HCN News & Notes

Camp Kehillah Reaches Milestone

A significant milestone has been reached by Camp Kehillah at the Springfield JCC. For nine years, Camp Kehillah has offered four weeks of inclusion camp for children and teens with special needs. This year, eight weeks of inclusion camp have been offered, which is parallel to the JCC Summer Camps offerings.

Inclusion camp provides all the fun, transitions of various activities, and energy of a traditional day camp. This sets the stage for individuals with special needs to spend time with mainstream peers. Each child is supported by an inclusion counselor who acts as a facilitator of self-advocacy, social interactions and activity modification.

“It’s incredible watching inclusion campers participate all eight weeks of camp rather than noticing their absence for half of the summer,” says Bethany Young, Director of Kehillah Program for Individuals with Special Needs at the JCC. “Campers with special needs experience the same benefits as the other campers.”

The interaction of this inclusive environment at the JCC naturally embraces the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world). All children come to camp for the same reason: to have fun and interact with friends. Camp Kehillah campers with special needs make friends, swim, play tennis, create art, and participate fully, just like every other camper.

Camp Kehillah also offers one week of substantially separate camp in August. This camp is for all campers with special needs but works well for campers who need extra support. Campers experience predictable days, visual schedules, fewer transitions and smaller group sizes than inclusion camp.