Camp PALS reacts to NDSS recognition

We were incredibly proud and honored to be recognized today at the NDSS Spring Luncheon. NBC Today Show anchor Meredith Vieira presented an award to us.

Below is the acceptance speech that Jenni, Jason, and I gave upon receiving the award:

Jason: Let me start by saying thank you– on behalf of all of Camp PALS– to the Riggios for their incredibly generous donation. We were blown away when Pam shared the news with us and we wanted to say a thank you on behalf of the thirty campers who will receive partial scholarships as a result of your donation.

We also wanted to thank Meredith who has become a champion for Camp PALS. She’s actually the one who introduced us to Sarah about 6 months ago, and were it not for her, I’m quite sure that we wouldn’t be at this event today.

A huge thanks to Sarah and Pam, who have become some of the most outspoken supporters for Camp PALS.

And I have to personally thank one more person who is probably more responsible for the existence of Camp PALS than anyone else here. She’s an incredibly kind, self-motivated, inspiring woman who– as of late– has become incredibly good at sending “gmails” (as she calls it)– this person is someone I’m very proud to call my aunt: Karen Toff.

Josh: I am often asked how a pair of 17 year olds and a 15 year old could start a program like Camp PALS. And I have to start with my parents and Jason’s and Jenni’s. The six of you sitting here today are probably the most direct reason why Camp PALS exists –but your interplay has far exceeded that. Through your actions, you have shown us how to live justly. I think we all hope to grow into the people you are and reflect the truths you embody. So thank you.

But Camp PALS would have never grown, it would have never thrived, without all the rest of you sitting here today. Again, a simple truth, evident on many levels: we would not be here today if you weren’t. This is a community that believed a group teenagers could make a difference and challenged us to do so. This is a community that has time-and-again thrown its reputation and resources behind us. This is a community that fights injustices and finds creative solutions. This is a community who has allowed us to play a small part in that fight. For all these reasons, I’ll be forever thankful.

Jenni: While there are only three of us up here, I want you to know that we represent a community of hundreds of campers, counselors, parents, friends and sponsors.

It is difficult to quantify what Camp PALS means to each of these individuals, but we took the opportunity recently to ask campers, counselors and parents why they continue to return to Camp PALS.

I know for my brother, Camp PALS is a household word, and is now used to describe every inclusive activity he participates in, regardless of who sponsors it.

Other families have shared that they knew Camp PALS was a big deal when their child began a countdown to Camp PAL on the calendar… in January and then began to pack a month before Camp PALS began. Parents claim to see changes in mood, verbal skills and independence in their child from the Camp PALS experience, and are brought to tears when their child will thank them at the Closing Ceremony for letting them attend.

Every year, counselors leave their jobs, internships and summer vacations to come volunteer with us for a week. Why? Some counselors say they find Camp PALS refreshing, providing them with a new perspective on life, others simply claim it is the best week of their summer and they wouldn’t dream of missing it.

It is for these people: the counselor who begins every job interview by stating they need a week off in June, the parent who never gets a break, but can rest for a week knowing their child is safe at Camp and the camper that stands up at the closing ceremony just to thank their parents for letting them attend… It is for these people that I want to thank you for this award and the support that we’ve received from the NDSS community.