PALS

Camper Spotlight: Mac and Kit Stephenson

Name: Mac Stephenson/Kit Stephenson

Age: 17/14

Number of years at PALS: 1

What camps have you attended:  Columbus–THE Ohio State University

What is your favorite PALS memory:  

Mac:  Nathan!!

Kit:  The dance and getting dressed up and singing karaoke with Mac.

What is something unique about you, that most people don’t know:    

Mac:  I love scary/creepy tv shows and movies.                                              

Kit:   My favorite class is choir.                                

What is your biggest accomplishment:  

Mac: When I received my 4-year award for being on the golf team all during high school.        

Kit:    Doing competition cheer at Champion Cheer.                                             

If you could have any job, what would it be:  

Mac:  Be a chef at Sloopy’s and make pizzas.

Kit:  Work somewhere that I can sing and dance or work “stuff” like office equipment, doctor equipment…

Anything else you would like to share with the PALS community:  

Mac and Kit:  We LOVED Camp PALS and can’t wait to do it again.

Adventure Recap: Indianapolis

Over the weekend I was lucky enough to host an adventure with one of my best friends, who I met through PALS. My co-leader for the weekend was Andrea Corliss and I have known her for a year now. Let me tell you how amazing a simple Google search can be and change your life forever.  I started volunteering for PALS 3 years ago. Andrea and I agree it has been one of the most life changing things we have ever done. Attending Chicago and Columbus summer camps, and countless PALS Adventures I decided that I wanted to bring PALS to my home city of Indianapolis.

Andrea and I started brainstorming this Adventure at Camp PALS Columbus over the summer. We knew that we wanted to host an adventure over Halloween weekend since it had never been done before.  Months of planning went by and the weekend of Halloween came and Andrea and I found ourselves in Indianapolis about to lead our first PALS event together!  

Over the Halloween weekend we stayed in a gorgeous Victorian House in downtown Indianapolis. We planned a Halloween costume party, painted pumpkins, made Halloween cookies, attended an Indiana Pacers Basketball Game, had a cookout, and so much more! 

One of the most memorable things that happened over the weekend was when we attended the Pacers game. We bought our basketball tickets from a wonderful gentleman named Steve Minkis. During half-time Steve approached our group and told us that our tickets were upgraded to rows nine and ten! My camper Jack turned to me and ecstatically said, “I’ve never been this close to the court before!” I turned back to him just as ecstatic and said, “Neither have I!” Thanks to Steve and the Pacers, the whole PALS crew had a wonderful first time at an Indiana Pacers game! Time flies when you’re having fun and Sunday came with the sun shining. We had a cookout at the house before everyone departed.

I will never forget this experience as a co-leader with Andrea and I am so thrilled to add another feather in my hat for PALS memories. Luckily along with Scott Gerson, Andrea and I will be directing Camp PALS Chicago in the summer of 2016!

PALS Love,

Chandler and Andrea

Camper Spotlight: Ryan Herrington

My name is Ryan Herrington and I am 25 years old.  I started camp when I was 17 years old at Cabrini College.  I have gone to Cabrini, Princeton, Georgetown, and San Francisco.  I have also done PALS Adventures in Annapolis, Rider College and Young Chef’s. I love Camp PALS because they make me feel special.  I LOVE arrival when everybody cheers for me.  I also love meeting new friends.  My favorite memory at PALS was winning the Olympics with Soeren and the Blue Barracudas.

I am good looking, smart, caring and thoughtful.  I am the captain of the Brick Stars Ice Hockey team.  I love my team.

I love my job at the Arbors.  I take the train to work all by myself.  I run the dishwasher, unload dishes, do food prep and make desserts.  I love my co-workers.

My dream job would be to be the announcer for the Yankees or the Flyers.  I also want to be a professional country singer.

I am learning to be an advocate.  I want people to use the word respect instead of the ‘R’ word.

Camp PALS is the best.  I always make new friends and my friends always make me feel special.  I have awesome brothers that go to camp too.  I love to beat them in the Olympics.

Camper Spotlight: Jeremy Diskint

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In honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, we’re highlighting some of our campers. This week, get to know Princeton camper, Jeremy! 

Name: Jeremy Diskint

Age: 21

Number of years at PALS: 2

What camps have you attended: Princeton

What is your favorite PALS memory: I loved the karaoke night!

