Anyone who enters into the small world of Camp HASC on 362 Parksville Road immediately becomes a witness to a place where miracles happen. Over 300 campers feel lucky to call this place their home for the summer. Smiles and laughter are abundant as soon as one steps through the entrance. Who is responsible for making these few acres into the happiest place on earth? That would be the many staff members, over 400 of whom pour their hearts and souls into devoting their summers to their campers. Why do they work in this camp and why do they love what they do?
First year counselor, Jack Lebenbom, described why he enjoys his position and what distinguishes his summer in HASC from his previous summers in camp.”Having worked in three different camps over the past three summers, I can honestly say that none of them have been nearly as rewarding as the work I do in Camp HASC. Every night it’s remarkable to reflect on your day and see just how much you are capable of doing for someone else. The truly amazing thing about camp is that everyday you discover something new about yourself while helping others. There truly is no place like HASC.”
Choosing to devote a summer to children with special needs rather than any other experience is undoubtedly admirable. Counselors who choose to return after a first summer, or “vets” as they are commonly referred to in Camp HASC are able to provide even more for their campers the second time around. Returning counselor Lori Joseph explains, “My experience as a vet is great so far, being a vet is so rewarding because you can see the growth of your campers from one summer to the next, and it’s so nice to be able to be with them for another summer. The experience is very different from being a first year counselor because you’re already comfortable with camp and your campers especially in my case because I have the same bunk as last summer. As a vet you tend to have more responsibility on you at the beginning because you’re the one that’s supposed to know what to do and how to do everything that your campers need.”
In addition to the devoted counselors, there are many other types of staff members in camp that devote themselves to creating a fun and healthy environment for the staff. Avigayil Keiser, a waitress in camp, describes her experience as a staff member. “I love all of the people in Camp HASC and I love that the camp makes waitressing which does not have to be a meaningful job become so meaningful! There’s no better place to work no matter what you’re doing as your job! I have girls bunks and it’s so nice that I’m able to become close with the campers and counselors. It’s especially fun because I’m not only their waitress, I spend time with them and I get to do activities with them outside of the dining room like swimming.”
For anyone who was previously a staff member at camp, visiting HASC can be an emotionally charged experienced. Alumnae Elizabeth Berger, who worked in Camp HASC for three years described her experience of visiting camp. “It’s strange going back to camp but also amazing. When I walked in it felt like I never left and it was just so nice to get to see my campers again even if it was a little weird that they had new counselor! It was especially nice going early on in the summer [because] I was able to give some tips to the counselors and lend an extra hand to give them a little break because the beginning of camp can be stressful and overwhelming. Visiting definitely makes you miss camp because it’s the greatest place, but it’s nice to know you’re always welcome back.”
No matter what position they occupy, the staff members at HASC feel lucky to be spending their summer engaged in a labor of love. The camp’s administration in turn, treats their staff with the utmost respect. They are, of course, given sweatshirts and credit-card holders for the backs of their phones in addition to staff shiurim, barbecues and concerts. Camp HASC is not simply the happiest place on earth for the campers who attend but it can also be qualified as such for the admirable staff who are employed there.
By Mairav Linzer