Campers benefit from JCC overnight camp partnerships for children with special needs

For more than 20 years, JCC Camp Chi has been serving campers with special needs through partnerships with organizations such as Keshet and Jewish Child & Family Service (JCFS). Keshet campers, children with developmental disabilities and social communication disorders, are fully integrated into daily life at JCC Camp Chi. JCC has partnered and shares facilities with JCFS' Camp Firefly, a stand-alone overnight camp experience for children with social disorders.

At JCC Camp Chi, all campers benefit because the camp environment enables children of different abilities to interact and play together. "Campers get a feeling of belonging that they may not always get during the school year," said Jamie, a camper. The partnership is ideal because it combines JCC Camp Chi's expertise-a supportive and nurturing overnight camp environmentwith Keshet and JCFS's deep knowledge of youth with special needs, experienced staff, and existing relationships with families.

JCC Camp Chi also hosts one of the only young adult (ages 17-21) programs in the country, Keshet Avodah Corps, for campers who are typically too old for camp, but for whom camp programming is still developmentally appropriate. The Avodah program combines camp activities with field trips, life skills, and work around the camp. Avodah counselors interact with the young adult campers as peers and friends.

"Camp Chi allows Jack to participate in 'regular' overnight camping activities, which improves his self-esteem and social interaction," said Wendy, a parent.

JCC Camp Chi's partnerships with special needs organizations benefit all children of all abilities by enabling them to interact and have fun together. For more information, call Rachel Smith at (847) 763-3661.

JCC Chicago is supported by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

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