koc-summer16_fb2-3-010 koc-summer16_fb2-3-008 koc-summer16_fb2-3-005 koc-summer16_fb2-3-003 koc-summer16_fb2-3-046The day Kids of Courage had been anxiously awaiting finally arrived. On Thursday, August 18, some 130 seriously ill children made their way to Newark International Airport to kick off a unique eight-day adventure to Texas aboard their own United charter flight.

The flight was truly a KOC one, with music and dancing, starting off their annual summer adventure on a rockin’ note. As they touched down in Dallas Fort Worth Airport, the crew was ready and waiting to greet all the amazing Couragers.

Over 450 individuals made their way from all over the U.S., Canada, and Israel to the sumptuous Westin Hotel. It was truly a sight to see. During the first night activity, a hypnotist managed to hypnotize multiple members of the staff and some campers. After a thrilling first day, everyone headed up to get some rest for an exciting week ahead.

On Friday, the group headed to Six Flags Over Texas for some fun in the rain. Campers enjoyed roller coasters, water rides, and bungee jumping. One Courager commented that there’s no better feeling than the rush of a roller coaster you never thought you’d be able ride. An erev Shabbos barbecue was next on the schedule, followed by Shabbos prep along with professional portrait-taking.

As the Couragers welcomed in the holy day with a beautiful kabbalas Shabbos, everyone enjoyed the calm and serenity that floated in over the day. Shabbos day was a combination of delicious food, socializing with friends, board games, ping-pong, sumo wrestling(!), and more. Rabbi Elchanan Shoff of California led a beautiful kumzits at shalosh seudos with some wonderful words of inspiration, including speeches from campers who recounted their challenges and victories. A beautiful Havdallah was then led by KOC Israeli division, solidifying the feelings of achdus acquired over Shabbos.

Melaveh malkah was a DJ glow-in-the-dark dance party. Everyone was literally beaming as they danced and sang to the music of DJ Professor. One counselor commented that it was amazing to be able to give his camper the opportunity to just let go and be a normal teenager for the week.

Sunday started with a surprise colorlympics–boys vs. girls. The ruach in the room was out of control as each team cheered their way to the finish line. Though the girls took home the gold medal by winning color war in a landslide, all the Couragers were winners! Then, in true cowboy style, the group visited the North Texas State fair and watched a real rodeo. You almost wouldn’t bull-ieve it–it was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

The next day, Kids of Courage, 450 strong, along with wheelchairs, walkers, and oxygen tanks, made their way onto the field of the Dallas Cowboys AT&T Stadium. Campers and counselors alike were in awe as they played football and rolled/ran around an actual football field. Kids of Courage had an opportunity to check out the locker rooms and to play mini golf and other activities on the field. The group then held a live-streamed concert, which helped raise funds for the families of the five fallen Dallas Police Department officers murdered in July’s tragic shooting. The group–and thousands more across the world–enjoyed an 8th Day concert on the field of AT&T Stadium. Campers joined in to sing with the band, as the world watched and sang along on social media. The musical fun didn’t stop there. Upon the return to the hotel, the Couragers discovered that the amazing KOC logistics team had transformed the ballroom into an incredible stage, prepared for an epic lip-sync battle. Every camper got a chance to shine as they got up on stage and performed their favorite songs for the whole camp.

The adventure continued on Tuesday with a split camp–girls visited a water park reserved for the group and the boys headed to Dave & Buster’s. While the girls were enjoying the wave pool and water slides, the boys were having fun in the arcade, winning as many prizes as possible. Then it was time for the switch. The boys made their way to the water park to enjoy some respite from the Texas heat, and the girls headed to Dave & Buster’s. Fun was had by all. On Tuesday evening at dinner, Kids of Courage presented a $2,490 check to the Dallas Police Department. Hugs and tears were shared by all.

On Wednesday, Kids of Courage visited Texas Motor Speedway. Couragers rode in real racecars with professional drivers speeding along the race track. This was yet another opportunity that would have been impossible without the magic of Kids of Courage. The day and the adventure concluded with a gala banquet and closing ceremonies. Many inspirational speeches were given by campers, telling their journeys and the hope that Kids of Courage gives them. The entire group applauded and cheered to thank everyone who made the trip possible–from the sponsors, to the medical team, to anyone who had a hand in making it happen through months of phone calls, e-mails, and behind-the-scenes planning. An amazing dance party with special treats and surprise gifts ended off the evening.

As the last night of KOC came to a close, everyone packed up, got ready for departure, and said their goodbyes. Along with their KOC signature gear, they packed many smiles, memories, and enough courage to last until the next adventure. v

Kids of Courage is a volunteer-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the lives of medically fragile children and their families through year-round programming and bi-annual adventure trips. For more information or to make a donation, visit kidsoc.org. Be sure to follow @KidsOfCourage’s adventures on your favorite social network.

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