Order of Malta


Malta Camp USA Daily Updates


Sunday, July 9th, marks the start of the second annual Malta Camp USA, a weeklong program for young adults (ages 22-40) with disabilities. Themed “You are the Light of the World” (Matthew 5:14), this year’s camp is hosted at Siena College in Albany, NY, and includes helicopter rides, whitewater rafting, and country line dancing, among many other activities. As our 23 disabled Guests and 40+ volunteers from all three US-based Associations embark on this week at camp, we ask you to pray for a successful and enriching week for all participants.

2023 Malta Camp Video

Camp Prayer

God our Savior, in you we have been born again as sons and daughters of the light. You invite us to follow you and become a light for others in the world. May we be your witnesses to those we meet of your love and joy, for you are the light of life. Through Christ our Lord, Amen

Photo Gallery

Click here to view photos from each day of Malta Camp USA.

Day 1

The 2023 Malta Camp USA started today with great excitement from campers and volunteers alike! Camp has grown this year with 23 guests and ~40 volunteers (up from 11 guests and ~20 volunteers in 2022) taking part in the second annual US-based Malta Camp.

Music, balloons, streamers, and signs welcomed campers, as they arrived from places ranging from Florida to California to Snyder Hall at Siena College in Loudonville, NY, which will be home for the coming week.

After everyone settled into their rooms, we had lunch while greeting old friends and making new ones. Volunteers and camp leaders orientated everyone by going over the camp schedule, expectations, and a campus map. We also shared this year’s camp theme, “You are the Light of the World”, drawn from Matthew 5:14. Lots of fun and laughs were had next when all learned the Camp Song and Dance. This year’s song is “The Nights” by Avicii.

To make our large group a little more manageable, everyone was divided into 4 teams. Our teams will stick together throughout the week – riding buses together, teaming up for field day competitions, and going out on a scavenger hunt. As part of our Opening Ceremony, we picked out fun costumes and accessories matching our team colors (blue, green, purple, or yellow), played ice breaker games within teams to get to know each other better, and decorated banners that we will use throughout the week.

Our Opening Mass was celebrated by Fr. Jim Walsh from St. Pius X in Loudonville. His homily focused on how the Lord takes care of our burdens when we rely on Him.  Many of our Guests participated in Mass, including lectors Sarah Cashman, Kimber Marchessi and Kristi Nemes; cantors Ryan McLean and Nicole Weigers; and altar servers Thomas Bradford and Steven Hardy.

After a rainy walk home from Mass, Heather from Piece d’Occasion worked with everyone to paint their own pottery pieces. These items, ranging from mugs and bowls to vases, will be sent to the kiln and returned to the campers to take home with them.

After dinner, the day closed off with country line dancing. Everyone had fun learning some new dances, doing some freestyle, and showing off their best moves.

Two campers summed up the first day of Malta Camp with: “I had a lot of fun” and “I’m so tired that I cannot wait to go to bed!”

As a final thought, I don’t think I have ever heard or said the phrase “I love you” more times than I have today! Whether reunions with returning campers or meeting new friends for the first time, it is clear that Malta Camp USA is filled with love and joy – we are going to be in for an amazing week!

Day 2

It’s hard to believe this was only our first full day at Malta Camp USA! It feels like this group has known each other forever. We’ve certainly done more than a day’s worth of activities.

The first full day of camp started and ended with fun opportunities to cheer on our new friends! Thunderstorms in the forecast meant that our planned helicopter activity had to be canceled, but we made the most of a rainy morning and went bowling instead. We had some first time bowlers and some seasoned pros, making for a fun morning of learning, cheering, and new friendships. There were lots of hugs and high fives after a first-time bowler got the highest score in their lane, and another Guest got a Turkey! I have never had more fun bowling than I had with our group this morning!
The skies cleared as we headed into the afternoon, and after an action-packed morning of bowling, it was time for lunch. We opted for a picnic in Congress Park, which included rides on the historic Congress Park Carousel, a sighting of some ducklings learning to swim, and some beautiful flower gardens.

