Our Home Away From Home

By JCC Camps at Medford

The JCC Camps at Medford is truly my family’s home away from home. I feel that way because it has been a part of my life for over 4 decades. I attended the JCC Camps as both a camper and then a counselor in the Shoresh division, and bus counselor. They were some of the greatest summer memories I can recall. So of course, I wanted that EXACT same experience for our children. I can still remember having a personal golf cart introductory tour with our two daughters, Samantha and Melissa, who were 4 and 2 at that time. It felt as though we were driving down memory lane through each and every nook and cranny of camp. It looked the same, but in so many ways it looked different. Different in a good way, with all the labeled pavilions and signs with interesting facts of famous Jewish people, and happy, organized smiling, singing campers and staff, as they went throughout their scheduled activities.

My husband had always attended camp in the Philadelphia area and was thoroughly overwhelmed by the sheer size of the JCC Camps at Medford, as well as all of the activities offered. We immediately agreed that signing them up for camp was the right decision. The girls were assigned randomly to a bunk their first summer, and didn’t know anyone on the bus or in their bunks. It took all of 2 days, before they fell in love with the camp, the bus, their new friends and counselors! The girls have remained close with the kids in their bunks over the past 10 years. They still get together throughout the year, group text, and attended each other’s Bat Mitzvahs along the way. These solid foundations have lasted over a decade and have been a huge part of our girls’ lives. Now that Samantha (16) and Melissa (14) are older, they enjoy the role of being counselors and helping make new and old camp families participate in a fantastic summer experience.

Our son Scott, age 9 joined his big sisters at camp when he was barely 4 years old. He has also made a great group of friends within his bunk these past 5 years. Scott will be the first to tell you that the JCC Camps at Medford helped teach him how to swim and how to ride a bike. Most kids don’t get excited about Instructional Swim, but we were pleasantly surprised to see Scott motivated to move up to the next level swim cap and eventually be able to go down the big waterslide in the deep end. Each day was filled with different activities that we got to discuss at the dinner table. Scott loved sledding, bankshot basketball, newcombe, fishing, and snack! He even loved the hot bus ride home and listening to all the popular songs. He worshiped the ground all of his counselors walked on, and each year he is excited to see who his new counselors are and loves getting to know them.

Although this past year looked strangely different than years past, the pandemic did not change our kids’ opinion of camp. In fact, it did just the opposite, making all 3 of them realize what an important place camp is to all of us, and how important it is to view it as such. Due to the extensive parent communication and all of the safety precautions, we felt safe sending Samantha as a counselor and Scott as a camper for this modified camp summer. Sadly, due to Melissa’s age, she fell into a category where she was too old to be a camper and too young to be a counselor. Melissa is probably the one that most realized the importance of camp, especially since this was her first summer in over a decade she was unable to attend her happy place. It was a tough balance between Melissa not going and Samantha and Scott being able to go. They had a phenomenal summer with cool crafts, fun songs and the lunch wasn’t as good as other years – because we had to make and pack it for them. Who knew camp lunch was so delicious? All 3 kids missed color war and the excitement of the last week of camp. We all hope that next summer looks more like summers past and that things can feel “more normal.” Normal for us is that you blink and the 8 weeks of camp are over. Every year it seems to go by faster and faster! Everyone exits the bus on the final day with tears streaming down their face, so sad that they can’t bear waiting a full school year to finish before they can return to their home away from home.

We have had the pleasure of watching our kids grow up as they attend the JCC Camps at Medford. Besides the achievements they have won at camp; Counselor of the Year (Samantha), 1st place Bus Song and Cheer (Melissa) and Best Overall Camper (Scott), they have collectively formed so many valuable working relationships with staff as well as campers. There are so many opportunities afforded to the entire camp, including the subscriptions to the PJ Library PJ Our Way program. Our girls utilize these learned relationships and skills as they continue to work as assistant teachers at our synagogue, Adath Emanu-El, as well as participants of the Katz JCC JLEAD leadership program.

Again, all you want for your kids is to be happy and healthy. They certainly have gotten that and so much more while attending the JCC Camps at Medford! My kids are often asked why they never attended overnight camp, and their answer is simple – the JCC Camps at Medford is awesome and remains such a special place for our family. It is truly our home away from home, it always has been and will always continue to be. We are counting down to Summer 2021 and we literally can’t wait!!