|BaShemesh, Hebrew for in the sun, is exactly where the children who attend Camp BaShemesh are every day – having fun in the sun, and much more, at the picturesque and natural setting of our Pearl River site. Camp BaShemesh, part of JCC Country Day Camp operated by JCC on the Hudson, looks like any other day camp, except the children who attend have mild to moderate developmental and learning disabilities, with many on the autism spectrum.The campers who attend, ranging in age from 6-14, have an exciting summer experience with therapeutic recreation and activities that build self-esteem and independence while maximizing opportunities for inclusion with typical JCC Country Day campers. Camp BaShemesh fosters each camper’s individual strengths and challenges them to stretch and grow alongside their typical peers. This special camp also partners with a couple of the local school districts, who help with staffing, making it possible for Camp BaShemesh to take a few children with some greater disabilities.
This summer there are 32 very happy campers enrolled in Camp BaShemesh.
And what happens when campers age out of Camp BaShemesh? They can apply to be interns! BaShemesh director Mindy Cohen proudly told me about this awesome program for 14-18 year olds, many past campers, who have mild-to-moderate developmental and learning disabilities. This summer there are eight interns who spend their days working as counselor helpers in camper groups, participating in individual and group meetings, working in a specialty area or on a special project; and just having fun with their peers.
The internship program has a dedicated job coach who works with the interns to promote success; working alongside the interns in their focus areas until everyone is comfortable. According to Mindy one intern will be working on a film about camp. Other interns with an interest in animals, in collaboration with the Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds, will be working at the Petting Zoo. The Petting Zoo staff, led by skilled and nurturing counselors from Australia and England through the Camp America international staffing program, is training the interns on how to care for the animals – feed and water them, pet them; and how to work with the campers when they visit the zoo. Having Camp BaShemesh interns work at the petting zoo is a win –win for camp and HKC.
JCC Country Day Camp and the Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds are lucky to be home to Camp BaShemesh. And Camp BaShemesh is lucky have a home at HKC!