By The Englander Family
It’s 1:40 a.m. on Monday morning. I can’t sleep. I have so much going on in my mind. I just had the most unbelievable Shabbos ever. I spent Shabbos in Camp Kaylie boys’ session, with close friends and the most inspirational people. I am privileged to have witnessed and be a part of something that is so amazingly special.
I need to tell you, though, that this was not the first time my husband and I spent Shabbos in this magical place. But each time we are there, it just gets better and better and always seems to feel like the first time we have ever seen this magnificent camp. At the same time, we feel like we are part of something huge, one big enormous family, which just keeps growing bigger each day.
You see, Camp Kaylie is not just like any other camp. Yes, the boys daven, learn, and play ball like in other camps. Yes, they go on fun trips. Yes, they eat meals and sing in the dining room together. Yes, they make new friendships that last a whole year and they cannot wait till they see each other again. But what makes Camp Kaylie so different from the other camps is the inclusion! It’s a camp where anybody of any age can be who they are and what they are, without ever being judged or looked down upon. There are so many different types of kids in this camp and nothing matters about who you are, what you look like, and what you wear. No one asks questions and everyone fits in. What amazes me is that when I first sent my little one to Kaylie, he told me that he didn’t even have any “special needs” kids in his bunk! And let me tell you, there wasn’t just one, but two children with special needs in his bunk. All the boys are the same. Everyone is happy and they all are one and accepted. All the boys are treated equally and all the boys are buddies. They all cheer each other on, they pick you up to stand on a bench to sing with them, and they all put their arms around each other when they say Havdalah. Nothing matters here but inclusion.
Camp Kaylie is about children and young adults of all abilities living together in the same bunk under the same roof, sharing bunkbeds, playing on the same field, and eating at the same table together. It’s about sharing and caring. Each and every person striving to grow and learn and be a better person in this world, without even knowing it. We live in a world today surrounded by so many different kinds of people. So many of our communities have programs. I remember when Yachad and HASC were the only options. Whoever dreamed that one day, we would have integrated and inclusive overnight camps?! It’s amazing and so unbelievable to see how our world is changing right in front of our eyes. To have the opportunity for your very own child to live amongst others and be included is simply nothing less than astounding. To open our children’s eyes to see the real world we live in is amazing.
My boys go to Camp Kaylie for a reason and they understand why. They are often told that this world does not revolve around them, but around others, too. They hear it, but they need to see it and feel it. Camp Kaylie gives them that feeling in its own quiet and meaningful way. Not knowing who is who and what background people come from and all just being together as one is just mind-blowing.
Camp Kaylie is a magical place.
Thank you, David Mandel, Eli Brazil, and the entire Camp Kaylie staff. May Hashem grant you all much strength and courage to keep the meaning of inclusion thriving in our community. Your work, dedication, and huge hearts know no bounds.