This past summer, sixth former Jeffrey Yang and fifth formers Jay Crowther, Isaiah Shuchman, and Jaiden Shuchman spent time volunteering at PALS, an organization that fosters friendship and independence among young adults with Down syndrome. The four Haverford School students were joined by young alumni Robert Esgro ’19 and Ryan Ngo ’21, who have been working at the camps for many years under the recommendation of Ms. Jini Loos, Haverford’s Director of Service Learning.
Typically a week-long overnight experience, this year’s PALS Summer Camp was held on weekends due to COVID-19 restrictions. The Haverford students participated in two programs that took place at the Diamond Ridge Day camp in Jamison, Pa. The boys and the rest of the volunteers were paired with someone with Down syndrome and, together in teams, they spent the two days enjoying various activities, such as swimming, arts and crafts, and casino games
“My favorite activity was PALS karaoke—where every camper chose a song and performed it on stage,” said Yang. “There was so much energy. Everyone was just clapping along, dancing, and just having a great time. Every camper was a celebrity in their own sense!"
Founded in 2004 in Doylestown, Pa., the PALS camp is a transformative experience that creates great friendships and deep connections for both the campers and the volunteers.
“Everyone there was so accepting of who you were and was there to support each other,” explained Yang. “It's not everyday when I get to interact with, and, further, make friends with, people with Down syndrome and, through PALS, I’ve learned so much in terms of forming meaningful connections with those around me.”