What is something unique about you, that most people don’t know:  I’m very good at expressing myself.  I have an excellent memory and can remember lyrics to songs, movie titles, actors in movies, and lots more!!!

What is your biggest accomplishment: I’m working on overcoming my shyness.

If you could have any job, what would it be:  I would like to be an author and publish stories that I write.

Anything else you’d like to share:  I have supportive brothers that back me up.  My brothers help me be independent.  I’m living in an apartment now with a roommate!  I love my family!

The Congratulations Project:  The Ascherl Family

Today, the Ascherl Family shares sweet Bradyn’s Congratulations story:

“Bradyn burst in to life with the surprise of having a little something extra, he was born with Down syndrome. Everyday we are lucky enough to wake up to his smiling face. Sometimes it is hard to think of what the future may hold and how his life will be different or similar to his brothers. 

Receiving the gift as part of the Congratulations Project through PALS gave me a glimpse into an older boys life. He had aspirations of being in the Army and gave us a great drawing of Iron Man. It gives me so much hope for Bradyn’s future. Also the gifts were very sweet and Bradyn cannot get enough of the Grip n Roll Balls and plays with his brother rolling them back and forth. 

The Congratulations Project is such a blessing to new parents and new little ones! 

 Thank you, The Ascherl Family”

Adventure Recap: Charis Stables

Hey PALS families and friends, Taylor Singmaster here… this Labor Day weekend I had the honor of leading the first PALS Adventure of the season with one of my very best friends, Bo Irwin. Charis Stables is a newly opened therapy riding farm in Elverson, PA. It also just happens to be the home of my retired show horse, Bentley.  

I have been an equestrian for about 20 years now and being able to host a PALS event that involved a weekend on the farm and horseback riding felt like putting the two halves of my heart together. When I dreamt this concept up, I knew there was no one I would rather have as a co-leader than Bo! So together with staff member Julia, we made it happen.

12 campers and 12 counselors arrived in Elverson Saturday morning and we got right to the fun. Choice activities included horseback riding, grooming horses and small animals, making and canning applesauce, fishing and crafting “lucky horseshoes”. We ended Saturday with a hayride to Wyebrook Farms, an organic farm and restaurant, where we ate and hung out in the beautiful country side. Nighttime chores followed, where each pair was responsible for some typical farm chore such as feeding the animals or cleaning the stalls. This was an awesome opportunity for our campers and counselors alike to experience what life is really like on a farm, and have ownership over the responsibilities of owning animals.

We met by the bonfire to jam to some music and roast s’mores. An impromptu soccer game broke out in the glow of the fire. I have to admit that bonfire was one of my favorite moments of the weekend – one of those times when you look around and you know that no one is thinking about extra chromosomes or our differences, we were all there as friends, no, family.

We fell asleep that night in our tents under the stars and were awoken the next morning by a rooster crowing. We were up and at our chores before being treated to an incredible homemade breakfast. Choice activities continued before we wrapped up our Adventure with the first ever PALS horse show. Each camper was able to compete in front of their peers and families, showing off not just their new riding skills but also the confidence and smiles they had gained over the short weekend. Each camper and counselor was awarded with a PALS Adventure & Charis Stables Horse Show ribbon as a token of their hard work and a memento of the countless memories made.

Check out more about Charis Stables by visiting: www.charisstables.org

Taylor and Bo

The Congratulations Project: The Mize Family

During the month of September, we are featuring families who have received letters as part of The Congratulations Project. We hope these stories will bring you joy and help spread the word as we search for a new sponsor. 

“First and foremost, we would like to thank the writer of the very inspiring letter we received, “Jeremy D”, for taking the time to share his story and his goals.  As parents, we are encouraged to see that our 7 week old son will also have goals, friends and faith.  Jeremy is surely a very remarkable young man and we are most grateful to have had him grace our lives. 

Next, we would like to say thank you for the very unexpected care package that accompanied the beautiful letter.  We were initially stunned by the generosity and thoughtfulness reflected in the care package yet the more we explored it’s content the more our emotions evolved into an enormous sense of relief.  Relief because, for the first time since our precious son’s birth we felt we had heard from someone who wasn’t showing love and support “despite the Down Syndrome” but instead you were celebrating our son, everything about him, Down Syndrome and all.  To know there is an entire community that understands how important that is and who welcomes our son with enthusiastically open arms means more to us, as his parents, than we could ever say in words.  

