PALS 2014

PALS Siblings: Alex and Bryan

This week, read a perspective from veteran counselor, Alex Meltzer. Alex and his brother Bryan have been a part of PALS for 11 years.  

To me, Down syndrome awareness has very little to do with actually making others aware of Down syndrome.  I think everyone pretty much knows or at least recognizes Down syndrome, it’s a fairly common genetic disorder.  Instead, I see Down syndrome awareness as an opportunity to highlight everything else surrounding an individual with Down syndrome.  

My brother, Bryan, has DS, but it isn’t how I define him.  I define him as hilarious, thoughtful, charismatic, intelligent, social, independent and employable.  Down syndrome awareness  is special to me because it allows people who just see Bryan’s Down syndrome to look deeper and see all of the other things that I’ve seen in him for the past 25 years.

PALS Siblings: Ryan and Natalie

This week we feature PALS counselor Ryan Joye and his twin sister (and PALS camper!), Natalie:

“My twin sister Natalie has been the most influential person in my life since we were both born 18 years ago. She is one of the biggest “joys” in my life. Growing up alongside of Natalie has been an experience that I would not trade for anything in the world. She has taught me to be appreciative of the differences in others and to always see the bright side in things. Her kindness and compassion for others inspires me to try to be the best person I can be everyday.

I believe that Down syndrome Awareness means celebrating and appreciating the amazing people in our lives who have Down syndrome. I think that Down syndrome Awareness is important because it can demonstrate to others, who may not have the experience of knowing someone with Down syndrome, how awesome it can be to form a relationship with an individual who has Down syndrome.”

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!

PALS spends WDSD14 with Google

Hi PALS!!!
We are so excited to have celebrated 3/21/14, World Down Syndrome Day, in Mountain View, California with a PALS Adventure at Google! Our campers and participants from local Down Syndrome organizations were able to work one-on-one with some of Google’s wonderful employees. Together they enhanced their skills in Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Hangouts, and even prepared for a job interview. We finished the work day off in true PALS fashion with a dance party in the Google bowling alley!

Then the party continued in San Jose where we continued to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day with many of the local organizations from the Bay Area. Our participants showed the crowd how proud they were to be a part of the PALS family with incredible speeches about their accomplishments and of course, lots more dancing!

We are looking forward to continuing to work with Google and create even more PALS Adventures on the West Coast!

Guest Blogging From Soeren and Timbo- PALS Board Members and Spread the Word to End the Word Co-Founders

 "Timbo and I started Spread the Word to End the Word six years ago with what we thought was a crazy idea: that, somewhere, there were young people and self-advocates with ability and desire to lead a movement changing the way society views intellectual disability. We thought that, maybe, we could find enough young people and self-advocates willing to stand against the mistreatment of their classmates and friends with intellectual disabilities.

And then we came to PALS. And we realized that this wasn’t such a crazy idea after all. Through something as simple as being a counselor, being a camper, being a friend, all of us in the PALS community have already taken a stand against the stigma and prejudice that continues to follow those with intellectual disabilities. And we’ve taken a stand for acceptance, for friendship, for respect. Whether it happened at Camp Olympics, a PALS Spread the Word event, in a Camper Speech, or an authentic conversation over lunch, we’ve all taken a stand.

Today, we hope that you’ll take a stand with us to end one part of this stigma and prejudice: the word “retard(ed).” Take the pledge to end the R-word and then asks your friends to do the same. Together, we can make a world where acceptance and dignity for people with intellectual disabilities isn’t such a crazy idea. Together, we can make the world a bit more like Our Place.

We hope you’ll take a minute to read the op-ed that Timbo and I wrote today for Spread the Word to End the Word. And, as a bonus, you can watch Timbo and I fidget in our interview with Huffington Post Live (also at the link).

Peace, Love, PALS,

Soeren and Timbo

Co-Founders, Spread the Word to End the Word
2010 Camp PALS Cabrini Olympics Champions (Go Sharks)“

Guest Blogging from Alyson and Jenna!

Camper/counselor pair Alyson McGonigle and Jenna Pando met a year and a half ago at Camp PALS and have remained extremely close. Read more about their friendship in their own words:

Alyson: “Going to school in Virginia often makes it hard to hang out during the school year, but we like to take advantage of the time we do have together while I am home. Over this past break, we went shopping, had lunch at Ruby’s and had a sleepover. While at school, I am thankful for the ability to FaceTime with Jenna. Because of this she has been able to meet my roommates, and see where I live while away at school.

