June 20, 2024
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Camp HASC: Where “Ordinary” Summer Becomes Extraordinary

This past camping season was quite an “ordinary” Camp HASC summer, similar to summers in the past. . . But an “ordinary” summer in Camp HASC is absolutely extraordinary!

Campers with a wide variety intellectual and physical disabilities had the greatest summer of their lives. They enjoyed making new friends and reconnecting with old ones. They enthusiastically participated in the unique recreation programming offered in Camp HASC, including adaptive swimming, art, music, sports, learning, cooking, gardening, game room, calisthenics and scores of night activity events. They worked diligently with their teachers to improve their academic skills and met their personal goals in the acclaimed HASC Summer Program Academics program. They focused intently with the aid of their therapists on their physical, occupational and speech therapy goals in the unique HASC Summer Program Therapy department.

Quite a number of campers reached major milestone achievements this summer, including: learning to feed themselves, taking their first unassisted steps, learning to swim, writing their names and making a siyum on a masechta of mishnayos.

More than 400 yeshiva and college-aged staff members’ lives were transformed as they lovingly cared for others in a way that they have never before experienced. These young men and women have returned to their yeshivot, programs and communities with new perspectives on life. They have learned to always focus on another person’s strengths, to reject labels which limit others, to appreciate all that we are fortunate to have and to realize that we are most fortunate to have the ability to give and care for others.

Hundreds of parents and caretakers got well-deserved respite and the time to relax and reinvigorate. Family members had the opportunity to give attention to others, to go on trips or vacations or just recharge in a way that may not have been possible during the year.

Our campus continued to improve to best meet the physical, medical and therapeutic needs of our campers. Thanks to the dedication of generous donors, inspired marathon runners and community members, our adaptive playground designed for campers with autism was inaugurated, our unique indoor, air-conditioned, weather-proof playground was completed, our air-conditioned gymnasium was remodeled, and our medical, academics and therapy departments received additional tools and technology to continue their ongoing strive for excellence.

The events of this past summer touched the hearts of so many, and showed that there is so much Ahavas Yisrael and “good will” inside us all, just waiting for the opportunities to shine. Some examples of the “barrier breaking” Ahavas Chinam which was experienced in Camp HASC this summer included:

•Visiting Day, when hundreds of families from all walks of life and from communities around the country gathered to visit their family members and friends, to celebrate their children’s accomplishments together, and to support one another. What a special display of Ahavas Yisrael! Affiliations with a particular movement, community or label do not get in the way of Jews uniting to support their loved ones and to support the efforts to care for people with special needs!

•Visits by many rabbanim and community leaders from across the Jewish world. We were honored to host the Mashgiach of the Lakewood Yeshiva, Rav Matisyahu Solomon, as well as Rebbetzin Solomon, for a truly memorable visit. It was so special to see the Mashgiach and the Rebbetzin share brachos with the campers and staff members, and to hear them express their appreciation for the holy work which takes place in HASC. We also had the special opportunity to hear from Rav Moshe Weinberger, Mara D’asra of Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere and Mashgiach Ruchni at Yeshiva University, as well as many other notable speakers and personalities.

•The celebration of bar and bat mitzvahs of our campers. For so many campers and families, Camp HASC is the place where they feel completely comfortable to be themselves and express themselves, and it is the perfect place to celebrate this special occasion.

• Campers, staff and counselors from so many communities and backgrounds experience a truly special achdus in Camp HASC day-in-and-day-out. Our counselors know they signed up to work with individuals with special needs, and our camper families know that they signed up their children to have an enjoyable summer—but they emerged with so much more.

And as usual, even before the Summer of 2013 had come to an end, planning for the Summer of 2014 has already begun.

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