Meet Our Staff
Our counselors are high school students that are members of the NFTY-Southern Region youth group – a program sponsor for Camp Dream Street. Each counselor is paired one-on-one or two-on-one (based on the camper’s needs) with a camper and are with the camper for all activities throughout the day and in the cabin at night. They are a friend and role-model for our campers while also serving as their caretaker and counselor.
Our counselors (and all of our staff members) participate in an intensive orientation session before camp begins. During orientation, we train our staff on how to serve all of those roles mentioned above. We cover topics from homesickness to wheelchair equipment features. We want them to be able to meet any special needs their camper may have, but most of all to understand how to be just a friend, how to look past any disabilities of their camper, and the importance of just having fun together! Each counselor is trained to understand how to be comfortable around and best care for and serve their individual camper. The counselors are taught from the beginning that Dream Street campers are just kids and just want to have fun. Often the bond between camper and counselor lasts many years.
These teenagers experience an opportunity to care for another human and develop a bond on a level unlike any other. We remove them from the technology-driven, often self-involved and peer-pressured lives and submerge them into an environment where they become care-takers for kids who face (seemingly) unimaginable challenges on a daily basis. They become selfless as they devote themselves to someone else. They become confident as they face their own challenges during a physically and emotionally charged week. And they become compassionate as they realize ‘problems’ at home may not be as big as they previously seemed. Each year, we witness a transformation within the staff just as large as the transformation of our campers.
The Upper Staff is made up of college students and beyond and are responsible for running the camp’s programming and activities. Several Upper Staff members are also assigned to each cabin during the week to assist campers and counselors in the cabins. The majority of our Upper Staff started volunteering with Dream Street as counselors and continue to volunteer once they have graduated high school.
Upper Staff members work throughout the year to plan and coordinate everything needed to run the camp. Then, at camp, Upper Staff members can be seen everywhere. From helping with lifts and transfers at the pool, to explaining an arts-and-crafts activity, to leading everyone in a rousing song session. They make it possible for the counselors to fully devote themselves to participating with their camper without having to worry about any logistics or planning. Just like our counselors, our Upper Staff participate in an orientation session before camp starts, some of whom are tasked with leading the various sessions.
The Professional Staff is a wide array of volunteers (yep, they volunteer at camp too!) who are professionals in medical related fields. They give their time (and often their vacation) to help ensure we have a safe place at camp that can meet he medical needs of our campers. Our professional staff includes licensed doctors and nurses amongst a team of others with various medical backgrounds. Each parent/guardian meets with the medical staff when dropping off their child at camp to cover any special needs and medications.
Additionally, we are able to provide a wide range of services on-site at camp to maximize the time our campers can spend in activities and minimize any feeling of exclusion. Our programs are reviewed by various medical professionals to help ensure activities are inclusive and accessible for our campers.
We're proud that we have a 75% retention rate in our overall staff each summer - a clear indication of the commitment of our staff and the experience level we provide to our campers. The average staff member at Dream Street will volunteer for 5 years (and many will continue for 15+ years)! This consistency and level of dedication is a key component in our ability to successfully create a challenging and safe environment for our campers.
Oh, and did we mention every one of them is a volunteer?! Yep, not a single member of our staff gets paid for his/her time. They are here because they want to be here, because they believe in our program, because of the impact the program has on them, and because of the impact the program has on our campers. Let us tell you a little more about them: