We spend all year planning, anticipating and preparing for these 7 weeks in the summer, and we are truly honored, proud, humbled, and take this awesome responsibility seriously. Throughout the year we hope that we provide you with a sense of what to expect in the off-season, and this weekend we give you a peak into our world during the summer months.
Camp life can change in the blink of an eye. Some days it rains and some days it’s sunny. Some days your team wins, and some days it doesn’t. Some days we have nutty-buddies, and some days we don’t. We believe the key to it all are all of the experiences.
But, there really is more to Chenawah than songs and s’mores. It’s also about movers and shakers, those young people who can truly make a difference in ways that are inspiring and empowering.
In this week’s Torah portion, the Israelites begin to come to the close of their long journeying through the wilderness. In this part of the journey, they learn about how powerful promises and commitments are, and the impact that they have on others.
For those of you that were here last year, you might remember hearing about some inspirational Chenawah girls that were “social changers”… dynamic young women that truly make a difference. On this visiting day, I’d like to introduce you to just a couple of our girls that have already made their mark. They are passionate about what they do and committed to continue in its work. I am so proud of them, and applaud them for making it cool to care.
If there is anyone that epitomizes the statement “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” it is Bunk 22’s Jessica. Jessica is no ordinary young woman.
Jessica was diagnosed at the age of 12 with Type I Diabetes. Though Diabetes doesn’t define who she is, it was this diagnosis that set this powerhouse off and running. Nothing holds Jessica down. Determined to become independent in her care, and also to learn as much as she could about Diabetes, Jessica became involved in JDRF, the leading global organization funding Type I diabetes research. Their goal is to hopefully remove the impact of diabetes from people’s lives until there is a cure. Jessica speaks at local events, she enlists her friends to work at the JDRF events, and Team Jessica at the annual JDRF Walk raised over $30,000. Jessica is now a mentor to 2 young boys who are also living with Type I Diabetes. Jessica doesn’t do this alone. Her camp friends are involved, school friends, and of course, her incredible family. But it is her determination, energy and spirit, that motivates others to sign on and be a part of the JDRF mission. You are truly an inspiration.
Hannah, one of our Waitresses, began studying ballet at the age of 3 at the Westfield School Dance. It was there, when she was only in the 7th grade, that Hannah became a Ballet Helper. Hannah became the arms and legs to aspiring little dancers with disabilities, so they could accomplish dance steps that they would never be able to master without the support of someones strong hands. Hannah has worked one-on-one with children with physical challenges, and also children with developmental challenges, and feels privileged to be a part of this program in her community. Hannah is looking forward to another year with her Ballerinas. She has developed strong relationships with them, and the other volunteers, and the opportunity has greatly enriched her life. In particular, it has given her the confidence to work with children….and how lucky for us, since next year Hannah becomes a member of the Counselor Staff.
If I were forced to choose one of the most powerful elements of “camp magic”, I think that I would pick the relationship between the campers and the counselors. Sometimes it’s hard to say who is more changed by the encounter. The counselors share their wisdom and their life lessons (such as they are at 19), and the campers teach counselors patience, caring, communication skills, and above all, empathy. The learning can sometimes be difficult but it is an amazing result. Our staff inspires our children with their energy, creativity, and commitment, and they are making an indelible difference in their lives.
The experience of Camp Chenawah is sometimes tough to verbalize. Some call it “the magic of camp”, some say: “you have to be there”, some say, “you know, it’s camp”. I’ve even heard it referred to as a “cult” and others feel that it is just the single greatest experience and influence in their life. How do we all grow so close? There’s something about the psychological power of camp that is amazing to grasp. I just know that as time passes, and friendships deepen, we are never ever the same.