My favorite night of the week! Hangin’ out on the swing Trips together! A packed out club


Being a teenager with special needs offers unique challenges, but at Young Life Capernaum we overcome these challenges by believing in each other, providing support, and creating lasting friendships. Capernaum Clubs are full of social, emotional, physical, and spiritual experiences.

At Capernaum in San Jose, we offer a range of opportunities to have an amazing time with friends at Club meetings, special events, community outings, summer camp trips, and more! Teens and young adults develop lasting friendships with each other and Capernaum Leaders, who are interested in and care about each of our members.

We offer an environment where teens and young adults enjoy being who they are and experience what life is about: FUN!

“We are acting as a bridge by which kids with disabilities can find life. It is being a friend and helping them to get to place they cannot go on their own. It is sharing Jesus Christ with friends who happen to have disabilities. It is ministering to and being ministered to by Jesus in a wheelchair.”

-Nick Palermo
Director and Founder Young Life Capernaum Ministries and Young Life Capernaum Project



Young Life Capernaum is a non-profit Christian ministry devoted to serving the needs of youth with physical and developmental disabilities. We believe that young people with disabilities have the right to experience all of life’s opportunities such as: fulfilling friendships, fun and adventure, activities which build self-esteem and challenge their limits and the right to explore a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Our orientation toward youth with disabilities is an unconditional one that welcomes all persons regardless of the ethnic background, race or religious beliefs.


Young Life Capernaum Project is an non-profit in Santa Clara County designed specifically for the benefit of the disabled community. In 1986, Nick Palermo, a the leader of a traditional Young Life Club, launched the first-ever Capernaum Club right here in San Jose. Nick had been visiting his Young Life Club members at their high schools when he noticed that the students with disabilities were isolated from the rest of the student body. After several conversations with these students, he realized that they did not have the opportunities to enjoy life like their able-bodied peers due to a lack of adequate transportation. Nick had the desire to open up a world of fun and adventure where teens with disabilities would feel welcome, loved, and accepted.

Nick approached his Area Director with the question, “Can we do Club for these kids?” At that time, Young Life had not branched out into the world of disabilities. Nick was given permission to start an after school Young Life Club designed especially for teens and young adults with disabilities; Capernaum in San Jose was born.


Young Life Capernaum Club is a weekly event that always includes fun and laughter. Its purpose is to take kids out of their normally isolated environment and make them feel welcome, loved, and accepted. Games, interactive skits and humor lead up to a message about Jesus Christ that is understandable and relevant to special needs kids.

Club Beyond
Young adults who start a relationship with Christ can be a part of a peer group Bible study lead by Capernaum leaders. Within this group young adults with disabilities challenge themselves to go deeper in their relationship with God, themselves, and each other.

A week at Young Life camp is, for many kids, powerful and eye-opening! Camp is packed with activities and adventure that most teens with a disability would never have the opportunity to experience otherwise. It challenges kids, builds self-confidence, and introduces them to God’s great love for them.

Personal Contact
Young Life leaders leave the comfort of their adult world and enter the world of special needs kids. Leaders meet and interact with teens in their classroom, at Special Olympics sporting events and in their homes. That’s what leaders do each week-they go, meet kids and build friendships with them.



Capernaum Project               Shelley Smith- Area Director
1123 Hanchett Avenue 
San Jose, Ca 95126

Tel 408.286.3207



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Young Life Capernaum Project | 1123 Hanchett Ave San Jose, CA 95126-2602

Phone: (408) 286-3207

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