Reflections on How It All Began...

It’s been a while, but I’m back. After living in Israel for the past 15 years, I’m back in Toronto and back at Chai Lifeline.  

17 years ago, I was introduced to Camp Simcha by some friends who were counselors there the year before. They thought I would like it and encouraged me to apply. I was hesitant. As a normal, selfish teenager, I wanted to “enjoy” my summer. Those precious weeks that I had off between school were meant for partying – not “helping others”. Anyway, it was very difficult to get accepted as a counselor at this camp and who says they would even accept me? Naturally, I pushed off applying until the last minute yet, magically, I got accepted (they must have thought I was someone else!). Still very unsure if this was the right decision, I went to Camp Simcha, and it changed my life.  

The first few days of counselor orientation were a very humbling experience for me. The people that I met were among the nicest, most caring that I have ever met in my life. I was surrounded by the most positive energy I have ever felt in one place. It was contagious. So much so, that by the end of the counselor orientation weekend, I felt like I was transforming into a different person.  

The summer flew by in a daze of high energy dancing, wild activities and unforgettable memories. So much happened in those 2 weeks that it felt like a lifetime. The people I met just a couple of weeks ago, felt like best friends that I have known my entire life.  

The most important thing I learned from this experience was that I was foolish to think that this was a camp where I would be helping others. This was a camp where I was helping myself. I was worried about not enjoying my summer if I went to this camp – but I learned what true joy really is. There is no greater joy seeing a smile on children’s faces and knowing that you had a part in making that smile happen.  

I couldn’t get enough of it. I spent 5 summers at Camp Simcha and Camp Simcha Special until I met my amazing wife and we decided to build the foundation of our family in Israel. When we were looking to move back to Toronto, it seemed like the obvious choice to take a job doing something that I knew would bring me joy. As a case manager for Chai Lifeline, aside from offering emotional support to families that are going through unimaginable difficulties and being there for them every step of the way, I also get to visit them in the hospital where I can spend time with the children, bring them fun toys and make them smile. And, there is no greater joy than that.  

As the only male case manager on the team, Shmuel enjoys never needing to wait in line for the bathroom