To quote my Husband’s response “I feel like we’ve been on an Island this whole time and we just received a message in a bottle.”  For sending out that message of love and belonging, thank you. 

Sincerely and Gratefully, Evan and Necie Mize”

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The Congratulations Project: Update

Today, PALS Executive Director Jenni Newbury Ross shares an update on The Congratulations Project:

“Exactly one year ago, Camp PALS camper John Kellis and I walked into NBC studios for the filming of The Meredith Vieira Show. Together we shared about PALS and our work with the Congratulations Project. As many of you know, the Congratulations Project invites our campers to write letters to new parents of babies with Down syndrome. During this powerful segment, Meredith surprised John with a visit from Jonas and his mom, a family that had received John’s letter.  Additionally, PALS was surprised with a generous gift from Babies R Us - supplies for gift baskets to accompany the letters that we sent to these new families.

We are so grateful for this opportunity to share the Congratulations Project with the world. Since the show’s filming we have distributed almost 250 letters to new families! 

Now that the Babies R Us supplies have been utilized, we are looking for a new sponsor to help us share the powerful words of our campers with the newest members of the Down syndrome community. 

From the very start of this initiative our vision was to welcome and celebrate with parents who may feel anxious, overwhelmed, or uncertain of their future. Over the past few years, it has been our honor to be told that we’re doing just that. 

“Your package and letter was the first one we received after hearing our son’s diagnosis and it gave us such hope.”

“I am putting this in her baby book so when she gets older she can read it and see the picture of you.”

“It gave me so much hope and strength when I was still trying to figure out what DS would mean for our son…Thank you for giving me that first glimpse into what a great life he will have.”

“I feel like we’ve been on an Island this whole time and we just received a message in a bottle.”

We will be sharing more photos and stories around The Congratulations Project as we continue to try and spread our reach. If you have any ideas about a potential sponsor or partner for this project please let us know by emailing congratulations@palsprograms.org. “

–Jenni Newbury Ross, Executive Director, PALS Programs

Camp PALS 2015: Summer’s End

Our 2015 camp season has come to an end and what a wild ride it was! This year we hosted over 500 campers and counselors at eight beautiful college campuses. From Columbus to Chicago, we watched with amazement as our our wonderful community grew and the joy of PALS was spread across the country. We are so thankful for every member of our big PALS family!

In the coming weeks, we will be featuring reflections from campers and counselors at each camp. Make sure to follow us here on the blog, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Although the camp season is over, there are PALS opportunities year-round, and you definitely don’t want to miss out!

PALS Siblings: Laura and Kevin

Our Sibling series continues with a post from counselor Laura Grow:

“My brother Kevin was born when I was 5, so he has played an integral part in shaping the person who I have become. However, I have come to realize that not everyone has grown up with the opportunity to experience the type of journey that Kevin has brought our family on for the past 19 years. Down syndrome awareness allows those without these experiences to learn that people with Down syndrome are not different from everyone else. They have dreams, desires, and needs. They want to have meaningful friendships and to accomplish goals. They want acceptance just like everyone else.

In the past year, Kevin has accomplished 2 of his biggest goals - playing for the Harlem Globetrotters and graduating from high school. Having the community support him and rally around his successes made these moments even more special for Kevin. Down syndrome awareness is important because it helps to celebrate the unique gifts that the Down syndrome community has to offer everyone.”

As many of you know we send letters - written by our campers - to new families around the country as part of The Congratulations Project.  We are so excited when some of these families send us responses!

Recently, we received a letter responding to John, a camper from Camp PALS San Francisco. (You can read John’s letter here.)

Dear John,

Thank you for the congratulatory letter and the gift for our new baby boy.  His name is Jonas, and I attached a picture for you to see him!

Jonas was born on April 15 and spent over 3 weeks in the hospital.  The doctors and nurses had him hooked up to tubes to help him breath, as you can see in the picture.  He just came home yesterday!!!… . . and we’re very happy to have him home with us.  I Meant to write back to you sooner, but our lives have been very hectic with baby Jonas in the hospital.

Jonas has an older brother Joseph (age 5) and older sister Natalie (age 2).  They are so happy to have their baby brother home! 

John, I’m so glad you love helping other people.  Our hope is that one day, Jonas grows into a strong and compassionate man, just like yourself. 
Thanks again, and Keep in touch as much as you want!

