Episode #04 of Intentional Wealth:
Introduction to Young Life Capernaum
with Katelyn Nassar
November 17, 2021
In Episode #4 of Intentional Wealth, host Amy Braun-Bostich is joined by Katelyn Nassar of Young Life Capernaum to discuss the organization’s mission as carried out by its inspired leaders who are consistently working with ‘friends’ from all over the South Hills of Pittsburgh to build authentic relationships.
Listen as Katelyn shares her story and passion for helping kids with disabilities, the ways in which Young Life supports their needs and personal growth, and how each of us can contribute to Young Life’s continued success!
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Welcome to Intentional Wealth, a monthly podcast where alongside notable financial professional guests, Private Wealth Advisor and Founder of Braun-Bostich & Associates, Amy Braun-Bostich, delivers useful insights and strategies that help YOU live your best financial life! Remember, when your goals are meaningful and your wealth has purpose, you can truly live with intention. Now, here's the host of Intentional Wealth, Amy Braun-Bostich.
Amy Braun-Bostich: Good morning, and welcome back to Intentional Wealth. And a bit of a shift from our normal ‘financial life’ format to one of more general interest. Today I'm joined by Katelyn Nasser from Young Life Capernaum located in and around South Hills of Pittsburgh.
Although locally established here in 2012, Young Life is actually an 80-year-old organization with a local focus today. You'll find young life leaders from diverse cultures, nationalities, and backgrounds in over a hundred countries around the world. So welcome Katelyn, and thanks so much for joining us today.
It's great to have you here to introduce our listeners to Young Life Capernaum and its mission to support kids with disabilities in a faith-based way. Let's start with you telling us a little bit about yourself, what you do and about the youth support services offered through Young Life Capernaum.
And… am I pronouncing it correctly?
Katelyn Nassar: Hi Amy. Thank you so much for having me on here today. I'm really excited to share about Young Life Capernaum… so, you are pronouncing it correctly. Young Life Capernaum is a Christian outreach ministry, whose mission is to introduce adolescents with disabilities to Jesus and to help them grow in their faith.
We operate through what we call the four C’s of Young Life, which is Club, Campaigners, Camp and Contact work. So the first C is Club it's our once a month group gathering, where we play games, sing, dance, do crafts, and provide a time for one of our volunteer leaders to give a short, simple message about the love of Jesus that is adapted in a way that our friends can understand.
All are welcome to join us for Club and we continue to build relationships with our friends, regardless of their response, to our message. We simply provide an opportunity, and they have the freedom and independence to choose how to respond. The second C is called Campaigners. It's a small group Bible study for our friends who want to know more.
We provide a safe and an encouraging environment where our friends can talk, ask questions and pray for one another. Then the third C might be one of my favorites. It's called Camp where we hear kids say constantly it’s the best week of their life. Our friends and their leaders or buddies go to a Young Life camp in the Shenandoah valley of Virginia for five days and four nights, our friends get to experience everything they're able-bodied peers would such as zip-lining, ropes courses, horseback riding, swimming, and so much.
There are no limitations to what our friends can do at camp because adaptions are made for every ability level.
Amy Braun-Bostich: Wow, I had no idea as to the extent and structure of outreach provided to these kids. That's awesome. I noticed now with your description that you used the word friends, not students or clients, why is that?
Katelyn Nassar: So, our fourth C in Young Life is what we call Contact work.
Contact work is our foundation and it's what separates us from all other special needs agencies. Our ministry is based on creating authentic relationships with our friends with disabilities, our volunteer leaders go into the community to meet kids where they are. This could be helping in a special education classroom, coaching bocce for Special Olympics, or just spending time with our friends one-on-one in their homes, taking them out to eat, going shopping or bowling.
All of the typical things that you would do with your friends in your daily life Amy. I have taken some of my girls out to eat, grocery shopping, on weekend trips, and I've had them over to my house for dinner and game nights.
Amy Braun-Bostich: Well, that sounds great. How did this get started by the way?
Katelyn Nassar: Yeah, so Young Life started in 1941 with a guy who just saw that there was a need in a high school for students to know Jesus and wanted to do outreach.
