Special Needs Family Camp

Reflection on INCLUDE Special Needs Family Camp Reunion

On February 14th, we hosted another incredible Special Needs Family Camp Reunion.  We received a lovely note from a participating family, which we share here to offer a window into the important work of Inclusion.

Thank you so much for such a wonderful afternoon yesterday.  My husband and I were discussing the whole event on the way home.  Our family had such a good time -- all of us!   It was really wonderful to be in the environment of "family camp" again and to see people who we care so much about.  It was also a joy to share the wonders of camp with the new families.  I hope the day impacted them in such a way that they avail themselves of the opportunity to attend camp.  

I know from experience that it will enrich their lives.  I believe it is our responsibility as "seasoned/more experienced" parents to share with others our experience, strength and hope that, even in the darkest moments, it does get better.  We can live joyous, Jewish lives and be embraced by those who completely understand, through good times and bad. 

We are a blessed community.  I am personally grateful to this program for continuing to create this space and place for us.  It's the camp experience which I credit for teaching me that, although raising my son has been my greatest challenge in life, pushing me well beyond my limits, that it has also been my greatest teacher.  My son has taught me what really matters in life -- love, patience, acceptance, understanding, kindness and resilience, plus much more.

A day at Special Needs Family Camp

A letter to our Board and to the many supporters who enable our work

 

I spent a few hours this weekend up at our Special Needs Family Camp, as usual, I was blown away.

My wife, Ellen and I attended the talent show Saturday night.  This is an annual highlight when (mostly) the kids perform.  Some parents, some staff but mostly the kids.  And by the kids, I mean those kids who are there because of their special needs and also some of their siblings for whom the opportunity to be the center of attention is itself a rare one.

Kids ages 6 to 24 from the Peninsula to Sacramento, San Francisco to the East Bay took the stage to perform "from each according to their ability."

Performances included singing songs, playing an instrument, doing a dance, or even just blowing one note on a recorder.  The audience – kids, siblings, parents, staff, guests – all took enormous delight with each performance.

After the talent show – there was a pajama party for the kids and a wine reception for the parents.  These are, for the most part, parents who are rarely, if ever, able to hire a baby-sitter;  one of the great benefits of this weekend is our 1:1 staff-camper ratio gives them much needed respite.  As one dad told us:  “I actually took a nap today.  I can’t remember the last time I was able to just take a nap.”

Our staff consists of adults and teens from a variety of backgrounds. Several Jewish LearningWorks staff (present and past) VOLUNTEER and we also rely on Sonoma State students– which means a ton of youthful energy.  We had some teen volunteers and seasoned volunteers as well as some experts brought in to lead workshops for parents (e.g., speech pathology, financial planning, etc).  Rabbi Rick Winer (Fresno) was our designated spiritual leader, along with his wife, educator Rabbi Laura Novak-Winer and their son Max Winer who was our Song leader.  Rabbi Meredith Cahn and Reb Irwin, former Family Camp Spiritual leaders, as well as Dance Specialist Bruce Bierman also joined us. David Neufeld was there, of course; we contract the wonderful Cheryl Cohen, an East Bay educator, to direct the camp.

When I attend INCLUDE events, parents always come up to thank me – which is odd because I have less to do with the camp than any other staffer there.  I try to act humble, but the fact is – they are thanking me as the representative of YOU.   They know  that this project costs money – they are thanking me, they explain, because Jewish LearningWorks continues to make them and their kids a priority.  Because we, by virtue of this camp, continue to remind them that they are part of the Jewish people, and that they and their children are important to us and our community.  This is, unfortunately, not always obvious to them and not always reinforced in their interactions with the Jewish community (this is what we are trying to change, right?). 

Our tag line for “Creating Inclusive Jewish Community” reads – “Creating safe space for all families to feel welcomed and included in Jewish communal experience, regardless of background or ability.

That is exactly what I take away from Special Needs Family Camp each year and that is why we do it.

So, again, on behalf of the parents, I convey their message to you:  Thank you.


David Waksberg, CEO
Jewish LearningWorks

Special Needs Family Camp Weekend 2015

INCLUDE presents the 14th Annual Special Needs Family Camp Weekend 2015

Friday, May 8th - Sunday, May 10th


Register here

Experience personal, family and spiritual growth in an inclusive, caring Jewish environment.

At camp, families will celebrate Shabbat together, learn together, sing, dance and have fun together. You'll find a welcoming community of families having similar experiences who will become your friends for life.

Activities include: outdoor games, Alpine climbing tower, arts and crafts, hiking, swimming, yoga, music, and talent show.

Kids: Make new friends and challenge yourself.

Parents: Relax, share common experiences and receive support.

If you have questions about the weekend, please call Cheryl Cohen, Camp Director at (925) 922-0765 or email  chercohen@me.com

View the full brochure

After you register here at Eventbrite, you will receive a confirmation with additional information about payment options as well as a complete family camp packet by mail and email.