By Derek Lacey / Staff Writer
Bob Bowler has been a volunteer with Special Olympics for 29 years. In that time, he noticed that everything shut down in the summer, and saw the need for a camp for Special Olympics athletes. Camp SOAR was born.
Camp SOAR, or Special Olympics Athlete Retreat, began in 2000, with no small effort from Bowler, who after seeing the need, started to look around for locations. He decided to try for the Levine Jewish Community Center in Charlotte and called Barry Schumer, the assistant executive director of the center, to make a lunch meeting and discuss his plans.
“They show up, we shake hands, and they said ‘What do you want to talk about?’,” said Bowler. “I said, ‘Well, I don’t have any money, but I’ve got a lot of visions, dreams, and hopes that you can help me. I want to start a day camp for the special needs community.”
Bowler’s timing was impeccable, since the JCC was then trying to do more community outreach, and the rest is history.