Sleepaway camp is not only fun but worthwhile on so many levels, and in the case of Jewish camp, for development of Jewish community, education, and identity – building blocks for a strong Jewish future.
Camp also can be a mental health respite or humanitarian support for a child with difficulties at home, affordable child care for the single parent who must work to make ends meet, or three squares a day when subsidized school meals stop during summer break...
Camp became a lifeline for 10-year-old Shiri*, whose needs took a back seat the year her dad moved to Israel and stopped paying child support, her mom and brother were in and out of hospitals before finally receiving her brother's dual diagnosis of life-threatening illnesses, and mom lost her job.
With the summer approaching, Shiri knew many friends would soon be leaving for sleepaway camp; she also knew that would not be happening for her.
What she didn't know is her mom had reached out to Federation to inquire about assistance for camp, writing:
"Before my son's dual diagnoses, both my children understood that we are a single-parent household, and sleepaway camp is simply a luxury we cannot afford. We always enjoyed the summers, but this summer is different, considering what my family has been through.
"The months leading up to my son's diagnoses were difficult for us, mostly because he was sick all the time. I am the sole provider and caretaker for my children, so his illnesses made life difficult in many ways for him, for me, and for his older sister, Shiri, who seemed to have gotten lost in the shuffle and felt helpless and alone, just as much, if not more, than her brother.
"There are other struggles my children do not know about including losing my job because of all the sick days I was taking when I didn’t know what was wrong but my child was severely ill, the empty bank account and food stamps which barely get us through the month."
Jewish Federation made summer camp happen for Shiri by putting all the pieces together: finding and appealing to an appropriate camp for special dispensation and getting our family service partner on board to consider Shiri's mom's application for a need-based camp grant.
"The thought of Shiri going to a Jewish sleepaway camp gives me so much hope that she will come back stronger and happier than ever," her mom continued. "Shiri usually finds comfort in synagogue and other Jewish activities, but the fact that her dad's move to Israel plays a role in our family's financial stresses has dampened that somewhat.
"She keeps telling friends she's excited that every Friday night the camp does Shabbat dinner! I just know that a Jewish camp experience is going to give her exactly what she needs right now."
To learn more about need-based summer camp grants, contact Jewish Federation at 732-588-1800 or firstname.lastname@example.org
*Names and likenesses may be changed for privacy