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Fundraising results are in

The 2012-13 fundraising campaign has come to an end, and we’ve tallied the results. In the last 4 months we raised a whopping $85,684 from 432 donors via 88 fundraising pages! That’s 85K that will help us launch three new programs this summer (in addition to the two we’re already running), continuing our effort to reach communities all around the country.

There’s no way for us to express how grateful we are to everyone who chipped in on this effort, and who helped us outdo last year’s record-setting campaign by 18%. So let us just say:

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It's "Spread the Word" day

Hi PALS Family!

We hope this message finds you well. Tomorrow, March 6, is the fifth annual Spread the Word to End the Word day, and we are more excited than Ryan Herrington at a dance party to get your help in making it our biggest yet. Want to help us raise awareness about the social challenges facing our friends with Down syndrome? Want to make the world a more accepting and inclusive place? Here are a few easy ways to start:

  1. Help us reach your network: Use the Spread the Word badge below as your Facebook profile picture. Don’t worry, you can change it back to that presh selfie after Wednesday. Also, help us by sharing articles and videos about the event with your Facebook friends.
  2. Add your voice to ours: What’s your reason for making the world a more inclusive place? Whether it’s your PALS friend, a family member, a PALS experience or something else, let people know.
  3. Take the pledge: Visit us at r-word.org and take the pledge yourself. Then encourage your friends to do it.
  4. Get some inspiration from Ryan Herrington, who is speaking out about the R-word in his community, or the incredible self-advocates, John and Sam.

Every summer we talk about PALS having the highest “goodness quotient” in the world. Join us in leveraging that goodness to continue to change the world!

Peace, Love, PALS
Soeren and Timbo
Founders, Spread the Word to End the Word
Commissioners Emeriti, PALS ThunderDome

Great audio clip about Down syndrome

Long-time PALS counselor Gabe Cohen produced this excellent piece about families living with Down syndrome. Take a listen:

Gabe says: Last fall I decided to produce an audio documentary about living with Down syndrome. My interest in the subject stemmed from the five amazing years I spent volunteering at Camp PALS. After reading about prenatal testing last October, I realized that a major gap exists between facts and assumptions about disabilities. I wanted my story to display some of the things I learned at Camp PALS—most importantly, that individuals with Down syndrome aren’t so different from anyone else. The two young men I profile in the story reflect just that. Listen to the story, get to know Jack and Sam, and see if you agree.

Gabe Cohen studies journalism at Northwestern University and is a 5-time counselor at Camp PALS

Winter Board & Directors Meeting

Last weekend the Executive Board and our five teams of Program Directors got together in NYC to welcome new leaders, offer mutual support and gain genuine insight on the future of PALS. We were encouraged by each other’s passion and, of course, had some fun! Over the past six months, PALS has gone through a lot of growth, so it was nice to be together and feel like family again.

Together, we discussed details around planning for our campers and counselors this summer, strategies for building sponsorships and raising funds, and new ideas for how we can bring the Camp PALS magic to more people throughout the year.

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As an organization that is led by so many volunteers, we know our roles require a lot of patience, energy and commitment. We were inspired after taking some time to review our families’ answers to "Why Camp PALS?“ and then wrote some answers of our own. As one of us stated yesterday, we are motivated by the belief that the world will be better when we leave than it was when we got here.

As we continue to build this future together, please know that we are grateful for every member of our PALS family. This is our place and it is the best place in the world.

We are always eager to hear your feedback—feel free to contact us at board@palsprograms.org.

Thanks,

Jenni

Camper Application now available

Happy New Year!

The camper application for Camp PALS 2013 is now available: click here to apply

Join us in one of our 5 locations this summer: Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Georgetown or Princeton. Start your year off right and apply now because spots are going fast! And maybe you’ll experience July 4 fireworks in Washington, DC next summer…

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Counselors, make sure your application is in too! Details and dates for all programs are available at palsprograms.org. Email jenni@palsprograms.org with any questions and see you this summer!

Jenni

PALS celebrity shoutout

Last weekend PALS’ very own Ivan Gonzalez got an awesome PALS shoutout from up-and-coming celebrity singer/songwriter Andrew Allen (who recently recorded a duet with Carly Rae Jepsen, due to work its way up the charts within a month or so). Ivan donated money to his favorite group (PALS, obviously), so Andrew Allen dedicated a Christmas carol to PALS on YouTube. Check it out!

