A Congressman’s Heartwarming Visit
By Rabbi Judah Mischel
It was a beautiful day of appreciation and unity, as Camp HASC hosted a festive luncheon in honor of Congressman John Faso, Representative of New York’s 19th District. Over 40 local and state officials, community activists, politicians, and camp directors joined the program honoring Representative Faso as an expression of our community’s appreciation for Congressman Faso’s ongoing support and friendship.
Camp HASC in Parksville, New York, is the longest-running and most prestigious summer program for individuals with special needs and developmental disabilities.
Congressman Faso and members of the delegation enjoyed a hands-on tour of the beautiful campus, joined recreational activities with the special campers, and were treated to an inside look at the educational and therapeutic facilities at Camp HASC.
Campers cheered for Congressman Faso to join them in the pool, and settled for shooting hoops instead. During an adaptive gym class, delegation members jumped into a musical flash-mob and spontaneous celebration, and enjoyed meeting campers and staff.
Guest speaker Mrs. Ruth Lichtenstein, publisher of Hamodia and director of Project Witness, shared her firsthand experiences as the parent of a child with special needs, and spoke of the importance of summer respite at Camp HASC–for the campers as well as their families.
Sandra Gerry, chair of Sullivan Renaissance, which last year presented Camp HASC a $10,000 Community Mitzvah Award for beautifying its facility, also addressed the crowd at the luncheon. A visibly moved Gerry commended the camp for its efforts, noting, “Not only did you get the Mitzvah Award but I think what you are doing is a beautiful mitzvah.”
Co-chaired by Rabbi Chaim David Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, and noted askan Mr. Abe Eisner, the first annual legislative delegation and luncheon was an incredible outpouring of hakaras ha’tov, support, and kiddush Hashem.
The Camp HASC Experience Day
Over 1,000 visitors from communities across the Jewish world poured into Camp HASC on Sunday, August 6 for an uplifting and emotional day of nachas, achdus, and meaningful fun. Camp HASC Experience Day is one of the highlights of the summer, when Camp HASC opens its gates to the general public and gives staff families, alumni, friends, and community members a glimpse into the magic that makes a summer in Camp HASC so inspiring and unforgettable.
Experience Day featured carnival rides, horseback riding, children’s activity booths, a tour of Camp HASC’s fully accessible adaptive facilities, and a delicious gala lunch for all visitors. Hosted by guest star emcee Meir Kay and featuring a live concert starring Beri Weber and Meilech Kohn, the main lawn of camp was rocking, as the musicians led the massive crowd of campers, counselors, families, and friends in singing and dancing. Amazed by the energy of the crowd, Meilech Kohn exclaimed, “Where is a better place to sing “V’ahavta L’rei’acha Kamocha?!”
For so many alumni who worked in Camp HASC in the past, Experience Day was an opportunity to show their spouses and children the beautiful chesed that takes place in camp and to reunite with many of the campers whom they had cared for years earlier. One alumnus, now a prominent mechanech, explained, “It was my summers here in Camp HASC that helped me internalize the lessons which I use with my talmidim each day. It was here that I truly learned to focus on strengths and not weaknesses and to find a way for everyone to succeed, no matter what their limitations.”
Parents of counselors and staff members had the opportunity to watch their children in action, and to see firsthand the hard work and beautiful relationships that have developed. One mother gushed, “We’ve heard about Camp HASC for years–this has to be seen to be believed.”
In a voice filled with emotion, a counselor’s father remarked that he has “never been more proud” of his son. There was a palpable feeling of pride as parents and siblings were overwhelmed by the love, dedication, and commitment of the staff members–a beautiful way to experience Camp HASC.
You can see video and photo highlights of the amazing day at www.camphasc.org.