April 13, 2024
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April 13, 2024
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More Than Just Your Typical Summer Campor

Most kids dream about summer vacation. Summer is a magical time when kids get to be kids again. They can play, get messy, shout, laugh, cheer, explore, experiment and be free.

But for kids who have siblings with special needs, summertime can be stressful because of the extra attention and care their siblings with special needs require. It’s tricky for parents as well, who want to make sure all their kids get their needs met.

“The task of entertaining four young children during the summer is hard for any parent,” explained Barry, father of a child with special needs. “But when one of those children demands your undivided attention, it causes serious challenges, not just for the parents, but the siblings too.”

Thankfully, more programs are recognizing this struggle and are opening their doors to make sure summer vacation is really a vacation for everyone. Shalva, the association for mentally and physically challenged children in Israel, is one of the programs that ramps up their services in the summer to ensure that special needs kids get the opportunity to have fun and their families get some respite. “Camp Shalva isn’t just the best possible program for Ari (who has disabilities),” said Barry, “but it literally ensures that my other children get a vacation too. That’s priceless.”

Camp Shalva offers a day camp, sleepover camp and longer hours for their early-intervention program. With 170 staff members for 173 campers, Shalva is able to give kids with special needs the opportunities to develop more independence and go on adventures like other kids. From trips to water parks to go-karting, visit petting zoos, staying at hotels and having water fights, kids with special needs are having the time of their lives. For campers like 22-year-old Ortal, summer is now a life-changing experience. “I am having so much fun, I don’t want this summer camp to end.”

With programs like Shalva Camp becoming more available around the world, it’s also providing an opportunity for teenagers to volunteer and gain invaluable experiences and connections. “I couldn’t have dreamed for a better summer,” said Vered, a Shalva volunteer. “I feel like I am doing the right thing and really gaining life experience. I’ve made lifelong friends, and had so much fun. Camp Shalva really is a dream come true”

With more and more programs like Shalva Camp, everyone wins when summer comes around.

By Raizel Druxman

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