Camp PALS Chicago

Guest Photographers from Camp PALS Chicago

We’ve been having a great time this week at Camp PALS Chicago! The campers and counselors have taken in many sights, and made a lot of memories! Here are some of the memories captured as photos by PALS campers!

A Silly Selfie, by Isabelle W.

On a Scavenger Hunt, by Holly D.

The Big Bean, by Danny S.

The Best of Friends, Megan W.

Keeping Cool, by Blake W.

Keep up with all of our fun activities on Facebook and Youtube, where updates are posted throughout the day!

Meet the Directors: Introducing the Chicago Team


Meet the new Camp PALS Chicago Director team. Consisting of equal parts experienced and new, young and old, this quadrumvirate (Doug Kocur, Joanna Wagner, Conor Hawes, Kyle Stolarz) represents a wide range of talent and imagination that will directly drive and influence their unique set of programming held at Elmhurst College. They endeavor to create an inclusive and immersive camp experience with a twist of mid-west hospitality and a generous splash of fun. From a programming perspective, they intend to accommodate a wide variety of interests, with a distinct Chicago flavor, that will have both campers and counselors alike talking about the best week of their summer for years to come. 

Learn more about this director team after the jump:


What’s going on, PALS community! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Doug Kocur.  This will be my 5th summer at a PALS program! I had the privilege of attending multiple camps last summer, in addition to the inaugural year of PALS Chicago.  I am currently a 7th grade special education teacher in Bolingbrook, Illinois. I am STOKED to not only be returning to Chicago, but to be joining this Director team as well! I am excited to work with these three amazing Directors to bring everyone the best PALS experience possible during the BEST week of everyone’s year. I hope everyone is as excited and anxious for this summer as I am.  I can’t wait to see everyone! PALS Love!”


“Hallo PALS Family.  My name is Joanna Wagner, and I am fortunate enough to be a Director for the second year in a row at Camp PALS Chicago.  By day, I am the Deputy Director of Operations for Best Buddies Illinois.  But by night, I’m working with Doug, Conor and Kyle to create the best possible camp for our wonderful campers and counselors.  Seeing the joy that our new friends brought to Chicago last year has inspired all of us to continue to spread that PALS magic throughout the year.  Whether we are sailing around Lake Michigan, eating pizza or playing board games, there is no group of people I would rather spend my time with.  We can’t wait to see you all again this summer for the best week of the summer!!”


”Hey! My name is Conor Hawes and this will be my second summer with Camp PALS. Last year, I had the privilege to serve as a counselor at both the PALS Georgetown and PALS Chicago camps. This year, I cannot wait to help lead and shape the program that has brought me so much joy! I recently moved to the Windy City to start my employment as a technology consultant, and am staffed in the beautiful city of Toronto, Ontario. I am extremely lucky to have the opportunity to work with a team of such talented and passionate Directors. I hope to carry forward the momentum from the success of last year’s inaugural Chicago camp in order to establish a solid foundation for Camp PALS Chicago for years to come!”


“Hello PALS friends! My name is Kyle Stolarz and although this is only my second summer acting as the Director of Camp PALS Chicago, I couldn’t think of a better place to spend a week of my year! I’ve spent the last three years crunching numbers as an actuary with Ernst and Young, and recently relocated to New York City from Chicago. I am anxiously awaiting year two of Camp PALS Chicago, and couldn’t be more excited to continue working with Joanna and join her in welcoming two new Directors to the team: Conor Hawes and Doug Kocur!

Camp PALS Chicago takes place at Elmhurst College June 15-21, 2014 for 25 campers ages 14-21.

 To help this amazing team of directors and the rest of PALS Programs make this summer the best one yet, please consider making a contribution of any size and Donate Here!

Announcing Our 2014 PALS Directors!

This weekend, our 23 incredible directors will come together in Maryland for the first-ever PALS Director Training Retreat! Led by our Executive Director and members of our Program Catalyst Committee, our directors will work to strengthen their teams, develop visions for their programs, and begin planning for the great summer of 2014!  

During the month of November, each team will have a chance to introduce themselves and share about the exciting details of their camp on the blog! But first, we wanted to take a moment to officially announce the 2014 Directors!

Taking on the 11th summer of Camp PALS Philadelphia will be Laura, Morgan and Jenn!


Bringing the Pacific Ocean to PALS for the 3rd summer at Camp PALS San Francisco will be James, Hannah, and Sara!


Taking us to the MidWest for the second summer of Camp PALS Chicago will be Conor, Joanna, Doug, and Kyle!