And then it wasn't until 1980 that there was a volunteer leader who noticed that there were kids in wheelchairs who were not being reached and there were kids with different types of disabilities. So, Capernaum actually got started out of the heart of wanting to share their love of Christ with all kids of all abilities levels.
Amy Braun-Bostich: That's awesome, that's great. And so in follow up though, are there any physical barriers that prevent your friends from participating?
Katelyn Nassar: The short answer is no. Everyone is welcome to participate regardless of their physical or developmental abilities, we will create any adaptations necessary so that everyone can participate.
For example, the first time that I went to a Capernaum Camp, there was a boy who was a quadriplegic and had a feeding tube and was nonverbal. And I personally was not sure how he was going to be able to do all of the crazy things that we do at Camp. And they made adaptions for him in every way possible.
They found ways to tape up his feeding tube. They used a party chair, so they hooked him up to the zip-line and sent him down into the lake and he communicates through smiles and straight faces. So smiles mean yes, and straight faces mean no. And so that's how we were able to understand that, like he wanted to go on the zip line, and he loved it afterwards.
And then he would use his eyes to point to where he wanted people to see. And so he just kept looking down at his feet and his leader actually forgot to take off his tennis shoes before sending him down the zip line into the lake. So he just looks at his shoes, looks at his leader and gets this big grin on his face.
Like, “I can't believe my leader just did this and forgot to do this”.
Amy Braun-Bostich: That's wonderful! So where are you located right now?
Katelyn Nassar: So currently we are operating throughout the entire South Hills of Pittsburgh. We host Club once a month at a church in Mount Lebanon. Campaigners will either be hosted at my house in McMurray or by some of our committee members or some of our friends who participate… they love to host as well.
We might have a bonfire and McMurray, a pool party in Upper St. Clair and then an ice cream social in Brookline. Every week, it kind of changes. So that there's flexibility for all of our families.
Amy Braun-Bostich: Oh, that sounds great. It sounds like a lot of fun. I'm sure the kids keep coming back year after year. Right?
Katelyn Nassar: They definitely do. We have a lot of friends who have been involved for let's see, this started in 2012… they've been involved since then.
Amy Braun-Bostich: Now you got involved in college, was it?
Katelyn Nassar: Yes.
Amy Braun-Bostich: Yes. So how did that happen?
Katelyn Nassar: Actually, it was through one of my roommate’s friends. She was involved in Young Life in high school, and she came to college excited to be a Young Life leader.
And so she was telling me about the incredible things that she gets to do as a Young Life leader. And I fell in love with the idea of being a part of that. So my sophomore year of college, I became trained to be a Young Life volunteer leader and was placed in Middle School Ministry, which we call Wildlife.
And it was an urban setting, which if you know me and my family, that is not where I grew up. I grew up on the farm out in the middle of nowhere and had no understanding of the culture of urban ministry and fell in love with it. And my heart just totally shaped and changed in a lot of ways, which led me to going on staff.
I was an elementary and special education major in college. So I got to use my love of ministry and my degree to go on staff with Young Life and do both ministry for kids with disabilities.
Amy Braun-Bostich: Well, that sounds like a perfect calling for you.
Katelyn Nassar: I absolutely love it. It's a fun time. There's never a dull moment.
Amy Braun-Bostich: Do you have any plans for expansion?
Katelyn Nassar: Yes. So our vision is to expand throughout the north, east and west sides, as well as the inner city of Pittsburgh. Our hope is to ensure that every friend with a disability in Pittsburgh has an accessible Club, but in order for us to do this, it takes three things, time, people and finances. So right now we're focusing on the South Hills building and developing that.
Then our goal is to expand as we recruit more people to be involved.
Amy Braun-Bostich: Now, do you accept children from different religious backgrounds?
Katelyn Nassar: Absolutely. Everyone is welcome. Like I said before we share the message of Jesus, but everyone is welcome to come no matter what they believe. We're willing to explore that with them.
Amy Braun-Bostich: So that's wonderful. So tell us about a friend or parent or impact this ministry has made.
Katelyn Nassar: Okay. So we have this one friend, and her name is Lily. Lily is 21 years old and she's on the autism spectrum. Very bright girl, super sweet, kind of quiet. She's also an incredible bocce player. If she listens to this, she's gonna want to know that I said she's an incredible bocce player. But before this year, Lilly's biggest fear was meeting new people.