Jenna has become so close with my entire family, and I with hers. We feel blessed to have such an amazing friendship…I am so lucky to consider Jenna one of my best friends, and I cannot wait to see what other adventures our friendship takes us on.”

Jenna: “I have fun with my friend Alyson from Camp Pals! This Christmas break we went to the Mall and I went to her house and played Ping Pong, dance party and Sequence at Alyson’s house.

I miss her when she is gone at school. Sometimes when Alyson is at her school I FaceTime with her and show her the dress my mom got me for my dance or my duck slippers. I love her.”

Jenna’s mom, Lizanne, added, “We have been so touched by Alyson and Jenna’s friendship.  Her whole family has embraced Jenna and welcomed her to their home or out to Alyson’s track meets many times. Alyson is a very special person and we have come to love her like family.  We hope that Alyson and Jenna remain friends forever.

We can’t thank Camp PALS enough for giving Jenna the opportunity to spread her wings and learn independence and relationship building with wonderful people like Alyson in such a safe environment.”

Do you have a photo or story like Jenna and Alyson’s from a recent hang out with your Camp PALS friends?

Email details to for your very own blog spotlight featuring the ways you keep the PALS love alive all year long.

Meet the Directors: Introducing the Content Team


Meet the brand new, “still in the box with shrink wrap on” team of content directors. Supporting PALS across the nation, this team is composed of the energetic Paige Talhelm - Donor Relations, the veteran Jordan McCollough - Media, the classy Courtney Lynch - PALS Adventures and the awesome Ricky Price - Medical. This team was created to fulfill the needs of all programs, current and future, of our rapidly growing organization. The Content Team aims to assist each group of directors on common key areas, such as funding, staffing, and continued programming, allowing each group of camp directors to focus on making “the best weeks of the year.” While others have begun the countdown to a specific camp, the content team is already living the PALS dream by supporting each location year-round. They are inspired, motivated, and excited to support the wonderful PALS community 365 days of the year

Learn more about this team after the jump:



“I’m Paige Talhem, and this will be my fourth year at PALS and I will be serving as our Donor Relations Director. I will be working with each of the program director teams and their donations. I’m super excited to work with each camp and am counting down the days. My interest in PALS and helping those with special needs began because of my brother who has Autism. I reside in the hood of Baltimore with my two roommates and wiener dog. I am currently a Psychology major at Towson University. In my free time, I enjoy volunteering at the Hussman Autism Center and eating a lot!”



“Greetings Earthlings! I’m Jordan McCollough, Director of Media, and this will be my 7th year with PALS. Over the years I’ve filled a lot of roles including counselor, blogger, and videographer. This will be my first summer as a PALS Director, and I couldn’t be more excited! I currently live in Washington, DC where I am working as a Software Test Lead for an IT consulting firm. In addition, this summer I started my own wedding videography business and have successfully completed 4 projects. I look forward to acting as videographer for PALS this summer while taking a step back to shape the future of PALS Media “the other 51 weeks” of the year. Please feel free to contact me at for any PR/Media related inquires!”



“Hello PALS family! I’m Courtney Lynch and I’m ecstatic to officially be joining the PALS Director team! I can’t get enough PALS in my life and Summer 2014 will be my 6th summer at camp. This year, I will be working on year round PALS programs as the Director of Adventures. I graduated from Miami University in May with a degree in special education and though I grew up outside of Cleveland, Ohio, I currently live in beautiful North Carolina. I’m so thankful for this opportunity and can’t wait to bring PALS Adventures to a city near you! ”



“Hey PALS Peeps! My name is Ricky Price and I am so excited to join the Director Team for my 5th summer at PALS. I have been a counselor for the past 4 summers, so I was thrilled to receive this roll as Medical Director for PALS 2014 to help make this summer the best summer yet for all of our programs around the country. A little about me: I am a senior at Michigan State University (GO GREEN!) and I will be graduating this spring with a bachelor’s in Kinesiology and a minor in Dance. I am also in the process of applying to Medical Schools in the hopes of becoming a specialized pediatrician for persons with disabilities. I am super excited for this summer; the countdown has begun for PALS 2014!!”

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!

Check back tomorrow to meet the next team of directors!