Summer is almost upon us, finally! Only 23 days until the first camps open for summer 2015. In partnership with many communities across North America, we are making a final push to give more kids the chance to experience a transformative Jewish summer at camp.
Two weeks ago, I had the distinct honor to attend a record-breaking event in Los Angeles honoring the founder and Ride Master of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ innovative Tour de Summer Camps, Rodney Freeman. Two years ago, Rodney created the fall cycling event which has raised over $500,000 annually to provide incentive grants and scholarships to children in the Los Angeles area to attend Jewish camps. This summer, the LA community anticipates that close to 4,000 children will be attending camp with a record of 575 first-time campers from LA alone!
The Tour de Summer Camps event is just one example of the impressive work our community partners are doing to help send more kids to camp. This year, we are working with 38 local partners across North America to distribute close to 7,000 One Happy Camper grants. Of these partners, 16 of them are self-funding and five communities have created sustaining models and endowment programs to ensure that children in their communities continue to go to camp. These numbers show the commitment and support of community members who all believe in the power of Jewish camp.
We should all be proud of these collaborative efforts, several of which were highlighted at this year’s Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly, including major initiatives in Metrowest and Montreal, the Los Angeles Tour de Summer Camps, and Cleveland’s PJ Library Goes to Camp initiative.
I am also thrilled by the growing number of partners participating in FJC’s Synagogue Camp Ambassador program (modeled after the Boston program), including Cleveland, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Columbus, Hartford, Rhode Island, and Toronto. These federations are working with local congregations and supplementary schools to develop a network of synagogue-based camp recruiters and promoters to reach further into their communities to find families who may have not considered Jewish camp. We all know that campers energize their local communities when they return from camp and embody joyous Judaism.
I am proud of how our partnerships with local federations continue to grow over time. We are seeing more federations reach out to their area camps and other community stakeholders to raise awareness and dollars to support more campers. Their dedication and innovation has helped us distribute more than 63,000 first-time camper incentive grants over the past nine years.
Your support of FJC, local camps, and federations helps us ensure that more children experience the magic of Jewish camp. One more happy camper at a time!