If she had to introduce herself to someone, she would panic and have a panic attack and just shut down. She loves to be around friends and other people, but that initial interaction of meeting somebody new would just overwhelm her. And I've gotten to know Lily over the past three years, this summer, we went to Camp in North Carolina with about 250 other campers and leaders from all over the east coast.
And so day one, Lily spots a really cute boy and she's asking me like, “Katelyn, can you go introduce me to him? I want to go meet him.” I told her, no – I gave her the challenge that if she wanted to meet him, she had to do it… like she had to introduce herself and after a full day of like encouragement from her leaders and her friends, she decided she was going to do it.
She saw him at breakfast, pointed him out. Saw him again at lunch, it was trying to convince some of the other leaders to introduce her. And I was like, no, nobody's introducing Lily. She's got to do this herself. Like we're going to grow the social skill. And then I dinner, she walks up to us and goes, all right, I'm going to do it.
And with full confidence and zero fear, she walked straight up to this guy and just gave him a hug and she goes… hi, my name is Lily. Like super-fast, like just like had to get it out. And it was so funny to watch and so incredible that like all the leaders were cheering, our friends started clapping because we were in the dining hall with everybody.
And then some of the other kids that were around like local tables saw that we were cheering and clapping. They had no idea what was going on, but they were clapping around with us. The whole place just kind of exploded and it's been really fun to watch Lily grow. Especially since this summer. Now she's actually training to become a volunteer leader.
Absolutely. It's so funny to see how much our friends can grow and the abilities that they have. And so now Lily wants to be a volunteer leader and use her gifts since she can serve other, she wants other people to have the same experience that she's gotten to have and participate in.
Amy Braun-Bostich: That's awesome. That's a great story. I can just picture it in my mind, happening. So Kaitlyn, tell me how can our listeners get involved?
Katelyn Nassar: Oh, there's so many ways to get involved. We have a place for everyone in Young Life Capernaum. So we have adults who serve as advocates on our committee, in their community. Like we said, this is a local based organization.
We have a team of volunteer leaders who work directly with our friends, and they build those relationships. We have high school students who serve as buddies at Club or at Camp. We also have a network of generous donors who helped fund and provide resources so that this ministry can continue.
Amy Braun-Bostich: That's great. So why don't you tell everybody why people should donate and how to donate?
Katelyn Nassar: Yeah, so our community is better because of the impact of Young Life. The Young Life Capernaum is a 501 C3 non-profit organization. So every piece of our ministry and every story that can be told is only possible through the generosity of people giving. We do not have any registration fees or annual dues for the families who are currently involved.
And the best way to donate is through our giving website. It's giving.younglife.org/pa178. And you can either give us a one-time gift or divide your giving up into monthly donations so that we can continue this work.
Amy Braun-Bostich: That's awesome. I don't know if we put that on our website, but if not, we'll go ahead and do that so that people can come back and have a reference point.
Is there a way for people to stay up to date on your ministry?
Katelyn Nassar: Absolutely. So we have a website that is constantly being updated at pittsburghcapernaum.younglife.org. We have a Facebook and an Instagram page. So on either of those sites, you can look up at Young Life Capernaum Pittsburgh. And on both of those, you'll see lots of photos of our friends, with their leaders going on all kinds of adventures.
And we also have a monthly newsletter that we send out showing all the things that our friends and leaders have done together.
Amy Braun-Bostich: Wow, that's great. You guys are communicating with a lot of different media. That's wonderful.
Katelyn Nassar: Absolutely. We want to show everybody what their finances are going towards because we want to use it and just be transparent in that.
Amy Braun-Bostich: Good, good… Hey, Katelyn, I must say this has been incredibly informative and enlightening, and most of all rewarding. We at BBA are so very proud of our relationship with Young Life Capernaum and we'll keep our podcast door open to have you back as the ministry expands. I thank you so much for your time, wonderful insight, and dedication to your mission.
Katelyn Nassar: It was a great experience. Thank you so much for having me and letting me share about Young Life Capernaum!
Amy Braun-Bostich: Oh, it's been my pleasure!