Our fun-filled adventures continued, as we traveled on to Old Friends at Cabin Creek, a home for retired racehorses. We met some of Saratoga Springs most decorated racehorses, including Naughty New Yorker, Doc N Roll, and Slew’s Brews. As we walked around the stables, we heard each horse’s story, pet their nose, and fed them some carrots. We even got to see a few of the horses running around their pens!

But the fun didn’t stop there! Our action-packed afternoon at Malta Camp wrapped up with Field Day. Campers and volunteers participated in various games and activities, including an obstacle course, tie-dye shirts, and cornhole. But the most popular activity of the afternoon had to be the dunk tank — while the cold water was an unwelcome surprise for each dunk tank victim, the cheers and smiles that followed each dunk had a few people hopping back on the board again and again!

After dinner, the evening came alive with a spectacular talent show, showcasing the incredible skills and performances of the talented attendees. More than half of our participants took to the stage, while the rest of the group cheered, danced, and sang along! We saw a huge array of acts, including contemporary dancing, a vocal performance of an original song, a karate demo, a magic show, lots of karaoke, and even some classical music. A performance of Alladin’s “A Whole New World”, complete with a purple towel “magic carpet” had everyone laughing, while a dance performance of NSYNC’s “Bye, Bye, Bye” had campers jumping up on stage to get in on the fun!

At the end of the talent show, one Guest asked to make a speech – in it, he said “I’ve never been to Malta Camp before, but being here is the best ever. My roommates are like best friends. Thank you for having me! I think we were all feeling that same gratitude (coupled with some exhaustion from a busy day) as we tucked in for the night, preparing for another full day at Malta Camp USA tomorrow.

Day 3

Today was the most physically active day of our week together! After a hearty breakfast, everyone piled on the buses and headed for the Adirondack Adventure Center. Here Guests chose between two exciting outdoor options– white water rafting and a tree-tops ropes course.

On the river, the rainstorms of the past few days led to calmer than expected waters. This made the perfect conditions for boat races and refreshing splashes in the morning sun. Surrounded by nature and the river current, one particularly quiet camper came out of his shell – becoming much more social than we’d seen him so far and proactively engaging with those on his raft. When asked about the day, he simply said “best trip ever!”.

Meanwhile on the ropes course, campers walked across log bridges, climbed ladders, and rode a zipline in the shade of a riverside forest. In speaking about her morning, one camper shared “It was scary, but I got over it and I did it… I am very proud!”. Everyone finished the morning with a sense of accomplishment, having taken on some new challenges so successfully.

After a brown bag lunch, everyone headed downtown Albany for a scavenger hunt at the New York State Museum. Participants worked together in teams to find spots around the museum, including going inside an Iroquois Longhouse, learning about animals that live in New York state, and exploring the original set of Sesame Street! It was a great way to learn about the area we are in, while building stronger friendships within our camp color teams. One volunteer noted, “I have never seen anyone having so much fun in a museum… nor had to tell so many people to stop running”.

The fun-filled day slowed down in the evening with our “Silent Night”, a Malta Camp tradition. The evening of prayerful meditation allows everyone to take a moment for reflection, surrounded by candlelight and music. However, this year’s Silent Night was not so silent… we were interrupted midway through our program with an unexpected fire alarm (which our campers all handled with remarkable bravery and resilience). Without missing a beat, we relocated our service to the Siena Grotto, where we joined together in music and lit candles for our families and loved ones.

After Silent Night, all returned to the residence hall for an ice cream extravaganza before bed. The confections topped with sprinkles, hot fudge, caramel, and whipped cream were a sight to behold and quickly consumed! While most people were ready for bed right after ice cream, a few night owls stayed up to chat with their new friends over a game of pool.

Day 4

We started the day with a special visit from the Vanaver Caravan, a local performing arts organization. In our morning together, teachers from Vanaver held a music and movement workshop, which included stretching, yoga, drumming, and dancing. A highlight for many was our drumming circle, which included a call-and-response, joining in with the group, and freestyle sections. One Guest remarked “even though we haven’t known each other for very long, it is remarkable how quickly we were able to get in sync when drumming”.

