Many of this paper’s readers and our friends know that our family is strongly connected to Camp HASC, as my wife and I met there as counselors, our close family members still work there and for the last four years or so, we have been parents there, as our 16-year old son with special needs, Zev, has been a happy camper there.
We are a “HASC family” on many levels and our connection is a close one. At the end of every summer, we always feel a tremendous sense of hakarat hatov to the camp and its staff for providing such a wonderful experience for our son, and a needed and welcome respite for us as well. We always try to convey as best we can how thankful we are and the impact that HASC has upon our lives and our family.
This summer represented a major milestone for our family. Our eldest daughter, a recent high school graduate, worked as a waitress in Camp HASC and had a wonderful experience waiting on tables and serving up all manner of specialized meals and diets to the wide range of campers with special needs in the bunks she served.
For the first time as HASC parents, we now heard directly from our daughter in regular WhatsApp texts and phone calls and on off-day visits about our son’s counselors. She gave us a steady stream of glowing reports about how great our son’s counselors were and how they were among the best group of counselors in the entire camp. She also told us how much they loved Zev and cared for him and looked after him so well every day. This was certainly nice to hear from our daughter.
We met Zev’s counselors on visiting day and they were a joy to be around and to see how much they loved Zev. It made us feel so good to see this. For many parents of children with special needs, it’s hard to believe that anyone else can truly take care of and love your child as well as you can. We saw that they also shared a deep bond with Zev and we left visiting day on a high.
The summer passed by quickly and our son came home…but it wasn’t over.
Usually, the days between camp and school for Zev can be boring and we often struggle to find activities for him to do or even get him out of the house. He will often spend much of his time at home on his iPad watching the latest Jewish music videos on YouTube.
Not this year.
Since Zev returned from camp, he’s been busy almost every day with a different counselor visiting and taking him out to Dougie’s, Chickies, The Judaica House, the Bergen Mall, Ice Cream on Grand, EJ’s, and even a half-day trip to Monsey to spend time with a fellow bunkmate’s family. Our son loves to go out and interact with people and with each visit and trip, these young men made our son Zev’s day...and ours as well.
We had never experienced this before and didn’t quite know what to make of it. Their devotion and affection for Zev is something that took us by surprise—in a good way. It’s almost as if they didn’t want their HASC summer with Zev to end. After seven weeks of hard work and caring for all our son’s needs—physical, academic, emotional etc.—all they wanted to do was to see our son again.
We still can’t believe it.
These young men are all either returning to Israel or going on to college in the fall. They all could have done many other things with their summers and free time between jobs and schools. Yet they chose to spend their summer at HASC and serve as surrogate parents to a group of demanding teens with special needs and a range of challenging behaviors. And when camp ended, it wasn’t enough.
With their visits over the last few weeks since camp, these counselors have touched our hearts and left a unique impression upon us. To Zev’s counselors, we welcome you in our lives and say: Thank you for being Zev’s counselors this summer and for the love you showed him. We know his summer was made all the more special because of each of you and we will not forget it. Zev’s unbelievable counselors this summer were Jared Benjamin, Zach Greenberg, Jacob Goldsmith, Doni Kilimnick, Gabe Motechin. Words are not enough to say how grateful we and our family are to you for Zev’s wonderful summer! We wish you our heartfelt yasher koach and thanks.
And last but not least, a special thank you to Camp HASC for once again providing the magical environment where Zev thrives each summer. We can’t wait until next year...Zev is counting the days.
By Dena and Moshe Kinderlehrer