Camp, special needs and waterslides

June 27 2015

Summer camp is a kind big deal for me. No, not a kind of a big deal, kind of HUGE deal. It hasn't actually been the times I was a camper that have been a big deal, but really when I was on the other side of it, as a counselor and unit head. Camp Ramah is a Jewish sleep-away camp located in a small but amazing town called Ojai in California. It’s a place that I have called my home from June until August for the past 7 years and it’s a place that I hold very near and dear to my heart. I had my first kiss at camp, my first "going against the grain" moment and my first moments of questioning my own beliefs, but I think the strongest part of my experience has been the people I have met. I have been lucky enough to make incredible friendships with people who were my age, years older or even years younger than me. Just imagine; you get to remove yourself from your "typical" environment and are able to live in a place encompassed by mountains, trees and fresh air. A place where you don’t have to be afraid to confine to the “norms” of society. You truly get to be the best version of yourself.

For the past two years, I have had the privilege of being the “Rosh” (or unit head) for a very incredible group of kids. The Tikvah program at Camp Ramah is a program for campers (Amitzim) and staff members (Ezra) with special needs. Just like the rest of the 550 other typical campers, kids in Amitzim get to go down the pool waterslides everyday, play sports, enjoy music, and even go on an overnight to sleep under the stars. At Ramah, these kids get to be the rock stars of camp, a place where they are treated as campers who are awesome, fun loving and very special. Living in a world where this community typically doesn’t get this much positive attention has changed the way that I live my life. Not in a drastic way, but in a way in which I am more aware of the different types of people around me and the way that I engage with them. I feel very blessed to be a part of this community.

However, this is the first summer that I will not be back at this camp. I just finished my first year of teaching kindergarten and I am ready grow and to try new things. Part of me really envies the people who are working there (both family members and friends) and get to partake in the magic of camp, but a part of me is excited for the opportunities in the future. If you get the chance, I highly recommend going to camp. Whether you’re a kid or an adult, it doesn’t matter. There is a camp out there for you. And if you can’t be at camp, then at least live by the camp mantra and try to be the best version of yourself.

Thanks Emily for telling me about the Listserve years ago and being the best co counselor out there!! You’re an amazing Rosh and I’m so proud of what you’re doing at camp! I also want to tell my boyfriend Jared that I’m very proud of all of your hard work studying for the California Bar! Also Brian, you just finished at GW and are moving on to amazing things, helping the world one day at a time. Love you Vanessa, Amanda, Emily, Mom and Dad!!

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Los Angeles, California

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