Ah, summer camp. A rite of passage for so many kids and pre-teens. First crushes. First time away from home. First taste of freedom. First tango with a washing machine.
Kids with disabilities often don’t get this chance. That’s why New Hampshire’s Camp Yavneh has introduced Yedidut (Hebrew, of course, for “friendship”). The new initiative should be great for kids who might not otherwise attend camp: It pairs campers with disabilities alongside a shadow, or counselor, responsible for helping them enjoy a full camping experience in all its glory, everything from group meals and games to laundry. Many counselors have worked at Newton’s Gateways, a large Greater Boston program for kids with special needs.
“We’ve had people call over the years asking for this, saying, ‘My child has Aspergers and needs extra help.’ We often couldn’t help them. Now we can. And often these kids had siblings at camp, and now those siblings can join them,” says director Debbie Sussman. “We want these kids to have a full summer camp experience.”
Here, the principle of kol yisrael arevim zeh lazeh (“all of Israel is responsible for one another”) applies; hopefully all campers will be able to learn more about one another’s gifts and challenges—and, yes, maybe figure out how to do their own laundry too.
There are still a few applications left for the Yedidut program, which happens in late July through August. Click here to apply.