After lunch, we took a trip to June Farms, where we visited some animals. Our first stop was the duck pond, where we fed the ducks some corn – as soon as the corn hit the ground, the whole group of ducks hurried over to the pond’s edge and raced to the tasty snack. Our next stop was the goat pen, where we got to pet the goats and watch them climb. At the pig sty, everyone got a laugh out of pigs Lucy and Ethel, who each weighed over 650 lbs. We rounded our tour out with a visit to the horse stable, where a few brave guests fed carrots to the friendly horses.

Recognizing the week was nearing a close, campers took some time for reflection and rest when we returned to Siena. After a bit of time alone, we all gathered together to give people an opportunity to share their reflections and thanks to our participants for such a wonderful week. A recurring theme was the importance of camp friendships and how we each bask in the light of others and can light up the lives of those around us! We also reminisced over stories from the past few days together – recounting tales of bravery on the ropes course and moments of laughter during yesterday’s scavenger hunt. There were lots of happy tears, laughs, and a renewed energy to enjoy our last evening together.

Reflecting on the week, one staff member shared — “it is remarkable the transformation we see campers experience in such a short time. Guests who showed up feeling a bit shy on the first day, are cracking jokes and jumping into the middle of the dance floor just a few days later. It is clear that these individuals have built so much confidence in themselves and in their ability to navigate a new setting throughout our time together.”

After dinner, we closed the night out with a dance party — which everyone agreed was the highlight of the day, if not the week! Our costume closet was put to the test, as everyone competed to have the most fun and outrageous outfits – feather boas, tutus, blow-up costumes, and funny sunglasses decked out or group as we danced the night away! We closed down the dance floor with the camp dance, which everyone has now mastered.

After a busy day, we said our final goodnights (sometimes several, tear-filled times) as we headed off to bed on our final full day of camp.

Day 5

All good things must come to an end and it is the same with Malta Camp USA 2023. After a long day yesterday, campers and volunteers slept in a bit and went to their final breakfast. Guests took time to pack their bags before attending the Closing Mass, providing campers and staff with a heartfelt and meditative time to conclude their time together.

Bishop Scharfenberger celebrated our Closing Mass, and was assisted by many Guests as cantors, lectors, and altar servers. A special thanks to Lauren Cook, Martina Argueta, Antonio Colarusso, Ryan McLean, Nicole Weigers, and Thomas Bradford for their help to offer this beautiful Mass! Today’s Mass was themed on the Matthew 5:14 Gospel from which we got our camp theme – “You are the Light of the World”. In his homily, Bishop Scharfenberger spoke to the fact that we are all beacons of Christ’s light for those we encounter in our lives.

Before heading out, everyone enjoyed a final lunch together, during which a few participants shared reflections on the week with the full group and we gave out team awards.

Our Helping Hand award went to the Purple Team for their consistent efforts to go above and beyond making camp great for everyone – whether helping our staff load water on buses or adding sign language to the camp dance, they were always willing to lean in and make sure everyone felt happy and included. Our Cheerleader award went to the Green Team for always encouraging others, quickly taking over our call-and-response to get attention, and making sure everyone had a turn during our camp scavenger hunt. The Daredevil Award went to the Yellow Team – for all team members being willing to jump into each and every activity. The Yellow Team also had a particularly special camper who pushed her limits on the ropes course, and then, even though she was exhausted, powered through to lead us in a beautiful song at Mass and a wonderful camp reflection (which you can see more of later). Lastly, our Blue Team won the Creativity Award for their ingenuity in completing (and winning) the scavenger hunt, their amazing costumes, and their unique talents during the talent show. We have a truly special group here.

Though I hope you all enjoy reading my daily updates, no one can describe camp as fully and as eloquently as one of our Guests – who is also one of the bravest, most faith-filled, and kindest people I have ever met – so I will gladly pass the mic to her:

Malta Camp means to me…

Pure and intentional loving care and true friendship for EVERYONE! At camp, each one of us are seen and experience a sense of belonging and a loving embrace. Embrace is an action that I have seen and felt all week.
In a world where my uniqueness and need for support is often met with misunderstandings, Camp is not just a place but a family where I am embraced by everyone in all that happens – good or hard. It feels like a warm hug and a belly laugh every day, because we laugh a lot every day here. The support I and others have received this week for various reasons — our care was filled with the biggest amount of loyalty, love, loving, compassionate, care, kind, joyful, thoughtful, and caring support. In the moments when I’ve had some hard times, it makes me want to cry thinking about how everyone here at Camp showed up and kept showing up to be the hands and feet of Jesus, no matter what.