You too can get a shoutout from the the next big star! Ask your family and friends to donate to PALS (set up a page if you haven’t already: http://palsprograms.org/donate/create), follow the directions on Andrew Allens’ website, and you can get a song dedicated to you, your family or PALS.

Happy holidays from Ivan, Andrew and all of your PALS friends!

P.S. If you want to check out some of Andrew Allens’ music, Ivan suggests “Loving You Tonight” and “I Want You.”

Executive Board Update Part III: Diversity & Sustainability

This is the third in our series of blog posts sharing some of the discussions and decisions that came from our October Board & Directors Meeting in NYC.

As we talked about the goals and objectives we have for the organization in moving forward, two key areas were clear in our conversations: diversity and sustainability.

Diversity
We have recognized that the PALS family tends to come from specific backgrounds and income-levels in the areas we serve. Beginning this year, our goal is to recruit both campers and counselors from inner-city areas so that we can serve people from a range of economic backgrounds. This is especially important for our programs in Chicago and Philadelphia.  

Sustainability
As a young organization that has grown in the hands of a small group of people, we want to be strategic about developing new, young leaders who can continue to expand the reach and vision of PALS, while staying true to our values and mission. In addition, we are seeking to build long-term relationships with key funders so that we can ensure the continued growth and success of the organization. More on this to come when we introduce the PALS Giving Team and their new survey.

Stay tuned for our final update—the announcement of our 2013 line-up!

~ Jenni, on behalf of the PALS Executive Board & Directors


Introducing PALS Adventures!

In our recent post on Growth, we talked about a new priority for PALS: year-round opportunities to grow friendships and create new shared memories. We are excited to share some specific plans around this initiative and its official name: PALS Adventures!

PALS Adventures will take regional reunions to a whole new level. Each adventure will include an opportunity to explore an area, take a trip, or try something new. Examples include activities such as bowling, going to a movie, tailgating and watching a sports game, a trip to a museum, volunteering for a day, or kickball in a park. We plan to start Adventures as day trips, but our hope is that these can grow into long-weekend or even week-long opportunities (Camping! A Ski trip! Going to Disney!)

The 5 tenets of a PALS Adventure are:

  1. A veteran PALS counselor will act as the leader and organizer of the trip
  2. At least 10 people will join the trip
  3. Campers and counselors are paired up one-to-one (additional staff may attend)
  4. Participants should have previously attended at least one PALS program
  5. No parents allowed!

We are also excited to announce the coordinator of PALS Adventures—Laura Karp! Laura has been part of the PALS family for the past six years. She is quite experienced at having adventures and traveled across the country last summer to attend all four PALS programs in 2012! 

Laura will be building her team of regional leaders in the next few weeks. Please email her at adventures@palsprograms.org if you’re interested in getting involved! 

We will announce upcoming Adventures on our blog and will have a running list of events on palsprograms.org. We are so excited about this new opportunity to grow our relationships and to fill every month of the year with new PALS memories!

~ Jenni

Spread the word to end the word

John Stephens, a Special Olympics athlete from Virginia, recently wrote this powerful open letter to political pundit Ann Coulter in response to her use of the R-word in a Twitter post.

The PALS community supports the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign, founded by long-time PALS counselor Soeren Palumbo and Executive Board member Tim Shriver. The campaign seeks to spread awareness about the hurtfulness of the “R-word” and encourages others to pledge to end their use of this word. At PALS programs, campers and counselors sign a pledge to end their use of the word and to fight the bullying and exclusion that accompany it.

As a community, we’re committed to challenging each other to be a little better and to see the world a little differently. Campers Sam and John filmed this video to help people understand their perspective on the R-word and to ask that we all support the campaign. You can also sign the pledge at www.r-word.org.

We just got this note and photo of a mini reunion from Camp PALS camper Jake Klouser: 
  Kevin (Grow) and I were the Honorary Captains for Archbishop Ryan’s football team. Tyler (McGee) was watching his cousin play. I love you guys. Go Camp PALS.  
 Thanks for sharing, Jake! We love to hear from anyone with news like this.

We just got this note and photo of a mini reunion from Camp PALS camper Jake Klouser:

Kevin (Grow) and I were the Honorary Captains for Archbishop Ryan’s football team. Tyler (McGee) was watching his cousin play. I love you guys. Go Camp PALS.

Thanks for sharing, Jake! We love to hear from anyone with news like this.

Executive Board Update Part II: Growth

This is the second in our series of blog posts sharing some of the discussions and decisions that came from our Board & Directors Meeting in NYC earlier this month.

