Anticipating the Needs of All Campers - Foundation for Jewish Camp
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Day Camp 02.20.18

Anticipating the Needs of All Campers

Anticipating the Needs of All Campers 

By Rebecca Wanatick
Inclusion Coordinator at JCC MetroWest’s Camp Deeny Riback

We are the red team, the mighty, mighty red team…
What’s the color of Riback, blue, blue, blue…

These rowdy chants are heard all over camp during Maccabiah! This spirited competition is often the highlight of the summer for our campers – friendly competition, teamwork, cheers, and lots of excitement! Campers look forward to the three days, anticipating their team assignments, generals, lieutenants, and a thrilling schedule of special events. Sounds great, right? While it works for many, for others it can be a challenging few days.

At JCC MetroWest’s Camp Deeny Riback (CDR), we have found that when there is foresight and planning we can make some well-considered modifications. In this way, each of our campers has the opportunity to meaningfully and successfully participate in this traditional camp event.

Inclusion is in the fabric of Camp Deeny Riback. Inclusion at CDR is not a designated program or a mitzvah project; it is tzedek, the right thing to do, reflecting the values of who we are as a community. Our staff, campers, and families have grown to accept and expect it. We live our lives at camp with the Jewish values that Pirke Avot teaches us: Do not separate yourself from the community, and B’tzelem Elohim, being created in the image of G-d. Everyone at camp is valued for who they are and for their role in our community.

With these values in mind, camp is a place where all can meaningfully participate in an experiential Jewish environment, trying new things, challenging new ideas, and making new friends. Maccabiah is one of those highly anticipated moments at camp that should be accessible to all.

When Maccabiah broke, a returning camper, Joseph, who in previous summers had the support of an advocate, came to a staff member with a nervous anticipation of what was to happen next.  He wanted to participate and be excited but needed more information to be able to do so.  Knowing that he would need structure, a copy of the day’s schedule was provided.  The look of relief washed over him and he quickly identified activities in which he knew he could meaningfully participate and contribute to his team. Joseph was thrilled to see that Giant Jenga was on his schedule, knowing that he was a pro with a steady hand. He was a contributing member of the Maccabiah experience, participating side by side with his peers, who saw him for his strengths and not his challenges.

Sarah, a camper who has been with us at camp for 5 summers, wanted to participate in the mud run obstacle course with her 4th grade peers. Sarah has had the benefit of an advocate every summer at camp to assist with her physical activities. Together they brainstormed ways in which she could meaningfully participate in this activity. With cheers from her teammates and an assist another, Sarah competed and achieved her goal of completing the course. She was excited to contribute to her team, get messy with her peers and have great experiences to share about her day.

Inclusion is about creating a sense of belonging for all, allowing each to contribute and participate in authentic opportunities that benefit themselves. Inclusion is mutual, a reciprocal experience amongst a community. Whether it is Maccabiah or an everyday camp activity, anticipating needs, creatively modifying activities, and knowing that everyone has something valuable to contribute is what makes it successful for all.