I can see most of you being shocked by the title of this blog post. You are probably wondering: How can a camp have such a huge impact on a person? To which I respond: You have obviously never been to Camp HASC. Therefore, you wouldn’t know why I had the best summer of my life while working as a counselor there this past summer. For those of you who do not know, Camp HASC is a sleep-a-way camp exclusively for the special needs population. The campers weren’t just kids. People well into their 50’s and beyond were campers in camp as well. This camp helps these campers in so many different ways that it would be impossible to write them all in one blog post.
Camp HASC is not only a camp; it is also a school for those campers under the age of 21. The teachers and the principal of Academics (what we called the schooling part/section of the day) worked very hard to help their students make continuous progress on their learning objectives. One counselor from each camper’s bunk assisted teachers in the classroom. I can honestly say that even though we only worked with our campers in Academics for about 7 weeks, the progress they made was very noticeable.
Part of Academics included a fully outfitted therapy program, which was composed of occupational, physical, speech, and even feeding therapies. The therapy program, like the classroom hours in camp, is designed to continue the therapies of those campers who require therapy. Campers were assigned to specific therapists based on their needs. Some therapists have worked with their therapists in Camp HASC for many summers. Many times, counselors (who were usually not required to stay with their campers for therapy sessions) volunteered their time to participate in their camper’s therapy.
After Academics, the recreation team took over the camper’s day. Their job was to create fun activities that would entertain and stimulate the campers. This year, the rec team did a fantastic job. They created a division versus division color war. In Camp HASC, boys and girls are divided into three different division based on age: Chavivim (youngest), Rayim , and Yedidm (oldest). In general, chavivim and rayim campers were below the age of 21 while Yedidim hosted all campers above age 21. The rec team assigned each division a color, an animal that represents them, and a T-shirt that had both the team animal and color on it. Campers and counselors were encouraged to wear these T-shirts on certain color war days and events.
The rec team also arranged man other activities. Almost every day was made into a theme day. Counselors were encouraged to try to dress themselves and their campers to fit in with each day’s theme. The rec team also designed night activities that were based around the day’s theme. They also brought many prominent Jewish singers to come and give concerts for the campers. Trust me when I tell you that the campers in Camp HASC love concerts. Their faces light up and are filled with utter joy during these concerts. The rec team worked very hard to provide fun and entertainment for the campers.
What makes this camp so unique and truly “Heaven on Earth” is the amount of cooperation I saw between various staff members. They all helped make the camp feel like one big family. Our various backgrounds did not matter. Jews, whether secular or orthodox, and non-Jews worked together and developed friendships that were all based on loving and caring for the campers. Camp HASC is one of the few places on earth where these campers can be themselves and not be afraid of being viewed as outcasts in society.
You don’t have to just take my word for it. Here are some videos that speak to what camp HASC does. Copy and paste the links into your browser!
If you are truly touched by my attempt to give you a glimpse of Camp HASC and the videos I have shared, there is something you can do. Every year Team HASC has a marathon where participants have to raise money in order to run in it. This year the marathon is in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. If you can, please donate to any of the participants. The money this marathon raises will be used to help make Camp HASC do even more for it’s campers in the future. The link below will take you to the fundraising site.
I will leave you with one final sentiment. Many campers call Camp HASC their home away from home. At the end of the summer, I felt that way as well. Camp HASC is the only other place in the world where I feel a small bit of the holiness that I feel when I am in Israel. My campers and co-workers, as well as the entire staff, left me with a greater sense of meaning for life.