As members of the PALS family, we are always looking to grow. During our Board Meeting two weeks ago, we talked a lot about growth, with emphasis on three key ideas:

1. Quality: While growth is a valuable goal for PALS, we want to make sure that every program is still the high quality, fun, and exciting experience that we’ve all characterized as PALS. We know that quality growth requires a strong infrastructure, so our new Executive Director position is taking on administrative tasks so that parents have one place to get all the business details. This means our volunteer directors can put all of their time and energy into creating the best experience possible. Our goal is to exceed expectations every year, with every program.

2. Numbers: As we head towards our 10th year, it is incredible to recall that Camp PALS started with just 16 campers and 16 counselors. As we look to have more people, and more programs every summer, we constantly seek ways to improve what we do. For example, so many of our counselors and campers loved the smaller feel of Camp PALS West this year. So as we plan for our 2013 programs, we’re looking for ways to create that smaller sense of community while still bringing together hundreds of campers and counselors across the country. We want everyone in the world to experience Camp PALS.


3. Year-round: After each summer, the countdown to the next Camp PALS begins, but often the months and seasons drag on and on. In addition, as our campers and counselors get older, committing a full week of time becomes increasingly difficult. So we’ve decided to take our strategy for reunions to the next level. This new PALS program will engage alumni of all ages year-round as campers and counselor pair up one-on-one to explore a new place, take a trip, or engage in new shared experiences. We will start with 1- or 2-day events, but will continue to grow and eventually foresee adventures that will take us on far-off vacations, week-long camping trips, raging New Year’s Eve Parties and anything else we can find along the way! Stay tuned for the official announcement. We believe that the best PALS memories are created organically with the incredible type of people that make up our PALS family and so we’re excited to see PALS magic happen year round.

So there you have it—focusing on quality, emphasizing numbers, and launching some year-round opportunities for our community to continue to grow together. As a team, we’ve set the goal that by 2016, we will have at least 10 programs (including our new reunion options) that will be happening around the year. Ultimately, we want to fill every month of every year with PALS memories. We hope you’ll join us!

~ Jenni, on behalf of the PALS Executive Board & Directors

Executive Board Update Part I: Values

Last weekend, the PALS Executive Board, our program directors, and the chair of our counselor board came together to share insight, build new plans, and dream about the future of PALS together. We learned new things about who we are and the impact we can have as an organization. Most of all, we were inspired by our PALS family—the campers, counselors, parents, sponsors and community that have supported us for the past 10 years.

We want to take some time this month to share some of the details of our discussions. The first topic we covered was Values. We took time to discuss what we stand for, how we act, and how to do business in a way that represents our principles. As an organization, we have 5 core values: We are Welcoming, Genuine, Fun, Passionate, and Supportive. We think it’s important to share what we stand for, so we added a link to our website to show everyone what they can expect from PALS. Check it out here: http://www.palsprograms.org/values. We’d also like to thank Executive Board member Jess Trief and the volunteers from Lippincott who worked with us for the tremendous help they provided in facilitating this conversation.

As always, feel free to send me feedback and/or insight at jenni@palsprograms.org. Stay tuned for our next update next week!

Presenting the Congratulations Project

In celebration of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, we’re thrilled to share some exciting news on The Congratulations Project.

As many of you know, The Congratulations Project was launched at multiple PALS programs this past summer. Campers took time to write letters to new parents of babies with Down syndrome, and many of our counselors and siblings have joined them. The letters are designed to inspire, encourage, empathize, welcome, and, most importantly, congratulate new parents and siblings of a child with Down syndrome.

Our goal is for these letters to be distributed to hospitals and local advocacy groups through individual connections around the country. Some camper letters will be shared individually, others will be paired with counselor letters, sharing not only the perspective of a self-advocate, but the value and impact of the 1-to-1 relationships formed at PALS programs. These letters will be given to parents just receiving the information that their child has or is suspected to have Down syndrome and each unique letter will contain the same message of hope, joy, and the value and impact of people with Down syndrome.


Today we are excited to share this letter from Samantha Cousins! We will continue to share samples of these letters on the blog over the next few weeks, and we encourage you to take time to learn more at www.palsprograms.org/congratulations . We also invite you to join us as we continue with this project. We are eager to receive more letters and to hear suggestions for new distribution sites. If you have any recommendations, or any questions about the project, please reach out to us at congratulations@palsprograms.org.

Thanks for your support!

