Special Olympic athletes will help veterans during the Camp Special Olympic Athletic Retreat (SOAR), which celebrates its 13th year this summer.
This free camp for Special Olympics athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities ages 10 years and older runs from June 10 – 14 at the Levine Jewish Community Center in Shalom Park. Session I (for athletes 26 and older) will be June 10, 11, and 14. Session II (for athletes 10-25) will be June 12, 13, and 14.
Camp activities include sports activities, as well as enrichment activities, such as talent shows, computers, and arts and crafts, culminating in a dance on the last day of camp.
New this year is the athletes’ involvement in the ART for Veterans project, a new initiative for the volunteer-run, nonprofit organization Flags Across the Nation (FLAGS), which promotes patriotism through the arts.
“The ART for Veterans project brings creative and healing support to our veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars,” said FLAGS founder and president Eileen Schwartz, 68.
By taking part, the campers will help the morale of troops at Ft. Bragg and in Afghanistan, said Al Tinson, Camp SOAR media-relations coordinator.
Campers will create gifts for veterans, wounded warriors, and active duty military in Afghanistan, as well as package free art supplies donated by Carolina Pad, Camp SOAR, Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff, and Levine JCC families through LJCC Cares and the young athletic leagues.
Temple Beth El donated extra pillowcases from the annual Mitzvah Day (day of service and caring). The campers will decorate those pillowcases and donate them to wounded warriors at Fort Bragg.
“These art projects will make the campers and volunteers excited and proud, and it will add to the Camp SOAR legacy,” said Camp SOAR founder Bob Bowler.
For the fourth consecutive year, Schwartz will run the Camp SOAR arts program. Schwartz’s goal is to let the campers express themselves through art while caring for veterans. Campers will practice and discover new artistic skills while experiencing the act of giving to others, said Schwartz
“This project is also important to me because this activity reflects the mission of this organization (FLAGS), which is to promote patriotism through the arts and to creatively support veterans and military,” said Schwartz, who holds a BFA in painting and drawing from the Art Institute of Chicago and M.A.E in special education from San Diego State. “We believe that in the process of creating art, healing can take place.”
During the Camp SOAR art sessions, 300 campers will create drawings, write letters to the troops, decorate wooden hearts and pillowcases, and assemble art gifts. The art gifts will include supplies, such as colored pencils, markers, acrylic paints, sketch pads, etc.
On June 20 at the annual Wounded Warrior Appreciation Day, the assembled art bags will be given to wounded warriors at Fort Bragg. The bags will also be sent to troops in Afghanistan and donated to veterans who take the free “ART for Veterans” painting and drawing classes at the Levine JCC and at the McDowell Arts Center in Matthews.
Schwartz has also invited several local veterans to come to Camp SOAR to interact with the campers during the art sessions.
Marissa Brooks is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marissa? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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