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WNC Business

It's My Job: Cory Greene - Talisman Summer Camp

Jun 28, 2023 03:27AM ● By Randee Brown

For Cory Greene, camp director at Talisman Summer Camp in Zirconia, the biggest reward he can ask for is the smile of a child.

Talisman Summer Camp operates with a focus on attendees with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and Autism. Their programs are designed with the necessity of understanding sensory sensitivity and possible motor movement skill limitations.

Approaching his fourth summer season as director, Greene is responsible for all of the summer operations including staffing and training. He plans activities and program schedules, and hires new and returning staff for summer seasons.

Working as assistant director the 6 years prior, Greene said the summer of 2020 was an interesting way of encouraging Talisman Summer Camp to examine their programs to see what was working and what they needed to update.

“Many of our programs were based on tradition,” Greene said. “The changes initiated by the pandemic gave us an intentional way to return to our core values, changing necessary procedures and activities while still being the summer camp that we want to be.

“Closing was not an option for us with only 18% of camps in the area opened during the summer of 2020, but we still felt the need to serve our campers.”

Activities at Talisman don’t typically differ tremendously from ‘typical’ summer camp activities, though Greene said there are some considerations that must be made to properly care for attendees with ADHD and Autism. He said that they offer activities such as rock climbing, archery, and kayaking, though the big difference is how the staff addresses each activity with the children.

“We do a lot of pre- and post-activity processing,” Green said. “We offer plenty of time for the kids to ask questions so that they fully understand the upcoming activity, and after the activity is completed we offer plenty of discussion to hear what each individual liked and didn’t like. It’s similar to traditional activities, just on a slower schedule.”

Another difference is the group structure. Greene said that in traditional camps, children may have an array of staff that they interact with for various activities. At Talisman, small groups are paired with three staff members that stick with them for the duration of their stay. Greene said that this model helps to build bonds that the kids value and allows them to feel more comfortable while they are at camp.

“Neurodiversity shouldn’t mean that some of these kids can’t go to summer camp,” Greene said. “We may have to do things a bit more differently, but we are giving them their fair shot.”

As times are progressing since the beginning of the pandemic, Greene said that he has noticed a trend of slowing down the progression of learning new outdoor skills. “Many kids have anxiety about getting outdoors because the experience is so new to them,” he said. “We work to help kids feel secure by doing campouts here on our property instead of in the wilderness, and slowly introducing new skills like kayaking and climbing.”

At the same time, Greene said that it is more important than ever for the camping industry to be progressive while taking these smaller steps and offer experiences that kids can’t do at home. He said that many camps are upgrading ropes courses and ziplines, adding BMX bike tracks, and even renaming cabins to mesh with modern popular culture.

“We can’t continue to rely exclusively on traditions,” Greene said. “We’ve got to upgrade and innovate.”

Greene said that the opportunities provided by Talisman are positive for both the kids as well as the counselors and staff. “My favorite thing is to see a kid smile,” Greene said. “They desperately want to make friends and have a good experience. The staff are gaining confidence in their skills and ability to get this job done. It’s so gratifying to walk around the camp in the summer and just stop, listen, and watch. I see the camp working, kids and counselors playing, everyone enjoying their time, and it just feels great. That means we are accomplishing our mission.”

Cory Greene is the Camp Director at Talisman Summer Camps. Learn more at