“I feel good when I help kids with disabilities that have trouble expressing themselves.”

That’s what Pine Tree Camp Leadership in Training participant, Sarah, said about her experience.

Now 25 years old, Sarah graduated from high school during the pandemic.

“The pandemic really set Sarah back in terms of socializing,” recalled her mother, Elaine. “I can’t tell you how worried I was and how much Pine Tree Camp helped her get back on track. Pine Tree Camp made a huge difference in helping her return to a comfort zone interacting with people. That experience reignited her desire to help. She really came out of her shell at camp.”

Sarah remembered how she felt at the time. “The world was going crazy, but everyone at Pine Tree Camp made sure kids like me and their families had a way to be at camp safely. My mom and I did Adventure Day Pass and Pine Tree Camp to You.”

As soon as overnight summer sessions returned, Sarah was there as a camper. Soon after, she joined the Leadership in Training program. 

Pine Tree Camp’s Leadership in Training program is the only one of its kind in Maine. This paid employment program is designed to give teens and young adults of all abilities hands-on experience working at camp through a structured program created to help them explore and prepare for future careers.

“I learned leadership skills,” said Sarah. “I helped campers with activities and guided projects in the greenhouse. One of the campers said ‘You’re my favorite, counselor.’ That was a nice feeling.”

Outside Pine Tree Camp, Sarah has a job mentoring people with disabilities. 

“For my job, I created a new mindfulness lesson plan,” Sarah continued. “My Leadership in Training experience gave me the skills I needed to advocate for the work I’d done. I talked with my team, presented materials, described my lesson and why it was important.”

It was a success: her lesson plan is now part of the organization’s offerings.

“Her supervisor at work came to me and said ‘It’s amazing how Sarah has blossomed,’” Sarah’s mother concluded. “All the counselors and staff in her Leadership in Training program were terrific at encouraging her, helping her grow and to just be herself. She has an overwhelming sense of success and takes social chances much more readily after being at Pine Tree Camp. It’s priceless.”

Sarah couldn’t agree more. 

“I know that my Pine Tree Camp experiences have helped me grow and given me wonderful memories and friends for life.”

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