A Truly Special Place

By Ellen Lowenberger
JCC Camps at Medford Committee Member, Katz JCC Board of Directors

Part Three of our Summer 2020 CAMPaign.

The JCC Camps at Medford is truly a special place for my family.

Ellen Lowenberger JCC Camps at MedfordAs a child, I spent a few summers at camp. I remember arts and crafts, sports, making every excuse not to go swimming in the lake, swimming in the freezing cold pool, hot bus rides singing songs, and the beat-up station wagon delivering peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in wax paper bags on rainy days. I loved every minute.

When it came time to find a place for my children to attend camp, there was no discussion; the JCC Camps at Medford was the only place I wanted them to spend their summer. For each of my children, I had different reasons.

For my son, Andrew, the decision was because of the Open Hearts/ Open Doors (OH/OD) program. Andrew was diagnosed with autism at a very young age. The OH/OD program is truly one of a kind. It provided a safe atmosphere for Andrew to be himself, to be included, and to be accepted. He is a true OH/OD success story.  After starting out as a camper with a one-on-one advocate, he then graduated to a shared advocate, later breezed through the leadership-in-training program, and finally became a counselor. Every day, Andrew continues to amaze me.

Summer 2020 was supposed to be his second summer as a counselor. When it came time to talk about being a counselor during the ongoing health crisis, it was a difficult discussion. Together, we went through the guidelines and restrictions that were laid out for the summer, and Andrew immediately said that it didn’t sound like camp. He didn’t know how it could be fun for kids. His care and concern was about making sure the children had a fun summer but couldn’t fathom that happening when they were going to be reminded to stay distant from their friends, wear a mask, and get hounded constantly to wash their hands. That wasn’t something he wanted campers to remember. He wanted them to remember getting a hole in one at mini golf, or the excitement of running off the camp bus.

My daughter, Mara, fell in love with camp the first time she went with me as a toddler to pick up Andrew. Her love continued to grow when she went to camp for a field trip during pre-school. That day, when we got back to the JCC, she immediately went up to the column outside the camp office and gave it a hug.

You know the camp saying, “live 10 for 2?” That is how Mara lives. She loves camp. It is her happy place. She loves the sledding slope, splash park, singing and dancing in the bus yard, running through camp holding hands with her friends. She cries when camp is finished for the summer.

Mara is also part of the Open Hearts/ Open Doors program, and when I sat down and talked with her about what camp would look like if she went with all of the restrictions in place, her immediate reaction was “that’s not going to be fun”. “That sounds like school,” she said.

So here we are. Our full camp program is closed. My children are heartbroken, but they are safe. I would like for camp to be here for generations to come but we need your help to ensure that it is. While camp has cut spending at this time, you may be wondering why so many expenses have been incurred prior to the summer starting, and why camp needs our help. Here are just some of the ways that money is spent in preparation for the summer:

  • Professional Staff Salaries – Our year-round professional staff members work all year to plan an amazing summer experience. They have already taken pay cuts while still working above and beyond their regular hours, and the Katz JCC has laid off 60% of its workforce.
  • Site Maintenance & Utilities – Our gorgeous 120-acre site requires ongoing maintenance and upkeep.
  • Recruitment – Our professional staff go to camp fairs and community events across the region to talk about camp, meet with families, and recruit the next generation of Medford Campers.
  • Marketing – Our marketing team works directly with our camp team to create eye-catching and engaging marketing materials.
  • Program Planning & Supplies – From the day camp ends, we are already thinking about program improvements for the following summer. Throughout the entire offseason, our team is planning and purchasing supplies for summer programming.

Please join me in donating to the JCC Camps at Medford so that camp can continue to create these amazing summer opportunities for our children. Your financial contribution will ensure that our children (and our children’s children) will have a safe place to swim, play, dance, create, sing and be together every summer, and create the wonderful memories that both my children and I have.

We are all in this together.

To make a donation to help sustain the JCC Camps at Medford, please click here.

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