DALLAS TWP. – Rick Evans grabbed a microphone Friday and faced the crowd of campers looking on.
Lining three sets of bleachers, the groups of children had just reassembled there after another morning of physical, educational and social programming – activities made possible by the organization the camp director was about to acknowledge.
“Without the United Way, we wouldn’t have a camp,” Evans said.
Attending the Jewish Community Alliance’s Day Camp Friday, members of the United Way of the Wyoming Valley saw first-hand the result of more than $86,000 in funding to the 40-acre campground in Dallas Township. Featuring three swimming pools, multiple playing fields, biking, hiking and nature trails, the grounds are a daily summer home to more than 250 campers.
Running for nearly 60 years, the camp groups children according to age, designing specific programs for each group. One day the campers might play tennis and arts and crafts. Another day, they might run a challenge course or play “Ga-ga” – a Jewish type of dodge ball.
But for some of those campers, none of those options would be possible without the financial assistance the United Way provides.
Helping children grow, socialize and mature is just one reason behind the foundation’s involvement, said local United Way CEO Bill Jones.
“Their experiences here prepare them to be role models in their lives as well as stronger students,” Jones said. “But beyond that, we want to make sure everyone has an opportunity to experience this.”
This year, they made that possible in a big way, providing 56 scholarships to families and funding over $86,000 in assistance to the JCA in support of four programs, including Day Camp for Children and Day Camp for Children with Special Needs.
“We’re thrilled that we can expand this program to income-eligible families so that they can participate in summer activities that keep them active and healthy,” United Way Director of Community Impact Jennifer Deemer said.
Moreover, Deemer added, is the involvement of children with developmental abilities and their experiences sharing all the same activities everyday campers do.
Staffed by professional teachers, coaches and other caring specialists, the camp offers physical activities like swimming, hiking, basketball and street hockey in addition to educational programs like cooking, drama and music.
Additionally, each year the camp staffs a Shliach – a native Israeli ambassador that teaches campers about modern Israeli lore and customs through music, arts and crafts and dance.
Tradition, 22-year-old Yarden Rapoport said, is the focal point of her teachings as this year’s delegator.
“These camps are such a great opportunity for children to not only have fun and be kids but to learn,” Rapoport said.
“It’s been great because the campers are really open-minded and so is the staff.”
Though this is Rapoport’s first visit to the camp, many of the staff are former campers that have come back to return the favor – citing the valuable lessons they once learned as campers.
Sixteen-year-old Jordan Daley spoke from experience.
“Being a camper here made me want to reach out to people,” Daley said.
But without the assistance from the United Way, Daley said she wouldn’t have been able to attend the camp as a child – an experience which she said taught her the value of being a role model and inspired her to return as a volunteer.
“It gives the kids a great opportunity to come and experience all the camp has to offer instead of having their parents say, ‘well, we can’t afford to send you here,’” she said.
“For me, I was so grateful to just have that chance.”