The Wilderness Road Therapeutic Camping model was born out of the medical and social problems caused among children by the intense urbanization of the early 1900's. Education and child-development pioneer John Dewey was promoting new ideas about the value of experiential education. In 1925, John Dewey recommended one of his students, L.B. Sharp, to work with Time-Life magazine to reorganize Life's summer camps and set them on an educational basis with the goal of further helping hurting children in New York State.
In the mid-1940's, the Salesmanship Club in Texas heard about the success of the New York programs and hired Campbell Loughmiller to run a similar program. Using Sharp's model and realizing the value of relationships, Loughmiller and the program sponsors soon discovered the value of long-term, primitive camping for behaviorally maladjusted boys and developed the Wilderness Road Therapeutic Camping model.
Over the last 60 years, Camps have operated across the United States serving thousands of boys resulting in a finely tuned therapeutic program. The Wilderness Road Therapeutic Camping Association (WRTCA) oversees the present-day Camps who hold true to the founder's basic principles. These Camps employ a universal Biblical ethic as we help boys learn to choose attitudes and actions that are right, instead of those that damage themselves and others. The WRTCA conducts training and provides assistance to new Camps beginning to help boys who are experiencing trouble. In keeping with the intent of the universities and social/behavioral professionals that originally designed the Camp program, Camps continue to emphasize the boys’ ownership of the process of problem identification and goal-setting rather than those foundational elements coming from professionally trained adults.
Over the decades, studies show that Camp is 70-85% successful at helping boys grow beyond their behavioral and attitude problems. Post-graduation follow-up has become more important in recent years as each Camper returns home to his community to live out what he has learned at Camp.
As a new millennium has begun, our children face new and different stresses that include the 'uninvolved father' as part of a totally changed family structure, changing societal morals, wide-spread use of behavior modifying drugs for children, and the influences of a rapidly changing technological age. The combined staffs of WRTCA Camps are committed to courageously care for boys with behavior issues in order to bring lasting, positive change that they may become useful members of our communities.
For a more complete description of Wilderness Therapeutic Camping consult Wilderness Road by Campbell Loughmiller, published by Hogg Foundation of Mental Health – University of Texas, Austin. Available from WRTCA.
Photos: Life Camps Book © 1948