When I Was A Camper…

By JCC Camps at Medford

By Evan Zweben
JCC Camps at Medford Committee Chair, Vice-President, Katz JCC Board of Directors

Part One of our Summer 2020 CAMPaign.

Like so many of our camp families, our journey to being camp parents started as campers.  My wife Caryn and I met through the JCC and later spent summers together in Medford.

Evan Zweben JCC Camps at Medford I still have vivid memories of my time at camp.  My favorite activity was sports league.  I loved free swim.  I could have done without instructional swim.  I had tubes and had to wear ear plugs.  Back then, they did not let you dive in a pool if you had tubes.  They also did not have seat belts on the busses, and we could eat peanut butter with fudgsicles.  Things have certainly changed.

Swim caps were not yet the craze.  We did not have a Wibit park on the lake or a Welcome Center.  There was no Camp Aaron theatre or floor hockey rink.  The sledding slope and splash park had not yet been built.  The splash park had not been rebuilt, or rebuilt again, either.  The ropes course was in its infancy.  No bankshot basketball.  No gaga.  Our bus yard was closer to the entrance.  No LIT’s, Sara, Jared or Beth.  Late stay?  That was when your bus got held back because one of the campers had to go to the bathroom as the rest of the busses left the yard – not getting to hang out at camp after everyone left.

But we had the lake and fishing rods.   We caught fish, and occasionally saw a turtle.   We had boats, kayaks and tubes.  And pools.  Archery, Newcombe, tennis, and every other sport your heart desired.  Cooking, baking, the tire playground, and the Conference Center.  We had Mayda, Deena, Barry Nature, Gus and his pickup truck, and CIT’s!  Physical things have changed over time, but even after over 25 years following my days as a camper, I walk around camp and know exactly where to find what I am looking for.

I remember carrying my JCC camp bag over my shoulder, with 2 towels, a change of clothes, and snacks for the ride home.  How about the frozen water bottle in the long tube sock?  The one that you were supposed to keep in a closed Ziploc bag so that it would not leak all over your bag, and then you put your bag in the sand and you had a mess.   Remember candy dots?  Not the ones in the box that are like $7.50 at the movie theatre.  I am talking about the ones that were on the paper that looked like it rolled off a calculator…those were great.  And chocolate eclairs.  Those have stood the test of time!

Our bus driver, Donna, was a character.  She LOVED us.  She was part of the camp family.  To this day, my sister and I still talk about her.  Donna did two things that I will never forget: 1) made something for our Mom after she was hospitalized AFTER camp had ended for the year and 2) kept a promise of epic proportions.  We told her that we were moving across town and would not be on her bus the following summer.  Without hesitation, she said she will find us.  Not only did she keep her word, she drove our bus to camp AND school the next year.  I can still hear her say “See ya’s tomorra!” as only she could.

Color War is the perfect way to end the summer.  Everyone would say their good-byes and would head home for school.  We took it for granted that no matter where life took us during those next ten months, we would see our summer family again – same time, same place.

These past two-and-a-half months alone have felt like ten months.  More than ever before, everyone needs camp this summer.  The kids need to see their friends.  The parents need their kids to see their friends, too!  Knowing that closing our full, traditional camp program meant the kids, and staff, will not get to spend time together in their summer home was the hardest part in the decision-making process.  We could not get the kids to camp on busses as we are accustomed to.  We could not provide a safe environment for the kids or staff in the way that we like to hold our full camp.  The financial impact of not holding camp this summer is also at the forefront of our thoughts.

While we’ve cut all spending at this time, you may be wondering why so many expenses have been incurred prior to the summer starting.
Here are just some of the ways that money is spent in preparation for the summer:

  • Professional Staff Salaries – Our year-round professional staff members work all year to plan an amazing summer experience. They have already taken pay cuts while still working above and beyond their regular hours, and the Katz JCC has laid off 60% of its workforce.
  • Site Maintenance & Utilities – Our gorgeous 120-acre site requires ongoing maintenance and upkeep.
  • Recruitment – Our professional staff go to camp fairs and community events across the region to talk about camp, meet with families, and recruit the next generation of Medford Campers.
  • Marketing – Our marketing team works directly with our camp team to create eye-catching and engaging marketing materials.
  • Program Planning & Supplies – From the day camp ends, we are already thinking about program improvements for the following summer. Throughout the entire offseason, our team is planning and purchasing supplies for summer programming.

So, while campers, parents and families count down 10 months of the year for 2 at camp, the work of camp is truly a 12-month endeavor and significant expenses are incurred throughout the entire year in preparation for the summer. We need your help now more than ever to ensure this work can continue.  We have included a link below for you and your family to make a donation to the JCC Camps at Medford.  If you would like another option other than what is listed, we are happy to make a personal call to you, as well.

We all look forward to Summer 2021 with great anticipation.  I am going to appreciate my time out there more than ever before…we all will.

To make a donation to help sustain the JCC Camps at Medford, please click here.

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