CHARLOTTE – Bob Bowler thought having high school students as volunteers would be good for Camp SOAR, an experience in which Special Olympics athletes attend summer camp.
He approached schools with his idea of a buddy system as the camp grew from several dozen campers to this year’s total of over 350 campers. Camp SOAR convened for the 19th time from June 10 to 14 at the Levine Jewish Community Center.
“I see so much bonding, and barriers are dropped,” Bowler said. “They realize that they are making a difference in the campers’ lives, but it is also making a difference in their own lives. It’s great to see the acceptance and the respectability and how they bring everybody together.”
About 400 volunteers are needed to pull off the week-long event. Bowler said the camp attracts several volunteers who want to become special education teachers or occupational therapists.
Maria Yarussi, of Waxhaw, is one such volunteer.
Yarussi, a recent Charlotte Catholic graduate, will head to Mars Hill University in the fall to major in occupational therapy, as well as play soccer and run track. She just finished her second year as a volunteer at Camp SOAR.
“The campers just love to be here, and they love to work together and find new friends,” Yarussi said. “There is so much happiness. They always have smiles on their faces, and the volunteers always have smiles on their faces.’’
She has been interested in special education since the seventh grade. Her best friend has autism. Yarussi sees herself volunteering at Camp SOAR for many summers to come.
Want to know more?
Visit www.sonc.net to learn more about Camp SOAR and other programs offered by Special Olympics North Carolina.