God Bless you,
- Joseph and Megan
We are so grateful for the connections made through this project and we hope that families like this one are inspired by the incredible lives and passionate words of our campers!

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Thanks to all 170 who attended “PALS Turns 10 at Penn!” It was certainly a fantastic night of catching up with friends, delicious food, and, of course, dancing.

Special thanks to the generous Snider Family, the Krinsky family, our Master of Ceremonies Tyler Drown, and the the event organizer extraordinaire Jess Trief.

Look for a new photo album on our facebook coming soon.

Learn More about The Gala and How to Win a Ticket!

Haven’t bought your ticket to the 10 Year Anniversary Gala yet? Not quite sure what all the fuss is about? Here’s some more of the awesome details:

What is this event?

The Gala is a fancy dance party and celebration, celebrating 10 years of the all the amazing things that make PALS so unique. We’ll be honoring those that have been involved since the very beginning and sharing some of the best photos and videos from throughout the years. Plus a few speeches and a lot of fun music, dancing and a delicious dinner!

When and Where?

The Gala is March 8th 2014 from 6-10 pm at the Hall of Flags at Perelman Quadrangle at the University of Pennsylvania!

How do I get a ticket?

With the support of a generous donor and some awesome table purchases, we are able to provide tickets at a discounted rate for PALS families, volunteers and community members at $50 a ticket.

http://palsprograms.org/gala

What’s this about winning a ticket?

Between now and February 28th we’ll be accepting submissions of videos, pictures, and other media about why you love PALS! We will donate a pair of tickets to the Gala to the winning submission and every other submission will win an additional $3 discount on their tickets!Post your submission (video, vine, photo, art piece, or other media) to the PALS Facebook wall or submit to aj@palsprograms.org

Meet the Directors: Introducing the San Francisco Team

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Meet the Camp PALS San Francisco Director Team. Joint together by their common love of baby animals and, of course, PALS, they are ecstatic to be working together. This team plans on bringing a week full of PALS magic to all participants with a hint of California style. They advise participants to prepare themselves for a trip to Google, guacamole and Ghiradelli ice cream, and countless spontaneous dance parties under SCU’s beautiful palm trees. They are already counting down the days to all the fun in the California sun!

Learn more about this director team after the jump:

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Hannah:
“Hi friends! My name is Hannah Cunliffe and I am beyond excited to start my 6th summer here with the Camp PALS family. In previous years, I have worked as a counselor, a head counselor, a CPS, and this will be my very first summer as a member of the San Francisco director team! I am currently a senior at West Chester University studying elementary and special education. Words cannot describe how excited I am for this upcoming summer. And with that…let the Camp PALS 2014 countdown begin!”

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Sara:
“Hiya! I’m Sara Glass and I could not be more thrilled to begin my 5th year at PALS. I’ve had all sorts of roles here, now including the honor of being a director for the second year in a row. I am in my third year at the University of Toronto (Oh, Canada!) studying Health and Psychology. I am so excited to work alongside Hannah and James in making our third year on the best coast better than ever!”

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James:
”Hi, Camp PALS! My name is James Kuczmarski and this will be my 6th year with camp. As a former counselor, head counselor, and founder of Camp PALS San Francisco, it is so amazing working on the director team and seeing all of the magic come together! As a graduate from Princeton University and current Googler, I bring brawn and beauty to the Camp PALS San Francisco Director team. I am so lucky to be able to experience PALS in my home in the Bay area.”

Camp PALS San Francisco hits the west coast July 6 -12, 2014 for 25 campers ages 16-25.

 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!

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

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

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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!

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

The Annual Fundraising Campaign has officially begun!  This year we are aiming for a total of $100,000 in donations. PALS has officially expanded to six camps for the new year and every little bit raised makes a huge difference in our future.  
  To donate or to create your own personal page please visit  http://palsprograms.org/donate/ .  
  We are confident that the PALS community has what it takes to make this campaign a huge success.  Let’s make this the best year yet!

The Annual Fundraising Campaign has officially begun!  This year we are aiming for a total of $100,000 in donations. PALS has officially expanded to six camps for the new year and every little bit raised makes a huge difference in our future.

To donate or to create your own personal page please visit http://palsprograms.org/donate/.


We are confident that the PALS community has what it takes to make this campaign a huge success.  Let’s make this the best year yet!