Alex, David & Jenni

NYC Buddy Walk coming up

Hey PALS Family, the New York City Buddy Walk is coming up in just a few short weeks, and we would love to see everyone there! The Buddy Walk is a festival held in Central Park to raise money for NDSS. There will be games, live music, a dance party, and of course the Walk through the park, and PALS will be there for all of it!

The Buddy Walk will be taking place on Saturday, September 22 at the Great Lawn in Central Park. You can get there by going to 106th St and Central Park West in NYC and walking up the stairs that lead into the park. We’ll be there from 11 am to 3 pm, and we’re hoping you’ll be able to be there too! If you’re thinking of coming please get in touch with Jenni (jenni@palsprograms.org) or Jess (jess@palsprograms.org) to RSVP, or to ask any questions. Hope to see you there!

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 directors@camppalschicago.org.

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

Introducing our new Executive Director

Over the years, one of the ideas that has come up again and again is to hire a full-time Executive Director to look after day to day operations, act as the organization’s main spokesperson, oversee directors of our (growing list of) programs, and plan for PALS’ long term future. Time and time again, when this idea has come up, we’ve all agreed that it would only make sense to have such a role if we could find the perfect person for the job.  Well, I’m very excited to announce that we’ve found that person.

It’s with great excitement that I announce that, starting next month, Jenni Newbury will officially take the helm of PALS as its first Executive Director. As co-founder of PALS and director of Camp PALS East for the past 9 years, Jenni has demonstrated year-round dedication and has been instrumental to the success of PALS programming. In addition to her successes at PALS, she graduated from Princeton University, was the keynote speaker at the 2011 National Down Syndrome Conference and has worked for over 2 years at the Special Olympics headquarters in DC. She also is a wonderful sister and friend to Jason Newbury. There is simply no one more perfect for the role!

Jenni

As Executive Director Jenni will be responsible for a number of areas, including:
  • Working with the Executive Board to approve and support all program proposals
  • Managing a master database of all campers/participants and counselors/mentors
  • Communicating with all parent/guardians around processes regarding financial aid, tuition and health
  • Meeting with program directors to review budget, programming, and conduct program evaluation
  • Working to secure cross-program opportunities for fundraising, discounts, donations and partnerships
  • Writing and submitting grants to continue to build the PALS infrastructure
  • Being present at programs to provide support, insight, and feedback to directors

We couldn’t be more excited for Jenni to take on this role. Her presence will empower PALS to improve and grow like never before, bringing new experiences, independent living, and lasting friendships to young adults with Down Syndrome and their peers across the country.

Please help me to congratulate Jenni in her new role by emailing her at jenni@palsprograms.org.

Jason on behalf of the Executive Board

Welcome Jessica Trief to the PALS board!

I’m thrilled to share that Jessica Trief has agreed to join the PALS executive board, alongside Jenni, Josh, Abby and myself. I’ve known Jess for about 7 years now and can’t think of a better person in the world for this role.

Over the years, Jess has made enormous contributions to PALS. At camp, Jess has organized closing ceremonies, water balloon fights, meals, dances, and more. Outside of camp, Jess has served as chair of the Counselor Board and recently led the PALS-wide branding/logo redesign. Jess brings passion to everything she does, and our organization will be even stronger with the addition of her leadership.

We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Jess to the board. We’re excited to work with her and to continue to make PALS the best place in the world.

- Jason, on behalf of the PALS Executive Board

Upcoming PALS walk in the park

Coming up on May 5, Camp PALS will be hosting a fundraising fun walk in Dover, PA. Everyone is welcome — the more people who can join us, the better! We will be walking in Lehr Park, which has a paved path 0.75 miles long. We are hoping everyone will do at least one lap to show their support for Camp PALS and one more to show their support for Down syndrome awareness. Of course there will be fun games and activities throughout the event, as well as food for sale. (See additional event details below.)

Preregistration for the walk runs from March 26 to May 3 — if you preregister here (for $8) you’ll get a free hot dog at the park. You can also register (for $10) on the day of the walk.  We always love to see our PALS friends and to meet new people, so even if you’re not in the area, tell your friends who are. Remember that every dollar we raise will support Camp PALS!

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Ivan Gonzalez at ivan@camppals.org.

When: May 5, 2012

Where: Lehr Park, 3700 Davidsburg Road, Dover, PA

Schedule: 10:30-11:00 Registration

                11:00: Walk begins

                11:00-1:30: Lunch served

                2:00: Walk ends

For more info about Camp PALS and all PALS programs, visit www.palsprograms.org