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Everyone's Favorite Uncle Came to Visit
Mel Levine
A Momentous Bar Mitzvah at Camp Hasc

 

EVERYONE'S FAVORITE UNCLE CAME TO VISIT

In what has fast become a pre-Chanukah tradition, Uncle Moishy once again came to visit! More than 30 parents joined in the celebration as the children sang, danced and clapped along for more than 45 minutes.

Big "thank yous" to Uncle Moishy and "Ding" for making this year’s visit the most memorable!

MEL LEVINE

Two of HASC Gan Ezra’s teachers, Chavy Armon and Stacy Sinyor, participated in a very special full-day seminar with Dr. Mel Levine. Dr. Levine is a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of North Carolina Medical School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He is also the co-founder of All Kinds of Minds, a non-profit Institute for the study of differences in learning.

Held at The Atrium, the HASC teachers joined approximately 50 colleagues from schools in the East Ramapo school district for a day of learning and instruction by the world-renowned expert in education.

Dr. Levine spoke about his educational approach, and how to identify each child's unique area of interest, to help the child reach his or her full potential.

"It was a remarkable experience," shared Chavy. "I found Dr. Levine's presentation inspirational and immediately useful because it can be modifed directly to help every HASC child."

A MOMENTOUS BAR MITZVAH AT CAMP HASC

By Avi-Gil Chaitovsky

A nice meal, a band, a pshetl, and dancing with family and friends. So what made David's Bar Mitzva so different than any other? David's Bar Mitzva was held this past summer in Camp HASC, a seven week sleep-away camp for children and adults with developmental disabilities run by the Hebrew Academy for Special Children.

From the first day of orientation, Camp HASC's 300+ staff members are told that despite their preconceived notions, "There are no disabilities in Camp HASC;" the focus is on everyone's abilities. Like at all other camps, campers at Camp HASC all participate in a wide variety of activities - from sports, to swimming, to night activities, to color war. When the campers and staff of the Boys' Division play a basketball game, you can be sure that the campers in wheelchairs are getting just as many passes and taking just as many shots as campers who can run up and down the court on their own. And if a camper can't control his own wheelchair, you can be sure that his counselor is right there, pushing him back and forth and making sure he's part of the action and fun.

As in all other camps, campers in Camp HASC love to go swimming. But the pools in Camp HASC are a little different than the pools in other camps. Instead of steps or a diving board, campers can get into the pools by walking or wheeling down a ramp. And, to maximize campers' comfort, both pools are heated. For those campers who have limited use of their limbs, the warm water and weightlessness of the pool is a great chance to relax their muscles. Some of the therapists and special education teachers join the campers in the pool every day.

As in all other camps, the night activities are a highlight of the summer. The recreation staff spends many months planning activities that can be adapted for all campers. Whether it's a talent show, an ice cream party, or an art night every camper participates, and no one sits on the side feeling left out. The most exciting night activities in Camp HASC are the concerts. Over the course of a typical summer, Camp HASC averages two concerts a week featuring Jewish music stars such as Shloime Dachs, Yaakov Shwekey, Lipa Schmeltzer, and Uncle Moishy. The ruach during a Camp HASC concert is like nothing you've ever seen before - everyone is up and about, singing along and dancing with the music. Campers who may never have the opportunity to go to a concert during the year are hoisted onto their counselors' shoulders and often refuse to get off.

And as in all other camps, everyone's favorite day of the summer is Color War. Thanks to the hard work and the sleepless night of the color war captains, with the help of many counselors and other staff members, the dining room transforms - overnight - into team colors. There are signs hanging on the walls, and often from the ceiling or the roof, to greet the campers as they come in for breakfast; a central location where everyone shows up dressed from head to toe in their team's colors. The culmination of color war, of course, includes each team singing a song related to its theme and an alma mater about camp.

While disabilities fade into the distance at Camp HASC, there are some ways in which Camp HASC is different than other camps. Whereas the infirmaries in other camps are staffed by two or three nurses, the Camp HASC infirmary has fifteen nurses, two nurse assistants, and two doctors. The medical staff treats campers and counselors when they are sick or get hurt and administers medications to the campers - sometimes three or four times daily. The kitchen at Camp HASC is staffed by a nutritionist and two special diet waitresses who ensure that campers receive appropriate substitutes when they can't eat the regular menu items due to allergies or other health issues. And while kids in other camps spend all day at activities, many of the campers at Camp HASC spend part of their day in HASC's Academics Program, accredited by the New York and New Jersey Departments of Education. Each camper in the academics program has a unique set of goals, an Individualized Educat1ion Plan, that the special education teachers and therapists -- who are all New York State licensed -- work on, together with the counselors. In this way, Camp HASC is unique.

Because the teachers often work closely with the same campers over multiple summers, it was a surprise to no one that David's teacher for the past several summers, Mr. Efrem Popel, was asked to speak at his Bar Mitzvah. Efrem spoke about how proud he was of David's accomplishments and about David's musical interests and talents. While it is sometimes hard for David's counselors to communicate with him, no one ever has trouble singing with David. His voice can often be heard all over camp - at davening, in the dining room, or even just walking to the pool - singing the latest Yeshiva Boys Choir or Shwekey song - or his own. Even when the entire camp is singing krias shema together at shacharis, David's voice is audible above the crowd. So, while he can't necessarily say all the words of davening, David is able to carry out his Avodas Hashem through singing.

Although David and his counselors prerecorded the pshetl, he decided to add a little more in person as well. He was followed by his father, who talked about how wonderful Camp HASC has been for David - all the counselors who keep in touch with David during the year, the many friends David has made in camp, and the devotion of the staff to ensure that everyone has a great time each summer. Because of David's great love for music, a few counselors wrote a song in his honor.

Song sheets were handed out during the meal, and the entire camp sang along. The dancing that followed was unlike anything the Camp HASC dining room has seen before. Tables were quickly moved aside as all of the campers and staff of the Boys' Division converged on David at the front of the room and started dancing in circles around him. Campers and staff, proud of David's reaching this important milestone, came up to dance with him and his family. David was beaming as he was lifted on a chair by a number of his dedicated counselors.

Every staff member who has ever worked at Camp HASC can tell you about a few moments that stand out from his or her summers in camp. One counselor might tell you about the time his camper took his first step, another may tell you about the first time her camper spoke, a waitress may talk about the first time a camper smiled at her or said thank you, and a division head may talk about a camper who still calls each week just to say good shabbos. But no matter what her job was in camp, no matter whom his campers were, for anyone who spent the summer of 2007 in Camp HASC, David's bar mitzva is one of those moments that will stand out in everyone's memory. From one of the lucky people who were there, Mazel Tov, David, we're all so proud of you!

Avi-gil Chatiovsky was a Counselor, 2004-2005; Division Head, 200; Office Staff/IT Coordinator, 2007.