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August 8, 2019

Ben Longo 2021 Reflects on Summer Volunteering

For the past several years, Asheville School junior Ben Longo has volunteered with Camp SOAR (Special Olympics Athletic Retreat) in Charlotte, North Carolina. The weeklong camp serves Special Olympics athletes and potential athletes in Mecklenburg county, and it features sports training and enrichment activities.

Longo volunteered first as a Buddy with Camp SOAR – he was paired with a camper to assist with day to day camp activities. This year, Ben served as a Leader in Training.

Tell me about being a Leader in Training at Camp SOAR.
As a Leader in Training, I was in training to be a Group Leader. Each camper is put into a group based on their age: the purple group, the green group, the yellow group, etc. I was a Leader in Training in the purple group. Each camper in the groups has a Buddy, who helps them with their daily routine. I was a Buddy last year. 

This year I helped with campers who had allergic reactions, who were struggling in some way, or other situations when a camper’s Buddy was unable to help. I was basically the assistant to the group leader, who is in charge of the group and the group’s activities.

My favorite part of being a leader is making sure the campers in my group are having a positive experience and helping campers who need assistance that their Buddies can’t provide. I like that I get to help Buddies in my group make sure they are taking care of their camper and that I still get to help campers out every now and then. 

What about volunteering with Camp SOAR makes you want to go back each year?
The connections I make with the campers each year makes me want to go back. Back when I was a Buddy, I liked helping and making campers feel good about themselves. Kind of like Jesus said, treat others the way you want to be treated. I try to live by the golden rule every day, and Camp Soar helps me do that. I enjoy helping other people out and making them feel good about themselves.

Why do you think it is important to volunteer in general?
I think volunteering is important because it helps people gain compassion. While people are volunteering, they get to walk in other people’s shoes and gain compassion for other people. Volunteering also helps people step out of their comfort zone in order to help someone.

Why do you think it is important to help out with Camp SOAR?
I think it is important because helping others builds character. Asheville School has some service groups go off campus to help other people out. The reason Asheville School does this is to build character.

Volunteering in the Special Olympics is the same deal. Volunteers learn how to help people feel great about themselves, have fun, and be able take part in athletic competitions. Volunteers and campers come out of their shells and talk to people they usually don’t engage with every day. 

What are you most proud of from your work volunteering?
I am most proud that I am spending my time to help other people out. I believe that by being nice to others, I am being nice to God. I enjoy doing this, and I hope to volunteer again next year.