One of Charlotte’s annual June treasures unfolded this week in southeast Charlotte, where nearly 350 children and adults with physical and mental disabilities experienced the joys of summer camp.
They were guests at Camp SOAR, hosted by the Levine Jewish Community Center and operated by more than 400 community volunteers.
“Many of the children’s parents tell us, ‘Thanks for doing this. Our children wouldn’t have a camp experience if not for this,’ ” says Al Tinson, one of Camp SOAR’s biggest cheerleaders and a longtime volunteer.
SOAR (Special Olympics Athletic Retreat) is in its 12th year and has a number of corporate sponsors, with the Charlotte Bobcats taking a lead role this time. But the camp is fueled by the campers and volunteers, said Bob Bowler, another of its leaders.
“This year, we set up with the Charlotte Soccer Academy to have volunteers out here,” Bowler says. “They expected about 10 people to come out. We had 60 volunteers Wednesday and 40 Thursday.”
Bowler said swimmers from the Mecklenburg Aquatic Club were pool “buddies” for the campers. Companies like Duke Energy and LLP Financial sent out dozens of helpers.
Adults attended camp Monday and Tuesday, enjoying activities as varied as swimming and soccer, to arts and crafts. The children were guests Wednesday and Thursday, and all the campers returned Friday for a movie and dance as part of the closing ceremonies.
This year, campers decorated pillows that will be sent to U.S. soldiers serving in Afghanistan, and to the Wounded Warriors project.