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From camper to counselor

Senior Shelby Havel volunteers to help children

Volunteering after school can be a huge commitment, but senior Shelby Havel takes it one step further by giving five weeks of her summer to a camp that gave just that to her. Havel, who attended Camp Hapitok during the summers of 2006 and 2007, returned this past year to be a counselor.

Camp Hapitok, which runs for four weeks in July, is located at Rancho El Chorro in San Luis Obispo, is a camp for elementary-aged children with speech and language impediments. Havel decided to apply as a counselor because she wanted to give back to the camp that meant so much to her as a child.
Every camper is paired with a TIGR, Therapy Individual Goal Reinforcer, to help motivate and encourage the camper to improve their communication skills one-on-one. Each TIGR is trained to motivate and prompt for the correct speech sounds, working under the supervision of registered speech pathologists.
“My time as a camper was life-changing, having someone so attentive as a TIGR during the [speech] therapy process has value I can’t put into words. Since that point I had wanted to be a TIGR to give another child that same experience,” Havel said.
This past summer, she was able to accomplish just that.
“The moment I saw my camper for the first time I knew it was going to be incredible; it was that and so much more. My camper and I clicked from that first day and he gave me the best summer I could have ever asked for, surpassing even my time as a camper. I loved and cherished every moment I spent with him, as well as with all the other campers and TIGRs.”
This let her to be on the other side of the process, and appreciate what really goes into making the summer into a time of extra speech therapy.
On March 10, Camp Hapitok announced that it had hit some financial woes and would not be open for a 45th season in the summer of 2015. When told of this news, Havel was stunned.
“Mostly I was just shocked, Hapitok has been so prominent in this community for so long and has touched so many people of all ages that it seemed impossible for it to just be gone like that.”
However, the community and past staff members and TIGRs like alumna Michaela Howard rallied to make it happen. There is a crowd-funding campaign running until May 9, with all funds going to the non-profit Camp Hapitok.
The bond between a camper and TIGR share is unbreakable and will be with Havel and her camper forever, just like the bond between Havel and her TIGR when she was a camper. She still keeps in contact with her camper from the summer of 2014.
“The time I spent as a camper was unforgettable; it really shaped me into the person I am today and I’m eternally grateful. I wasn’t sure how it would compare, but everyone was always so kind and supportive right from the start and I can never say how thankful I am to be able to come back and be a part of the Hapitok family once again!”

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