Everybody here, you chose to be here. Not everybody in our lives chooses to be there for us. Our families didn’t choose to take on someone with these needs. But you chose to be here… so I didn’t feel like a burden at all here at camp, and I’m probably sure that nobody else, staff and campers alike, did either. This week helps me to do the same care to others in my life since my body and all the other bodies and campers have shown up for me and for each other with gifts that God has given us to share.

I’ve also been growing in my faith this week. I’ve been reading in my Bible, and God has taught me about how Jesus’s disciples spread the gospel, and how they were thankful for the help others were giving them, especially Paul when he was in prison, and in shackles and chains. And, well, reading all that and thinking about what that all means and applying that to my life. It made me think of the helpers and campers working together to make camp the best it can be for each other. And then when I thought about that, and it reminded me of 1 Corinthians 12:15, which, in short, talks about the body of Christ and how everyone is different. And that He has given each one of us different gifts and abilities to share the message of Jesus’s love. And how He wants us to have a relationship with Him. He wants us to share that with the world. And everybody has a unique ability and way to do that. It doesn’t have to be in words. This week, we all share our unique selves with each other and we’re truly the Body of Christ.

I experience in my day-to-day life various ways of being looked at weirdly by people. And it is so very important and life-giving to have strangers of all abilities who became friends that truly care for each other. I mean that truly care.

From the first day of camp – I came to Camp last year, so I knew some people, but a lot of the helpers were strangers, and, you know, the new people were strangers to each other, but it’s a true miracle how we all became friends during the week. And it’s just… I it’s just so cool how that happens. I mean, like, we all truly care for each other. And I really, really mean that.

And thinking about the theme this week, it was all about the light of Jesus. The light of Jesus is how this all happened. Jesus is how we share this love and joy around us. My experience this week was filled with high fives, bursting into song (mainly by me), hugs all around, scripting, and enjoying engaging that way. All the happy flaps and laughing. This is how Jesus included and cared, by joining in with the people he was surrounded by and loved.

I have also been thinking about Jesus washing people’s feel this week. The act of feet washing reminds me on the times where we all helped each other when we needed it. Regardless of abilities. People in society see as unimportant or less-than person, but here at camp everyone is so cared for and loved by people as friends who needed different supports and help them and spread joy. A few other ways I have seen this is bubbles galore everywhere around, joking around and communicating in all different ways, braiding hair, and honestly just the simple fact of things like Sofia’s hair salon and sharing laughter over technology misunderstanding what we say, helping people conquer an obstacle course on the ropes course, and so much more. This shows how Jesus was present this week and always is.

A simple way to say all this is that in our daily lives, how we treat people and interact with them is very important. In the Bible, God wants us to know that He sees us and wants us to see others went the same way He does. Loving others like He does is being a light in the world, and I fully believe that has happened this week. From the moment we arrived. Love and true inclusion means that we can conquer, or we can continue to conquer, anything that happens in life. With an abundance of joy and love from Jesus in our hearts and hearts full of Malta Camp love it lets us know we can do anything. Whether rafting or stepping on the ropes course. We are family and Malta Camp family love is like nothing here on Earth.

Many tears were shed as our Guests departed (including many of my own)! But with promises of virtual reunions, we know we’ll keep in touch. Every single camper (yes – every one… I counted) said “see you next year”. This is a truly special community and family, and I cannot describe how excited I am to see it continue to grow. Thank you is not enough to describe our unending love and support for all our Guests, volunteers, donors, and friends who make this program possible!! We are so grateful to the families who entrust us with their children, the volunteers who take time off of work to serve, the donors who help make this all possible, and everyone else in our Malta Camp family. As our Guest said – “Malta Camp love is a special kind of love”, and I hope that you have all felt a little bit of it through these daily updates.

As one individual greeted her mother at pick up, she said, “I felt so included, and not alone”… I guess that means Malta Camp 2023 was a success!

Order of Malta, American Association, U.S.A.

American Association, U.S.A
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