Chabad of Orange County offices received a special request via email which sparked the interest of Camp Gan Israel directors, Rabbi Pesach and Chana Burston. A mother from Boca Raton, Florida requested a Camp Gan Israel of Orange County t-shirt for her son Ari, age six.
“Our recent move from New York to Florida had been a hard one for our son with speical needs,” wrote the mother. “Although we would like him to be educated in a Jewish day school, the public schools in our area offer special therapies.” She explained that although Ari cannot attend the Camp Gan Israel in Florida due to his therapies, she is embarking on a project to “collect as many Camp Gan Israel t-shirts from around the world as possible.” The goal of this project, explained Ari’s mom, would be to provide a “Gan Israel experience” by motivating her son on a daily basis: Each new day Ari would wear a different Gan Israel t-shirt, each new day he would be introduced to new experiences and types of learning.”
“I thought we could take this one step further” says camp director Chana Burston, who, with her husband Rabbi Pesach, is running the fourth summer of Camp Gan Israel in Washingtonville. “We met with the six-year-old campers and told them about Ari and his special needs. They were excited to design a card for him, which would be sent to Ari with a picture of their bunk and a camp t-shirt in his size.”
At Camp Gan Isreal, campers enjoy excursions to children’s favorites including theme parks, mini-golf, go-carting, berry picking, bowling and more. Judaic themes are taught through innovative activities, stories, songs and games which bring to life the beauty and values of the Jewish tradition. Professional instruction is offered in various areas, including karate, yoga, gymnastics, painting, sports and dance. Olympic type games, drama, auction days, bunk competition, balloon sculpting, talent shows, hiking, dress-up days and late nights are just a few of the programs which challenge the children to develop their innate talents.
This summer, campers once again participated in a “Chai-a-thon” fundraiser to bennefit Chai Life Line, an organization which aids children who are terminally ill.
Camp Gan Israel is part of the largest and fastest growing network of Jewish day camps in the world and enjoys a well-earned reputation as a trendsetter with innovative ideas, creative programs and new activities. Geared for Jewish children of diverse backgrounds and affiliations, Chabad of Orange County runs a Gan Israel summer day camp as well as a Winter Camp over the winter school break, for children ages 3-13.