Since its founding in 2004, Camp PALS has aimed to give young adults with Down syndrome what executive director Jenni Newbury Ross calls “a place of their own, one that feels like home.”
For the second consecutive summer, Elmhurst College’s campus was just such a place, hosting 21 campers and 30 volunteers for a weeklong Camp PALS in June. Elmhurst sponsored the camp and provided housing for some of the campers.
“These camps are a chance for young adults with Down syndrome to have fun in a welcoming environment, and to be accepted without judgment,” said Newbury Ross. “We’re so thankful that Elmhurst’s generosity has allowed us to grow.”
The Elmhurst camp was one of six offered this year by PALS Programs. Others are in Dallas, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Princeton, New Jersey. Together, the camps serve more than 200 young adults with Down syndrome.
During their time at Elmhurst, campers enjoyed trips to Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, sailing on Lake Michigan, a Schaumburg Boomers baseball game and a day of bowling in downtown Elmhurst. On campus, they participated in aerobics classes, scavenger hunts and karaoke performances in the Frick Center’s Roost. In the PALS Olympics, campers and counselors teamed up to compete in races and other athletic contests. They also enjoyed a semi-formal dance.
“The campers grow as individuals and the counselors get the opportunity for learn from someone different from them,” said Newbury Ross. “It’s an experience that transforms lives.”
Newbury Ross said she met with Elmhurst students who expressed interest in volunteering at future camps. She hopes to be able to double the number of campers participating at Elmhurst next summer.
She thanked Lee Daniels, Elmhurst’s special assistant to the president for government and community relations, for supporting the camp.
“He has been such an incredible advocate for us,” she said.