Changing Lives: St. Margaret’s Community Serves at Special Camp for 27th Year

Special Camp is ingrained as a cherished part of the St. Margaret’s experience—and it was never more evident as the day camp for children and teens with disabilities concluded its 27th summer.

Among the counselors, senior counselors and staff were more than 20 St. Margaret’s alumni, who once served as counselors during their high school days and continue to stay involved in the stewardship of the program even after going off to college.

“I keep returning because I have a strong passion for serving the disabled community,” said Yamili Burgos Pacheco ’14, a student at Biola University and senior counselor at Special Camp. “This is a place where I have formed meaningful and long-lasting relationships with the most amazing people.”

The St. Margaret’s alumni ranging from the Class of 2014 to the Class of 2018 joined more than 60 current St. Margaret’s Upper School students to provide campers from across the region an opportunity to enhance social development and communication skills in a traditional summer day camp setting.

More than 220 campers attend one of four one-week sessions, and each camper had a personal counselor for a one-to-one camper-counselor ratio that ensured undivided attention and a lasting bond.

“The best part of camp is seeing the friendships form between the camper and the counselor as the week goes on,” said Devon Palladini ’17, a University of Southern California student who served on the Special Camp staff as assistant counselor coordinator this summer. “Participating in the camp changes the lives of both the camper and the counselor. I never thought when I first decided to volunteer that four years later I'd be on staff and more involved with the camp than ever.”

Among the activities for this summer’s camp, which had a theme of “The Future is Bright,” campers and counselors went to Doheny State Beach, San Diego Zoo, Knott’s Berry Farm, Chuck E. Cheese, Boomers for miniature golf and Forest Lanes for bowling.

Overseeing the camp is a staff of 15, led by Executive Director Lindsay Eres ’00 and Operations Director Stefani Baker. Other staff members included Tartan alumni Elizabeth Stephens ’15, Katie Schwartz ’17, Kate Ramm ’17 and Sabine Scott ’15.

Sabine said her work at Special Camp has influenced her career path. A student at Pomona College, she plans to apply to clinical graduate programs in psychology to work with children with autism.

“Special Camp is a one-of-a-kind opportunity,” Sabine said. “I love seeing our campers supported within a community that truly loves them as a family.”
An independent preschool through grade 12 college-preparatory day school in Orange County, California