Allie’s Virtual Summer Camp ‘a Blast’ for Families
Allie’s Summer Camp was, in many ways, different than in the past, but in the ways that count most, the program was a huge success. Gone was the strong sense of COVID-19 isolation, replaced by the warmth and devotion of the leaders of the online camp.
“The remote camp really was a blast,” said Erica Gendel, whose young adult son participated in the program. “Joshua most enjoyed seeing his friends. He has felt so isolated through the crazy pandemic. You organized the activities well by packaging each activity separately and having it labeled. The biggest highlight for Joshua was challah baking. He has even requested that he and I continue the weekly challah baking ritual. This one is definitely doable! We are adding to our weekly Shabbat tradition.”
This year’s camp experience was made possible in part thanks to a grant Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, that was supported by the Cooperman Family Charitable Fund.
“We greatly appreciate Federation’s grant to Friendship Circle for summer programs and their grants to the parents, which we know helped to ease the financial burden for our families,” said Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum, CEO of Friendship Circle. “We also thank our amazing staff for creating a virtual experience that brought children and young adults out of isolation for fun and engaging activities.”
Program director Chavi Rosenblum, who handled the day-to-day operations of the virtual camp and was tasked with scheduling and designing the camp day, said this year’s program defied expectations. “Every morning when I logged in to camp, I saw participants who were eager to show off their latest project, share a funny story with their friends or just concentrate on an art project or game. The feedback from parents was overwhelming. This summer of COVID-19 may have changed things, but for the FC families, one thing was consistent, Friendship Circle was there for them.”
The interactive, online Allie’s Camp was divided into two sessions – one for young adults and one for children.
The YA session ran for 5 weeks and, because it was virtual, allowed some former Friendship Circle participants who now live in group settings to participate. That meant a reunion of sorts for some of the participants who had not seen each other in several years. FC volunteer June Schechner led the YA camp. FC staffer MayaBea Schechner, ran the children’s camp program, which ran two weeks.
The curriculum was similar, but tailored to the participants ages. Each day, they spent time with their friends and took part in traditional camp activities—games, cooking, and arts and crafts. There were also “special” events and performances, like zumba, an illusionist and music. Theme activities were planned around different mitzvot, Jewish deeds like giving charity and celebrating Shabbat.
One part of this year’s activity that was truly meaningful for everyone was how the participants responded to the recitation of daily Jewish prayers. Some of the children were able to pray along with the instructors, others swayed and smiled as the tunes were recited. When it came time for the recitation of Shema, every participant covered their eyes and said the prayer in their own way.
“This camp was the answer to my prayers,” one mom said. “It brightened my daughter’s day and mine, too.”
The daily Allie’s Summer Camp was only a part of Friendship Circle’s packed summer “camp” schedule, which included a number of special events including a Family Movie Night, a Parents-only Movie Night, a Balloon Show night program, and a drive-through, fun-day CARnival outdoors at LifeTown. Also on tap this summer, were sports programs on LifeTown’s football field and multiple online cooking and art programs.