SOARing at Camp Shalom

News | June 15, 2017

They swam, went caving, took a hike, made crafts, sang, climbed a rock wall. Twenty-five adults with disabilities spent the week at Camp Shalom last week – including two St. Paul members.

It was the first time Joy Crane attended camp. What was her favorite?

“Swimming!” And the food? “It is really good. They hired a really, really good cook.”

Selah Buccifero, on the other hand, has been at Camp Shalom many, many times. She loved going to caving at the Maquoketa Caves – a trip that included worship, too.

Joy and Selah were part of Mulberry Cabin at camp last week – it was the first time for SOAR, a camp specifically for adults with disabilities. And by all accounts, it was an awesome week.

“Big thumbs up,” Joy said, while she and her cabin mates took a break one sunny afternoon.

The idea for the camp grew over time, said Tom Bley, Camp Shalom’s executive director. Camp staff worked with organizations like Camp Courageous and Handicapped Development Center, or HDC, to ensure the best possible week. They made a few changes to the usual camp schedule, and held trainings for staff. They worked with HDC to choose campers that would best fit what Camp Shalom could offer in terms of medical, physical, and emotional support.

Camp also will hold a week in July for children with ADHD. Gilda’s Club will be sending a group of kids who are impacted by cancer this year, too.

Ben Carlson is the program director for Camp Shalom. The week was a joy, he said. Participants ranged in age from 19-59.

“They are some of the gentlest polite people you will ever encounter,” he said. “It’s been a pleasure to be around them.”

Campers enjoyed lots of activities, Ben said, specifically naming the dance party with a DJ, and human foosball.

“They challenged themselves in different ways,” he said.

To learn more about Camp Shalom, visit



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