally high-dollar international programs, and they get to enjoy it right from the heart of Camp.  I cannot think of another program or facility anywhere close that can compare.

Why is it important for campers to participate in adventure programming?

Quite simply, ours is a society that is becoming increasingly spectator-oriented.  We watch a small handful of people experience amazing adventures, and can really only imagine that sense of accomplishment that accompanies the successes which inherently follow from challenging one’s self.

Life is surprisingly short.  Childhood is much, much shorter.  Kids will have plenty of time to sit back and observe as the demands of school, work, and myriad other sources of expectations take on larger and larger roles in their lives.  This is the time, now, for them to invest in the formative experiences that teach tolerance for adversity, perseverance, exploration, and accomplishment.  Deep experiences shared with others in the natural world provide such lessons.  Adventure experiences serve as a training ground for the intangible skills that form such life skills as collaboration, communication, trust, creativity, unconditional positive regard, and grit.  They are also a source for boundless joy and the celebration of what is so special about childhood.  Adventure for the sake of it.

How long were you a camper?

Sadly, I never had an opportunity to experience Camp Ondessonk as a camper.  My family, though we only lived 30 minutes away, was not aware of Camp Ondessonk.  I only heard about it through a friend once I was in high school, and applied to work as a summer staff member between my Junior and Senior year of HS.

How long did you work at Camp O?

I worked as a boating instructor during the summer of 1995, and then returned to Camp Ondessonk to work as a member of the outdoor education program staff team during the school year season of 2004-2005.  I applied for the full time Program Coordinator position and was selected in fall of 2005.  I became the Program Director in 2006, and then the Camping Services Director in 2008.  I left Camp Ondessonk in December of 2011, having enjoyed 8 years of working and living at Camp year round.

What is your job now and do you have any hobbies?

I am currently a full-time graduate student at SIU studying Recreation Ecology and Sociology and work as an instructor in the Outdoor Recreation Leadership and Management emphasis area within SIU’s Health Education and Recreation Department.  As far a hobbies go, I enjoy trail running and most human-powered outdoor pursuits.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

From many, many years of observation, I would agree: Camp Ondessonk does teach what matters most.

By Amanda Bailey

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