By Motty Landau
There are showers galore, but not a cloud in the sky. It’s the perfect summer day. Bright and sunny with a pleasant breeze. Yet I’m caught in a downpour. I’m once again at Camp HASC, attending Camp Experience Day, and it’s raining love and joy. Pouring, to be precise.
The mile-long line of cars leading up to the camp entrance augurs the joyous scene inside. The center field is packed with throngs of people. Mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers all mill about with a noticeable spring in their step. The energy is palpable. There’s music in the air; counselors, their special charges, and visitors alike feel the beat of Mordechai Shapiro’s rendition of “I Can Be.”
I bump into singing sensation Benny Friedman. “Are you performing?” I ask. “No, I’m just here to take it all in,” was his reply, although shortly thereafter he’s dragged on stage and breaks out into an impromptu “Ivri Anochi” to the delight of the roaring crowd.
There’s a gym full of food, with hot dishes, fruit, sushi, and ice cream. I see guests waiting on lines patiently, with the biggest and broadest smiles I’ve ever seen.
Running tickers, splashed across gargantuan screens, display the surging flow of donations from the #Break4HASC campaign. Within an hour or two after the official campaign launch, the numbers quickly hit half a million. The crowd cheers in celebration.
An unmistakably sonorous voice booms through the microphone. It’s the legendary Nachum Segal, serving as the concert emcee, revving up the crowd and encouraging live donations. “In the next minute I want to see hands in the air for donations of $500 and up!” he challenges everyone.
Without missing a beat, a couple of hands go up, but many more hands go directly to their phone screens and the numbers on the tickers move up by the thousands.
I pass a booth where little boys and girls are getting their faces painted, but there’s nothing artificial about these smiles.
I’m not really much of a concert-goer, but watching hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people all basking and sharing in the glee and joy of these wonderful children of Camp HASC makes it a profoundly worthwhile experience for me.
I’ve been involved in marketing and communicating Camp HASC’s cause for just over five weeks now. All I can say is they’ve stolen my heart. Rarely have I seen a team working in such perfect harmony towards a common goal. Rarely have I seen so many facets of a fundraising campaign run so smoothly, with barely a snag.
Nachum Segal asks me to what I contribute the campaign’s success. I honestly do not know. It defies common sense.
It was simply astounding to see people of all stripes melting at the mere mention of Camp HASC, ready, willing and able to do their part to support the cause.
Because that’s the essence of Camp HASC: a place where labels are shed in place of love, devotion, and superlative care. The connections forged and shared at Camp HASC between families and counselors are virtually unbreakable.
“Where’s Arahle?” Mordechai Shapiro shouts out to the crowd. Ahrale is the sweetest boy with peyos dangling to his shoulders. A direct descendent of a famous chassidishe dynasty, he was a camper in Mordechai’s care a few years back.
Among the hosts and performers were Simcha Leiner, Mordechai Shapiro, Meilech Kohn, Nachum Segal, Mayer Kay, Yossi Zweig, Kosher Guru, and an impromptu appearance by Benny Friedman.
The performers are flanked by Yochi Briskman and his orchestra who offered their services pro bono in support of the special day.
Abe Eisner, a prominent member of the HASC board, walks about greeting visitors with warm hugs and visible appreciation. I spot R’ Shmiel Kahn, the tireless leader of Camp HASC. He’s walking around, personally thanking every attendee. And as Camp HASC executive director R’ Judah Mischel gets on the mic to express his thanks to everyone, he is drowned out by the applause and cheers of an even more appreciative crowd.
As dusk begins to settle, the donor tents are still packed with generous givers, all proudly walking away with “I Took a Break” stickers. Outside, campers, staff, and families are huddled around the screens, anxiously watching the numbers on the tickers climb steadily higher towards the goal of 1 million dollars raised.
945K … 966K … 992K … 999,762 …
And then the magic number is reached.
Jubilation like I’ve never seen before. Pure, unadulterated joy; campers and counselors hugging; euphoric laughter mingled with tears of happiness, followed by spontaneous dancing.
I watch from the side, mouth agape. The celebration is befitting a place where joy, unity, and unconditional love are the only prerequisites.
It’s getting late now. I pick up my children from the moonwalk, their hands and faces sticky with cotton candy. “Thanks for bringing us here!” my nine-year-old blurts out. That reaction doesn’t quite happen every day, and my perplexed look can attest to that!
It’s been a thrilling day, and an inspirational experience to watch the fantastically dedicated staff at Camp HASC working together to make the day a success.
I move along with the throngs leaving the camp grounds. It was another beautiful, uplifting day at Camp HASC, where it is truly “heaven on earth.”
Motty Landau is the creative director at Ptex Group, the Brooklyn-based marketing firm behind the #Break4HASC campaign.