Camps for kids who need structure

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Tough mudder: Each of the four one-week camp sessions at Camp St. John’s Northwestern includes popular activities such as paintball, rappelling, rock climbing, a mud pit and archery. | SUPPLIED PHOTO

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Camp can be a place of fun and learning, but some kids may need some extra structure in their summer camp experience. Here are regional camps that offer just that:

Camp STAR:

Camp STAR, based in Highland Park, is for youth ages 6 to 12 with an ADHD diagnosis. The program is a collaboration between the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University at Illinois-Chicago and the Jewish Council for Youth Services North Shore Day Camp.

The staff — comprised of professionals and camp counselors with a vested interest in the ADHD population — utilizes a points-based rewards system to incentives good behavior. For example, when kids play a sport, the focus is on following the rules of that sport rather than whether a team wins or loses. If a child does well, she’ll receive points towards rewards such as being released early for recess.

“The kids actually love it. We come at it from a different approach,” said Karen Williamson, Camp STAR clinical director.

And the camp isn’t just a one-time thing. Williamson said about one-third of the kids each year are returning campers.

This year, Camp STAR is increasing its adolescent programming for ages 11 to 14. Williamson said they would work on “executive functioning skills.” Examples of this are organization and time management, such as arranging a calendar and organizing and prioritizing assignments, materials and time.

These campers are notoriously poor in these areas, she said. “It becomes more paramount when that responsibility is handed off to the kids as they get older.”

It’s a long, structured day lasting from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., but “the kids have fun. It feels like camp to them.”

This year’s session is from June 17 to Aug. 2. Visit for more information.

Camp St. John’s Northwestern:

Located in Delafield, Wis., Camp St. John’s Northwestern is a military camp that provides boys ages 11 to 16 an opportunity to be physically active and make new friends. These high-energy camps are designed to promote leadership, self-confidence, teamwork and physical endurance, all while still having fun, said Duane Rutherford, director of enrollment.

Each of the four one-week camp sessions includes popular activities such as paintball, rappelling, rock climbing, a mud pit and archery. This year’s sessions are from July 7 to Aug. 3.

“Our goal is to provide young men a chance to be physically active in a safe and structured environment,” he said.

One of the top examples of what young men learn at camp is the ever-important and sometimes daunting responsibility of a clean room.

“Room cleanliness is the practice of being responsible for yourself and taking pride in your area,” Rutherford said.

“Parents often comment on how different their young man is in how he addresses people, stands a little taller and once he returns home, he shows his siblings how to keep their rooms cleans. One of the awards [given] at the end of camp is for best room inspections. Parents tend to applaud the loudest for this award,” Rutherford said.

Other highlights of the camp promote life skills in other ways, he said. “Marching promotes teamwork and working as a unit. Leadership provides campers an opportunity to learn how to be a leader once they learn how to be a good follower.”

For families considering Camp St. John’s, Rutherford recommended that whenever possible, families should talk with an admissions counselor but also plan visit the campus in-person.

Camp St. John’s is accredited by the American Camp Association. Visit for more information.