ChaiSpotlight: Rifky Blau
Why Kids Need Camp
As summer time approaches, kids all over the world are getting ready for their camp experiences. Here at Chai lifeline the energy is no different. We are preparing our warriors for their 2 week camp experience at Camp Simcha; The Happiest Place on Earth. Counselors are being trained and campers prepped while medical and recreational staff in Upstate New York prepare the camp grounds for the upcoming season. We know the strong and long lasting impact a camp experience can bring to a child who is sick. In fact, the camp experience is so important that Chai Lifeline fundraises all year to make sure no child misses out. Despite the clearly amazing impact on our warriors, sometimes I am asked, “Why do children who are sick are go to camp? Isn’t it hard for them? Won’t they get sicker? Wouldn’t it be more restful to just stay home?”
I couldn’t disagree more.
All children benefit from overnight camp experience in a myriad of ways. They learn powerful lessons in community, character-building, healthy living and lasting friendships. Camp creates a space that shows kids how to live together and care for one another. Kids not only stretch their cognitive, social, emotional and physical muscles, but build those muscles in an environment that is centered in every way for growth, development and of course fun!
But for a child who is sick there is an added benefit. Camp Simcha helps build the resiliency that each child needs when they return home and continue to struggle with illness. The kind of encouragement and support children at Camp Simcha experience helps them conquer fears and endure setbacks they may experience throughout their medical journey. As well, what is equally important, is the long lasting relationships that children make with their counselors ensuring that they will have an extra friend in their life to check in with who loves, cares and supports them all year round.
There is also the point mutual understanding – children at Camp Simcha understand each other without the need to express their sorrows, sadness, joys and fears in words. It is comforting for kids to go to a camp where everyone is experiencing medical challenges and many look differently-abled. There is an instant reassurance from the first day of camp when children look around and they see reflections of themselves in the other kids attending.
Furthermore, Camp creates future leaders through opportunities to display empathy, compassion and learn from role models. So many of our camp counselors were once Camp Simcha campers. Camp promotes the importance of community – something that Chai Lifeline embodies each day in the services we offer. At Camp Simcha kids and teens try new things and experiment in a safe environment and watch themselves grow as a child, not a sick child.
Camp helps build the confidence and self-esteem that illness often diminishes.
Camp Simcha teaches kids that THEY CAN!
Camp is no longer a luxury for kids; it serves as an antidote for the world’s challenges. And, what greater challenge is there than a child who is sick?