August 17, 2018

The Magic of Camp Continues

By Rachael Speck

August 17, 2018

On Tuesday, August 7, camp ended.  After the buses pulled away, camp was quiet.  There was an eerie, sad feeling as I looked around at empty cabins, a still lake, and a bare flagpole.  I enjoy my quiet meals in the dining hall after camp is over but would trade them any day for a lunch time dance party or some banging on the tables.

Luckily, camp doesn’t stay quiet for too long.  While the camp experience may be over for your children, for many others it is just beginning.  EKC is very fortunate to have two incredible groups come to camp at the end of the summer.

The first group is called CHIHOPI, Camp Chihopi Liver & Transplant Summer Camp run by the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.  This group of 65 kids, various ages, have all had liver and/or intestinal transplantation and are learning to adapt and cope with their medical routines and chronic care.  They come to EKC for 4 days every August to get the full experience of camp.  They zip line, horseback ride, swim, tube, sing, do arts and crafts etc.  Camp provides them an opportunity to get to participate in normal, routine childhood experiences that we often take for granted.  Coming to camp allows them to interact with children of similar medical backgrounds.

What’s so amazing to me is watching the enthusiasm and strength these kids have to participate in activities.  No scar, no medical treatment, no physical limitation slows them down.  They have an incredible team of doctors and nurses that make this possible.  These medical staff “set up shop” and give these kids all the medical care they need so that they can run around camp and participate in any activity like any other kid.   For many of these kids, this is the only fun and sun they get all summer.  How lucky are we that they’ve been calling EKC their summer home for the past 23 summers!

The second group is called Circle Camps for Grieving Children.  This is a group of approximately 100 girls who all have one thing in common – each of them has suffered the loss of a parent.   By experiencing camp, these girls form unbelievable bonds with other girls who share loss.  Camp is often the best place to be for any person when life gets tough or bad experiences happen.  Circle Camps is so special because it creates a supportive environment that empowers girls to address their grief while enjoying the adventures and fun that camp has to offer.  They develop an incredible network of support that they rely on throughout the year.

It’s hard enough to be a kid, let alone be different from other kids because of circumstances you can’t control.  While these kids each have something different about them, coming to camp allows them to feel stronger together with campers who share the same differences they do.

I always say that every kid needs camp.  Our goal is to give camp to as many kids as we can.  That is true whether you get to experience EKC as a part of Chihopi, Circle Camps or as an EKC camper.

This evening will be the first time I have not been at camp for Shabbat since Memorial Day Weekend.  While I will miss being at camp, I will also be reflecting about how rewarding it is to work in a place where I get to see so many friendships formed and be a part of so many life-changing experiences.

Shabbat Shalom,