Guiding us in our nation’s capital for the second summer of Camp PALS Georgetown will be Andrea, Alex, and Scott!

Leading us through the thrills of New Jersey for the second summer of Camp PALS Princeton will be David, Steven & Whitney!

Introducing the world to Camp PALS Dallas for the first time will be Kellen, Brenna, and Jill!

And finally supporting PALS across the nation in the areas of Donor Relations, Media, PALS Adventures and Medical will be our team of content directors - Paige, Jordan, Courtney & Ricky!


We are so excited for this incredible team of dedicated, genuine and fun volunteers! Feel free to congratulate them all by emailing!


This past week at Camp PALS Chicago has been a truly amazing one. Campers and counselors from all across the country have made incredible memories and built some wonderful friendships. Friday was the perfect way to cap off the last week of fun. 

Campers and counselors participated in a memorable Olympics, competing in relay races, dance competitions, and even some human sculpture building! 
After a laid back afternoon full of arts and crafts and team bonding, Camp PALS Chicago got gussied up for a Super Hero-themed semi-formal dance where they danced the night away.
Closing ceremonies begin tomorrow at 1:30pm at the Elmhurst College chapel.

Check out the photos from today’s amazing activities here.


Today was a beautiful day in Elmhurst, Illinois, and Camp PALS Chicago’s campers and counselors took full advantage of this gorgeous summer weather. The day was jam packed with a trip to the bowling alley, a joke-telling competition, and tons of fun games. 

Campers also participated in the Congratulations Project. During this activity, each camper wrote a letter to be distributed to new parents of a baby with Down syndrome congratulating them on the amazing future their families have in store. All of the campers wrote truly incredible letters.
Coming soon: a video of a few outstanding examples!

Camp PALS Chicago finished up this incredible day with an ice cream social and a truly epic PALS dance party. 

Check out the photos here.


Campers and counselors at Camp PALS Chicago spent the morning in the gym playing a competitive game of basketball before heading to the beautiful Lincoln Park Zoo. After walking through the gorgeous park and checking out some awesome animals from all over the world, Camp PALS Chicago headed back to campus for dinner and a show- camper karaoke! Everyone brought the house down in true PALS style with their incredible, passionate performances of everything from Justin Bieber to the Beatles.

Check out the photos from the amazing performances and more here and get ready for a truly excellent video!


Camp PALS Chicago spent a beautiful Tuesday on Lake Michigan, soaking up all the sun, sand, and sailing the Windy City has to offer.
Campers and counselors spent the day splashing in the water, playing in the sand and enjoying both a beach barbecue and each other’s company before heading over to the Chicago Yacht Club for the evening. There Camp PALS Chicago enjoyed a delicious dinner and amazing sail boat cruises around Lake Michigan. There may not be anything that can rival the amazing view of the Chicago skyline participants took in, but the smiles and laughter captured today may be pretty close!

Check out the photos of today’s fun here and keep an eye out for the video.


Nobody does Mondays quite like PALS. Camp PALS Chicago kicked off what is sure to be a truly incredible week with a Monday for the record books. The morning began with a kickball game followed by aerobics and yoga. After an exciting scavenger hunt around the beautiful Elmhurst College campus, campers relaxed with a movie and some popcorn before heading to downtown Chicago for an amazing evening at Dave and Busters. 

Check out the photos from today’s adventures here and stay tuned for a video coming up soon!

Camp PALS Chicago launched full swing into its inaugural year today with the arrival of our amazing crew of campers from all across the country! After enjoying the beautiful sunny weather and getting to know each other, campers and counselors got a taste of the gorgeous Elmhurst campus and all the fun in store with a barbecue on the beautiful lawn and some getting-to-know you games. Camp PALS Chicago 2013 is just getting started and campers and counselors alike are prepped for an incredible week! 
Check out today’s photos here and keep an eye out for today’s awesome video.

Announcing Camp PALS Chicago!

Over the past few years, PALS has been proud to expand and transform in new ways, offering programs for individuals with Down syndrome of more ages, and in more areas of the country. As many of you know, we rely on the creativity, commitment and passion of young leaders in our PALS family to put together each new proposal. So it is with great excitement that the Executive Board announces the newest PALS program launching in 2013: Camp PALS Chicago!

We’d like to take a moment to introduce you to Clotilde Yver, Kyle Stolarz, and Joanna Wagner — the official directors of Camp PALS Chicago. Please feel free to congratulate them at

The camp will take place at Elmhurst College and the week will be full of fun activities, trips, and surprises! We are inviting campers in the Midwest, ages 14-21, to come have the best week of their summer with us!

~ Jenni, on behalf of the Executive Board