Charlotte’s special needs camp focuses on butterflies

About 250 participants in a summer camp for Charlotte’s special needs population are adding their artistic flair this week to a project designed to commemorate those who were persecuted because they were different.

Camp SOAR, in its 14th year of providing a weeklong summer camp for children and adults with mental and physical handicaps and who otherwise might not get the experience, is on the Butterfly Project at the Jewish Community Center, which serves as home for the camp.

The Butterfly Project is a piece of artwork in front of the Jewish Community Center, which features arches adorned with ceramic butterflies. The sculpture is designed to commemorate the 1.5 million children killed in the Holocaust.

Dana Kapustin, coordinator of Project Butterfly and a volunteer at Camp SOAR, said this week’s project “goes beyond the Holocaust.”

“It’s about not giving in to hate, not giving in to prejudices or stereotypes about people who are different,” she said. “That theme certainly fits with what’s happening here this week.”

As usual, people from across the Charlotte community are serving as volunteers during the week, helping campers enjoy basketball, softball, swimming, bingo and more.

“We have almost 300 campers this week, which makes this year’s camp our biggest,” said Al Tinson, one of the organizers of the annual program, which is supported by the Jewish Community Center, Compass Foods, and a host of other companies and organizations.

Last year, campers completed artwork for U.S. military veterans.

“This year, the Butterfly Project was the logical choice, since it’s right here at the Jewish Community Center,” said Eileen Schwartz, Camp SOAR’s art director.

Organizers expect campers to complete about 250 butterflies this week, to accompany an additional 8,000 that have been finished and are waiting to be added to the artwork. About 2,800 butterflies already adorn the sculpture.